Mom: A Meditation on Life & Memory

Mom and Me 1966_2015

Before memory there was mother. Mom. The one person who knew me from my minute beginnings, who nurtured me from the moment of inception, of whose existence I owe for my own.

For 50 years I have gathered experiences and they are layered one upon the other like the growth rings of a tree. Each year the trunk grows thicker with memories. Going forward those new rings will be absent of my mother. Now in the days following her passing, my head is a jumble of images. They come out of order, blurred at the edges. Like looking at stars, they are easier to discern when glancing the eye just past them. Why are our powerful brains yet so feeble in recalling the most important moments, those small, deceptively inconsequential moments that truly make up the rich, varied and flawed fabric of our lives?

I tease these fragments from the depths:

  • The weak yellow glow from a nightlight in the bathroom illuminates me – an ill child – and my mother hugging me despite my sickness.
  • Standing next to my mother in the kitchen as she rolls out pie dough; watching with envy at her skilled and steady fingers crimping the dough in perfect, delicate crescents.
  • My mother clasping her strand of pearls around my neck on my wedding day.
  • Me placing a spoon in my mother’s hand – creped and wrinkled now and speckled with age spots – and gently moving that hand near a bowl of soup.

For months my mother resided in the prison of her mind and body. I don’t know how much she knew of what was going on around and inside her – but I know she knew enough to want to get out. And so there is some solace in her release. The small, personal tragedy of my mother’s death is absorbed into the millions of small, personal tragedies that preceded hers over the millennia and not one of us can avoid making our own deaths part of the manufacture of this relentless machine. Everything that once was my mother, her memories, feelings, thoughts, ambitions, fears, and hopes vanished in an instant. What remains now resides under the earth in a small cemetery in northeastern Ohio.

Despite the agnostic logic in which I find comfort in daily life, the same sweet thought tempts me as it did after my brother died: now my mom knows. All the mysteries – the greatest mystery – have been revealed to her. Does she now exist in some cool and impersonal astral landscape or one created and tailored from her own colorful dreams and desires? The pains and scars of mortality are shed; lovers reunite with those dearly loved to experience the remembered warmth of embrace, old friends greet long gone companions to resume unfinished conversations. If this is the case then my mother is happy for she is now with her first-born, her own parents, and friends who left the earth before her.

Despite my age, now past the midpoint of life; despite my unwanted status as motherless, in many ways I am still a child. I am her child and it will always be so. Though I have the solace of rich memories, I long for the real and living comfort of my mother.

Nancy Sheema Oliverio
December 28, 1933 – March 13, 2016

31 thoughts on “Mom: A Meditation on Life & Memory

  1. michechou

    I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. Having lost my mother myself nearly a decade ago now I have an idea of what you’re going through, and I know there’s no words I can say that will ease the pain. Even though it doesn’t ease the pain I remember being a bit comforted when around others that understood my feelings, and please know that I do. If you ever need someone just to talk “at”, not necessarily with, I’m here to listen. Again, I’m so very sorry and I hope that you are taking time for yourself to heal as best you can.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      It’s something we all face, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? But you’re right – the other part of that is that there are those who understand. I so appreciate your words and your offer of an “ear.” This is one of those times when blogging, sharing one’s feelings in a public space is a lovely thing. Thank you.

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  3. Marfigs

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother – I can’t imagine what you’re going through. At some point when we lost a friend to a home invasion someone said something to the effect of “only we are separated from them; they are always with us”. The thought of them being happy and re-united with their other loved ones is always a hope that one can look to, but I also think it’s ok to grief for oneself and what it means for those who are left behind. Lots of hugs!

  4. Brittany

    This is so beautifully written, I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure she is in a place we can only dream of free of pain and suffering. Smiling over you each and every day.

  5. Ricki

    Oh, Annie, I am so sorry about your mother. What a beautiful, poignant and heart-wrenching tribute to her and the ineffable relationship between daughters and mothers. My own mum died in 1991 and I still miss her every day. Life goes on. . . but we are never quite the same. Sending big hugs and lots of love. xo

  6. Maryann D.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your mother and I do know what you are going through. I lost my mom May of 2015. She was 90 years old with dementia and had a few strokes. I am glad that I read this since I know next month I will be thinking of last year when we lost her and what a very hard time it was for my family. It took me a while to accept, but I believe she is in a better place and not suffering anymore and I know she did want that. My sympathy to you and your family.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, Maryann – something about which I’m sure you can empathize. Sadness hits me out of nowhere. Anyway, thank you so much and please accept my condolences on the loss of your mother.

      1. Maryann D.

        It will take quite a while to really sink in. Even after almost a year for me, it hits me all of a sudden also and the reality sets in. I lost both of my parents within 2 years and I still can’t believe it. Thank you also for your condolences.

  7. Stephanie Nelson

    I am very sorry for your loss and I know there is nothing that anyone can say to make things better, but always remember you are not alone and you are loved by so many. God bless you and your family.

  8. Cadry

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing, Annie, and I am thinking of you. This was a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Gail

    Truly sorry for the irreplaceable loss of your mum, but how blessed you are to have shared your if with her. I love the raw honesty of your article, your mum would be so proud and honoured to be remembered in such a beautiful, tender and understanding way. Very best wishes in your journey forward, you never get over the loss of someone so special but life continues and offers new opportunities to share that love again xx

  10. Rebecca Weller

    Oh Annie, I wish I could reach through this screen and give you the biggest, warmest hug. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Your Mom sounds like an amazing woman who will be very missed. Sending you so much love. xx

  11. veggiesaremain

    I am so sorry for your loss, but so happy for you that you were able to spend so many years with your mom and now left with those memories to cherish.
    Take great care – virtual hugs your way.

  12. Lorna

    I’m so very sorry to hear about your loss, Annie. What you’ve written here is beautifully understated and deeply touching. Not having your mom with you must be heartbreaking, but it is a wonderfully comforting thought to imagine her being reunited with other loved ones, including your brother. Like you, I don’t have religious convictions that help me with this, but I sometimes imagine people I’ve lost as being sort of on the other side of the wall from the room I’m in. They’re very close and I can sense their presence in some way, but they’re just beyond my physical reach. Having that sense of a loving connection to them provides some comfort, even thought I can’t touch them. Your mom and your brother will always be with you and the memories you have of them are precious things indeed.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Thank you, Lorna. I “deal” with mom’s loss in a similar way. Since I did not see or interact with her on a daily basis, it is still possible for me to imagine that she is still in her home, reading, working on crossword puzzles, watching the birds, talking with dad. Maybe it’s a form of denial (though I don’t think so), but it softens the edges of reality, let’s say.


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