Memories Of My Mother
When I was very young, maybe 9 or 10, I bought my mother a necklace of ornate stones. At least, I thought they were ornate. (They weren’t. I bought it for her at a street stall while on vacation in Pakistan. A situation where what you paid for was what you got.)
One night soon after, we were headed to a dinner at a friend’s house, and I got upset that my mother still hadn’t worn them. I couldn’t understand why. “Don’t you like them?” I asked. She told me she loved them. And that evening, to my delight, she wore the necklace. Not because they looked nice. They didn’t. But because her son had bought them for her and how it would make me feel meant so much more to her than how she’d look while at a social event.
That was my mother. Loving, kind and considerate. Someone for whom family meant absolutely everything.
Outside the immediate family as well, she was a tremendously caring person, someone who always saw the good in people. I’ve often joked that her favorite word was “bechaara” or “bechaari” (meaning “poor guy” or “poor girl” in Urdu). She was always calling someone bechaara or bechaari when they suffered a misfortune, whether they’d brought it upon themselves or not. She had a heart of gold. (I’ve often thought to myself that the reason I’d be terrible as a juror is because of her. I’d just end up feeling bad for the other person, thinking they’re such a bechaara.)
Much of my sense of optimism comes from my mother. In various little ways, she would encourage me, remind me to be positive, remind me to look on the brighter side of things when I wasn’t feeling that way.
When I was about to go to college, leaving home for the first time, I became anxious, worried I wouldn’t make any friends. It was my mother who comforted me and reminded me of all the great friends I’d made in high school, of my inner strength, of all the things I had going for me. She spoke with that sense of certainty that only mothers can when reassuring their sons. And, of course, I was fine.
She also kept a tab on who my friends were, who I’d be hanging out with, who I was socializing with. She knew that the company I kept strongly influenced the kind of person I’d become. And she never hesitated to let me know what she thought.
(My mother was also, certainly for the community I grew up in, pretty laid back and reasonably progressive for the time. She kept a keen interest in my evolving musical tastes in my teen years and would surprise me by asking me about my favorite Van Halen song. She always enjoyed (or at least pretended for her son) the music I’d put on our record player.)
When I started this blog almost two years ago and she saw the first posts (and then when I started putting out vlogs on LinkedIn), she called me to tell me how proud she was of me, how much she thought of what I was doing. Yes, I know mothers always support their kids, but I have to say, her praise meant the world to me.
My mother was perfect for me. She was my cheerleader, my support. She was there for me whenever I needed her.
Since I’ve had my (now teenage) children, I’ve come to appreciate, at a much more intrinsic level, what my parents have done for me. They were a team and they each played a specific role. They put our family, my brothers and I first. What’s remarkable to me about my mother is her complete, selfless, lifelong devotion to her family. I don’t think I always acknowledged that when I was young but I did as I got older and I absolutely do now.
For my part, I don’t know if I was as good of a son to her as I could have been. Sometimes, I think I was. Other times, I think I could have done better. Maybe that's the normal pattern of things, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel as if I’d done enough, or that I could ever have repaid her for all she did for me.
My mother passed away in the early morning hours of July 10th. She’d had health issues for the past 18 months but we didn’t expect this. So sudden. So unexpected. So utterly heartbreaking. As my brother said to me, it’s unimaginable that she’s gone. Unimaginable.
That’s not what mothers are supposed to do, are they? They’re supposed to be there for us for all time. They’re supposed to be immortal. Because they should be immortal. Because we need them. And selfishly, because I need her. Still. The loss of someone so close isn’t something I was supposed to deal with, it was always one of those things that other people had to deal with. So it’s unfathomable that she’s gone.
And while I understand the reality, understanding doesn't change the hurt. That sense of loss.
Intellectual acceptance is one thing. Emotional is quite another. A close friend reminded me of the words of Queen Elizabeth:
"But nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love."
Two weeks ago, those words wouldn't have resonated as much. Today, they're far too real. Because, grief is, indeed, the price we pay for love.
I suppose what I need to remember, though, is that while she’s now gone physically, she will always be there for me.
She’ll be there through all the lessons she taught me. In her humor, her love for her family, in her unfailing and unconditional support. In that spring in her step, that smile, in the sound of her voice now forever etched in my memory.
In that sense, she will always be immortal. She will always be there for me.