Yesterday, my mother, Patricia Leach, died at age 77 from complications from metastatic cancer. She had only been diagnosed three weeks before that, as the result of an arm fracture that did not heal. Had the doctors noted the small tumor that had caused the fracture three months ago, this story might have been somewhat different, but her lifespan may not have been prolonged by much, given the spread of the cancer at the time of detection.
My mother would have liked to have been well for Christmas, I think. Christmas was always one of her favorite holidays, and even though she could not decorate this year, my dad decked the halls for her. She had planned on wearing a grey robe with some of her favorite vintage Christmas pins on it. Her last words to my husband and I in the hospital were, "You go and enjoy yourselves."
Mom liked to refer to herself as a magpie, given her penchant for collecting pretty things -- vintage jewelry, small metal jewelry boxes, Art Nouveau busts, antique furniture. She and I bonded over fantasy art and cooking. She had overcome being the child of an indifferent cook by collecting an extensive repertoire of cookbooks and experimenting with recipes -- often more exotic than her upbringing had dictated. On the other hand, her family recipe for pineapple upside-down cake, made in a skillet, was one of her favorites.
I always admired my mother's ability to talk to just about anyone. She worked as an assistant personal tax assessor, desk clerk, and Census Bureau interviewer over her lifetime, and her skill of connecting to people served her well. She gave me her secret to this talent years ago: "Remember that you have something to learn from everyone you meet, whether it be a janitor or a politician." She once asked for a hug from Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet) upon running into him on a Chicago street.
Mom could not be described as a tranquil person. She was at times flamboyant, at times frustrating, but never lukewarm. She sometimes had trouble moderating her emotions, as if there was just too many of them to bear. However, in the last couple weeks of her life, she had resolved her conflicts with the religion of her childhood and had exhibited a rare serenity. As it turns out, she had simply tackled the business of dying with as much impatience and drive as she had approached her hobbies and artistic endeavors throughout life. Mom never liked to be a beginner at anything.
Rest in Peace, Mom. If there is a Heaven, you are now decorating a corner of it with great aplomb, and none of the ravages of age are in your way.
My mother's obituary can be found here.