Mom spent the last two years of her life fighting cancer, even though at times she was physically worn out, she continued to be full of zest and anticipation. She was positive and had no intention of dying just yet. I am so very sad that two weeks after she was given the all clear, she was taken by pneumonia.
Mom was cremated on Thursday 13th November. I chose not to go. I said my goodbyes at the mortuary on Monday. She look serene, so content – she just looked tired – she was ready to sleep.
For all of my life I have heard what people have said about the type of person mom was. She was so many things to so many people (she did not belong only to me!)
- She cared for and felt deeply for people
- She gave gifts and cards out of the blue – for no reason – just because she saw something that person would like or just because
- She told fascinating stories about her life and her time as a nurse
- She was creative
- She was warm
- She has been described as a hero and an icon
- She always did good for others – nothing was ever a problem
- She was passionate
- She was generous – often to her own detriment
- She was so funny – she laughed a lot and made others laugh
But we all know the other side of the Teresa coin – mom was frustratingly stubborn and fiercely independent. She really found it difficult to accept love and support from others.
I am immensely proud of my mom – the work she did, the lives she touched, the difference she made to thousands – her patients, those who read her blogs, her colleagues, her students, her friends, her family – and even to strangers after maybe even just a two minute interaction.
She was not only my mother – she was my father, my grandparents, my siblings. And there was no-one better to be all those people to me. When I was at nursery school mom got a call from the nursery school teacher. She was in a panic. They were making Fathers’ Day presents that day and she didn’t know what to do with me. Mom told her to let me make something for her and since that day mom always got Fathers’ Day cards and presents. I love her with all the love I would’ve had for all those other people I didn’t have in my life.
Mom was my ‘phone a friend’ – for me or for friends. When anything good or bad happened to me, the first person I wanted to tell was mom, and when I was sick, I only wanted to hear mom’s voice to feel better.
She was my sports reference – I got wicket-by-wicket and try-by-try text messages throughout a South African game.
When I woke up, the first thing I would do was send mom a message, or read one she had sent me – how I miss that. When I was feeling low it was like she knew. I would get a smiley face or a little message about something nice from an event in her day. We shared everything. When I had a bad night, so did she. I still expect those little messages every morning and I suspect I will for some time.
I do feel waves of grief but I also feel waves of warmth – mom is comforting me.
There are so many things I want to ask her, to know and understand about her, lessons she had leant in her life – she was my wisdom, my stability – she grounded me.
I was so looking forward to having her healthy again – to enjoy life, her new home at Caro House, her friends, her writing (she started writing her memoirs and only just completed chapter one). I am so sad for her, but this sadness and these wishes are worldly – they mean nothing where she is now.
The Universe has taken her. But I believe because there was more suffering ahead.
As mom moved into the next realm, I felt like my link to the past had been severed. I feel like a cork bobbing around in the vast Pacific Ocean. I am her only link to the future – mom’s legacy lives through me and I will do what I can to keep her alive as long as I am on this earth. She has left ‘bread crumbs’ in my life to guide me (even when I hear my name said out aloud, or write my name she is there – she and my father picked that name for me). I will plant seeds to ensure that she continues beyond my existence. This is what she deserves for all she did for so many others.
What I have learnt from my mother:
- Everyone has a story and we should always be aware of that
- Everyone deserves love and understanding – mom never judged.
- Make time for people – it will make their day and it will fill you with warmth
- Get on with making a difference without expecting praise
- Find the simplicity in everything – don’t over-complicate situations
- Find pleasure and joy in every situation no matter how small or how insignificant it seems – cream scones, nougat, avocadoes, ice-cream.
- Laugh a lot!
I found a story in mom’s handwriting, she recounted in one of her HIV/Aids training lectures:
“A man was walking on the beach. In the distance he noticed someone picking up something from the beach and throwing it into the sea. He stepped closer. Still the man was throwing things into the sea. He came closer still and noticed that the tide had washed up millions of starfish onto the beach and the man was throwing the starfish back into the sea.
Then he said to the man, ‘Why are you throwing the starfish into the sea? There are so many of them you can’t possibly make a difference.’
The man bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, ‘I made a difference to that one’ he said.”
That was my mother.
Thank you to you all for being in mom’s life, in whatever capacity.
For me, I will always be me because of her, but I will also never be the same without her.
30 August 1941 – 29 October 2014