My mother has been a frequent subject of mine throughout the years. I was with her for the last weeks of her life. As she lay dying, in a morphine-laced state, she called out for her mother. She had one foot in this world and one foot in the next. I asked her questions about her experience. She recalled waiting to board a boat but they wouldn’t let her embark. She was held back. Why I asked? Her children, she replied.
My mother was a force growing up. She was the glue that held the family together. She was strong, a fighter she liked to say. But this disease knocked her out.
In the months that followed, I cleared out her home and sifted through the remnants of her life. Her papers and belongings were sorted, donated, or tossed. What remained was the empty apartment, a shell of all the life and events that had transpired within its walls. A home is more than a shelter or a roof over our heads. It is the culmination of all the life lived within.
I replayed voice messages that remained on my phone. She always ended every conversation with the catch phrase “Keep your chin up.” It didn’t matter whether I needed cheering up or encouragement or if everything was going well. My brother and I joked about it and wondered about her curious turn of phrase. But hearing that expression after she passed, those words took on new meaning. – Cynthia Bittenfield –