For more than a decade, I have dreaded Mother’s Day. Why? Because my mom passed away on the evening of August 2nd, 2008. Even though I have been a mom myself for twelve years, I don’t think of it as a day that has anything to do with me.
My mom, Barbara Parker Lewis, was born in Newport News to William Taylor and Ruby Parker. Mom grew up walking to the movie theater, to church and to play. She loved art and ballet. She was bright, lovely and petite – standing at 5 feet 4 inches. At 19 she married my dad. He was eleven years her senior, loved sports, was a fantastic ballroom dancer and employed at NASA. Mom later found out he was an alcoholic and an abuser. By the time my sister and I were born, she was well aware and had to go it alone. Dad was the primary breadwinner, mom felt stuck and simply took the abuse. By the time I was five, I was familiar with where to go when we needed to escape. I understood not to talk to dad when he got home from Bubba’s and had seen far too many tears and bruises on my mom. A good deal of time would pass in between abusive incidences and eventually, the physical ones stopped. The mental and emotional ones never did, however. I grew up too fast! As her oldest daughter, mom relied on me for a great deal. I was also her friend and confidant. I never told a soul what went on in my home. Mom was the greatest Christian I have ever known. She found joy in Jesus. I felt as though she could talk to God, one on one, anytime she wished. She was a prayer warrior and her diligence is why my sister and I got on the other side of our childhood without a great deal of damage. Mom suffered though. The constant stress led to heart issues along with overlapping auto immune diseases. She was in and out of the hospital from my middle school years on. I became much too familiar with the corridors of Riverside Hospital.
On that evening in August of 2008, my husband and I had just gotten home from a friend’s birthday party. Our 18 month old little Anna Lise was fast asleep and the phone rang. It was my dad. He never called me. Dad said, “I can’t wake your mother up.” I told him, she must be sleeping soundly and to shake her a little. That’s when he said mom felt cold and asked me what he should do. I told him to call 911 as I was quietly freaking the hell out. Not more than three minutes later, an EMT from York County called my cell phone saying, “I’m sorry, your mother is dead.” I collapsed to the floor and thought I might die too. She was only 66 years old.
Mom and I talked at least three times a day, she was my best friend and biggest cheerleader. She died in her sleep on the couch in her living room. When the funeral home took her away, I laid in her spot all night with my head on her pillow. At one point in the night, the crystal beads on the chandelier hanging in the dining room started to move making a lovely sound. Shortly thereafter, I noticed a box behind a door in the great room that read “UPON MY DEATH, ATTENTION JENNIFER”. This box contained every, single thing I would need to know. Even in death, mom took care of everything. She pre-paid for her casket, told me what color to get and what dress to pull from her closet for burial. She listed the songs she would like sung at her funeral and what scriptures should be read. Mom knew she was going to meet her Savior and left me with perfect instructions once she did. I made one decision on my own though – panty hose. She always wore panty hose with her dresses and I could not let her be buried without them. I felt it would be fitting to buy her Hanes ALIVE panty hose. So, I did.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom – I miss you.