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What Came Up with My Daughter
On the Way Home with My Mother’s Ashes


My daughter and I were listening to podcasts called The Moth Radio Hour on the way home from PA, where my mother died just 15 days ago, featuring people telling their different and poignantly human stories from the holiday season. A story about quite a character, of a man named Igor started me off, tears silently squeezing out of the outsides of my eyes. A man who was quoted as saying, “I don’t give up easily,” which reminded me of my father who escaped with me on foot from Hungary. My daughter is evidently too young or too different to understand the mix of feelings that accumulate over a lifetime, because she hasn’t arrived yet to my approximate vantage point, and she’s trying not to be like me anyway, so easily moved to tears as I am. Though this is a time of grieving my mother (and remembering her from better times before she got MS), my father surfaced again in my memory as well.

Like this man Igor, he also came from another world where stories abounded as a way of communicating and swaying someone in your favor. They were important. Not tuned out. Some to pass on family stories to the young which keep the dead alive, keep the part of you alive that lived with them. By now, the tears are flowing full throttle. “What’s bothering you?” my daughter asked with resignation. She really can’t handle my tears. I tried explaining what touched me, remembering both of my parents, and ended with saying that the world my father came from was unimaginable to someone living now in our online, computer world, where the way of connecting (or disconnecting) was so different, and that I still had part of that world inside me (there are many reasons why I don’t make sense to you, daughter, and this is a strong one). I told her one of my own funny Christmas stories to bring alive the idea that our memories are always a mix, that good ones prevail.

When someone dies, hopefully, it’s the love that remains in strong focus. Both of my parents came a long way from the worlds they grew up in. No matter the struggles or conflicts they experienced in facing their world, or that I experienced in facing my relationship with them, my mother’s last intelligible words said it best, “In spite of everything, I love you.” I love you too, Mom, and thanks for your gift of courage. I used it a thousand different ways at least, and I'm still not done.

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Sam J.January 20, 2017 6:27 PM UTC

Sorry for your loss. My Dad died about a year ago and it was traumatic for me. I didn't appreciate how traumatic it was to lose a parent until it happened to me.
Lili HunJanuary 20, 2017 5:34 AM UTC

Thanks, Ishmael and Erik the 'Axe.

My mother also had a crap hand dealt to her, but I have to say she made the best of it. Even when she was totally incapacitated by the MS, she still wanted to live, to see what was coming next, to watch squirrels steal birdseed from the birds outside of her window sill, to see the cats jump up on the wooden walkway ledge after them. No casualties were reported.
IshmaelJanuary 19, 2017 6:06 PM UTC

My father and mother used stories in the same fashion, really great story Lil Hun! I shed tears at the passing of my parents, something I rarely do.
Eirik BloodaxeJanuary 19, 2017 5:33 PM UTC

The death of a loved mother has to be one of the hardest things, next to the death of one's child, for a man to bear. My mother lived through the Great Depression, was a nurse in World War II, and had a shit life with a husband who was a violent drunk. She died at 90, with a painful cancer. But I never once heard her complain about the black hand life had dealt her.

So sorry to hear your story. The pain of loss is always with us, each day.

A softer side of the 'axe.