To the strains of Amazing Grace, Unforgettable, and Be Thou My Vision, my family----Dick, my brothers and their wives, and 6 of the 7 grandchildren and their spouses----tucked our sweet mom/Nanny in, and committed her earthly body on Saturday to the dust she shall return to. After losing Dad only 8 months ago, the pain of grief leapt up into all our hearts once again. Like we did for him, we walked her home together for the past 5 months, with love and sadness and honor, and now, this weekend, we were able to celebrate her great life.
The feeling of being an orphan is daunting. My brother Chris expressed wondering what he should do with his son-role. I can echo that. The daughter-role was such a vital component of my life, especially as the 3 of us have done caregiving for both Mom and Dad. I have always worn the badge of daughter with pride. I would have done anything for my parents. How do you give that up?
There were lots of tears last weekend, both at the wake, where we all got up to talk about what she has meant to us, and at the funeral and the burial. We are Hiebs. We cry. A lot. Another piece of DNA from our mom. She was Irish. She laughed hard, played hard, and cried hard. Happy tears. Sad tears. All 10 of us got the gene, 3 kids and 7 grands. So this weekend, we did the domino dance many different times, involuntarily falling one after another into our tears. When one Hieb cries, we all cry. That’s what Hiebs do. In the months to come, I hope my private tears will be cleansing and somewhat healing.
I need some healing. Because I don’t know how to do this……to be motherless. I can’t express how that feels. Mom was the keeper of my past. She knew the secret moments that formed me, and the deepest part of my being as I grew up. She loved me like nobody else could ever love me……she was, after all, my mom. That’s what moms do. I was so blessed to be loved like that for over 60 years.
My niece Rachel and my friend Julie essentially said the exact thing to me at two different times one day. “You will be able to walk forward without her because she taught you how.” I will cling to that.
The last time I was with her, her words were mere whispers and not clear, but when I said to her, “Mom, you will live in my heart forever,” she said back to me, tapping her heart, “We’ll live in each other’s hearts forever.” And so we will. That kind of love never ends.
It says in Psalm 139 that the number of our days were determined before any of them came to be. God could have ordained her days to be over when she was 30 or 50 or 75. But He was gracious enough to give her 94 years. God gave her 65 years with the man she deeply loved. He allowed her to see the happy marriages of her 3 children and her grandkids.
I got to have my mom at my wedding. She watched me graduate from her alma mater. I got to watch her big tears fall as I laid my long-awaited newborn son in her arms. From that moment on, for 23 years, she called Sam “my boy.”
“How was my boy’s game today?”
“When is my boy gonna come and visit us?”
“I want to come down for my boy’s piano recital.”
I guess she had the right to partial ownership. God gave HER the dream that he was to be. After 6 years of our infertility, Mom had a very poignant and real dream that Sam was going to be conceived, and that he would have big blue eyes and curly blond hair. God let her see him first. I did conceive and he looked exactly like the baby in her dream. Exactly. That bonded the two of them in many special ways.
Mom was always on the other end of a telephone when I needed to cry, when I needed affirmation or encouragement. Anytime I had a “Samism” to share, she’d be the one I would call. She never stopped teaching me, whether it was coping with a trial, cooking, or taking risks. She always knew what I should do. And I almost always took her advice. She was one of my best friends.
Pat was a life force. She was a hurricane of love and passion and opinions and selflessness. She was a gourmet cook, even published in the New York Times Cookbook. She was involved in community, school, and medical auxiliary events, and belonged to many clubs. She was a highly trained medical technologist. Mom was smart, sentimental, loyal, and always up for a party (remember she was Irish). She was a devoted caregiver to two elderly aunts and both of my grandmothers.
Her gifts and interests were so varied. I wish I had inherited her skills at all of them. Sewing and quilting (exquisite hand quilting), antique refinishing, gardening, bridge, cooking and baking, entertaining, crafts of all kinds, and knitting (she could knit an intricate wool sweater better than any Norwegiaknitter!!
Nanny was adored by each of her 7 grandchildren and the adoration flowed back to her in return. They each forged a unique relationship with her that was exclusive only to the two of them.
My mom was the hub of our family. Sam texted on the day she died, “Without Nanny our family is like a boat without a rudder.” Indeed.
She made every occasion special with traditions and memories and incredible food. We were all spoiled by her devotion to making every family event one to be remembered. I will never forget the surprise party she planned for my 13th birthday. Never had I been more surprised! She anchored our lives with wit and joy.
I’ve had friends send me remembrances. My dear friend Peg remembers Mom’s pies and her grace. My best friend from grade school, Patty, remembers being made to feel as if Mom were a second mom to her. More than a few friends recalled the PDA between my folks. There used to be a lot of necking while she was cooking dinner!
Mom wore butterflies her entire life. They were her "signature." She had butterfly everything. Clothes, pins, dishes, etc. She gave away so many butterfly pins. And it had nothing to do with the insect. She always told people it was a sign of the resurrection. She knew eternal life awaited her and she loved a symbol of that transition.
Did we have enough time with her? No, it was not enough. My son will never be able to lay his newborn someday in his Nanny’s arms. She won’t be here to advise me through retirement. I will never be called “Precious” again.
But I would not ask God for more. It was an amount of time that few children do not get with their parents. We were the lucky ones.
We cannot imagine a life without our mom and Nanny. She is woven through us from birth to death. She stood at our mileposts and celebrated with us.
How do we say goodbye to her without saying goodbye to a piece of ourselves? There is a large chunk of Patty in each of us. In the 3 of us kids and even in the 7 grandkids. Traits, idiosyncrasies, habits and looks….the most enduring parts of her are in the 10 of us.
Whenever we need her zest for life, her compassion, her problem solving, her strength, or humor….all we need to do is look to each other. She is there. Whenever we laugh about our “worry gene” we will think of Mom. Whenever we give each other the “I’m not happy with you” look, we will chuckle and remember that it is her face. Most of us can imitate nearly every facial expression and mannerism she had!
|Patricia Mary Bolger Hieb|
What do we do with all that she gave us? We absorb it all and then pay it forward. We love our own children lavishly and try to be as generous with them as she and dad were with us. We carve out precious relationships with our grandchildren. Like Mom, we make family the most important thing. We take her lessons and try to recreate the wonder of our childhood with our own kids.
No doubt we will cry along the way as we remember the love and the memories and as we yearn to have her hold us one more time. We will honor her with our tears. Because that is what Hiebs do.
I love you past the moon, Mama. And because you can’t one-up me, I get to say it all this time:
I love you.
I love you more.
I love you most.
Until we meet again…..