3 generations of love

Moms never really die

betty ming liu Relationships 8 Comments

Even though my mom left this world in 2010, moms never really die. She’s still with me, in an even better way. Death freed her from suffering. Her passing also freed me, from the tough parts of our relationship. Now, I enjoy her at her best.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize our bond would keep growing. If I knew this, I would’ve worried less and had more fun with her. Instead, I always felt anxious and guilty.

She lived alone in her Chinatown apartment with a cat. What if she fell and no one was there to help? What if she got hit by a truck? How would I go on if she died?

At least, that’s how I saw her story. She actually had a home attendant, church friends nearby and a doorman in the lobby of her building. If she was in trouble, someone would be there.

Still, I chose to freak out.

How to stop worrying about Mom

These questions haunted me until my shrink offered a new perspective.

“You can keep worrying about your mother, which is like killing her over and over,” my therapist said. “Or, you can let her die once — and enjoy her company while she’s alive.”

The last thing I wanted to do was kill my mom. So I changed my attitude. We ate out more and did more activities, like shopping. After I also became a mom, we found such pleasure in hanging out with our baby girl.

3 generations of love

Embracing mom

My mother and I walked this earth together for 53 years. She passed on at age 92. Of course, blogged about her death because it was one of the most important spiritual experiences of my life. When physical death finally took my mom, she was sick and frail and ready to go. There was no trace of the ever-alert, manipulative diva who used guilt to control me.

As she lay dying, we told her we loved her, that she was beautiful. My daughter and I held her hands until her last breath. Since moms never really die, she’s still here, every day, all the time.

My mom & daughter

Gratitude makes the difference

The older I get, the more I appreciate my mom’s journey. You know my blog post about 3 things that a fun mom never does to her adult child? Well, my mom was rarely a fun mommy. She actually made life quite difficult for me. But she didn’t mean to. She did her best.

My mom raised two girls and cared for a husband. She learned English and worked full-time as a scientist. In her younger days, she survived the bloody horror of World War II; I’m sure she had post-traumatic stress disorder, which would explain why she was so paranoid and needy.

Today, though, she’s in a peaceful place. I am keeping her in safe space within me.

My mom

I’m glad moms never really die

To embrace my mom with compassion feels really, really good. I can laugh now about annoying and weird things she said and did. Instead of pain, there’s understanding. We’re a team now. She’s very much my muse.

If you’d like to share a thought or memory about your mom, or about being a mother or nurturer, please do comment. Happy Mother’s Day! xo

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Comments 8

  1. Tobias Grace

    I have no sentiment regarding Mother’s Day. My mother was a difficult woman whom i did not like. She was not evil or perverse – she simply lacked the quality of empathy altogether. She was utterly unable to understand other people’s feelings or how what she said and did affected them. She was also not terribly bright. She never read a book other than Barbara Cartland novels in her life. The final element was her utter tactlessness. The combination of these elements made many of her relationships absolute train wrecks. Her maternal instincts consisted entirely of calculating to a penny and a minute what everyone else owed her – a subject she frequently waxed eloquent about. Honestly, i did not shed a tear when she died and have not known a moments grief in the ensuing years. I never actually thought of her as a “mother,” just someone whose welfare I was obligated to see to. God knows what my father saw in her. That’s one of the great mysteries. I think he just saw what he wanted to see and resigned himself to ignore the rest. The man was a saint. Had I been married to her I think I would have either shoved her out the tower window or jumped myself. The happiest day of my life was when I left for college and knew I’d never again have to spend more than a few days at Christmas in her company.

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      betty ming liu

      Toby, I am so glad you shared your memory and feelings. I struggled my whole life with my mother and can relate to much of what you said. What matters is that you own your life, your stories, right? And you’re getting what you need to create a life with the love you didn’t get as a child. More power to you, for sharing with such honesty and clarity. And let’s recognize all that you do to give and receive love. So how about if, on this dreary, rainy Saturday, I just wish you a lovely weekend. And thanks for being such a supportive reader. :)

  2. Leslie

    Love the way you have written about coming to terms with the person your mom was, and how you have bonded in a way that keeps you with her, even after her death. As you so rightly put it, my mom, too, is my muse and she lives on in me as well.

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  3. Cassandra Aoki

    Your mother truly was beautiful in her old age. Such nice skin!

    My mother died the day 5/7/99 the day before Mother’s Day. She didn’t even get to see 2000. She was only 69. Her mother, my grandmother, died at 69 also. I am 69 now and I wonder if this is my last year! But, if it is, at least I have managed at last to come to terms with my mother’s and my relationship. All these years I felt like she had abandoned me but I just realized last year that it was me that abandoned her and the family since everybody else had settled within a few miles or states to be there for Thanksgivings and Christmas. I, on the other hand, had chosen to return to Hawaii to live 5,000 miles away and at the end of her life, I was in Japan. I told her that I loved her and never meant it when I shouted “I hate you” at 7 via long distance on the phone from Japan when my stepfather called to say this was almost the end. He finally took the phone away from her because she was just holding it in a morphine haze. I regret that I did not return for her funeral but I had just been there to visit her 3 months before and told her I would not return. The last thing I did with her was to make her cry for which I am sorry. She died on my husband’s birthday so between this and Mother’s Day, I can never forget her and I no longer will try to…

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      betty ming liu

      Cassandra, I’m so glad you stopped by to drop a note and share your story. The ability to shift perspective is HUGE. The fact that you told your mommy that you loved her — also huge. You sound like you have found acceptance of the situation. Congrats on that!

      And yeah, my mom had pretty skin. Not a wrinkle on her face. Her secret: Vaseline. She smeared it all over her face and eyelids every single night. I’ve tried it and it works. What a miracle hydration treatment. Cheap, too!

  4. Rosa Leader Smith

    Hi Betty,

    Your blog today “Moms never really die” sparked something in me and inspired me to write. My mom died 4 1/2 years ago and she too is still alive in me and through me.

    We met a few years ago when I was in one of your personal essay classes at the SLC Writing Institute. I think I was working on a piece about my Vermont woodlot at that time.

    I did quite a bit of writing about my mom the years before and after she died at the age of 93. This must have been around the time I took your class. My hybrid piece that emerged from that will appear shortly in an anthology which is called Take Care: Tales, Tips and Love from Women Caregivers, edited by Elayne Clift.

    Since this will only be the second time I am having something published I am quite excited and wanted to share this news with you on Mother’s Day, congratulate you on your wonderful blog which I dip into from time to time and to express my gratitude for your teachings which helped get me started.

    http://www.elayne-clift.com/shop/take-care-tales-tips-and-love-from-women-caregivers

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      betty ming liu

      Rosa! I remember you well. Congrats on getting published!! Thank you for the link. The whole topic of caregiving is huge, especially with the aging baby boomer population. We’ve got lots of material. :)

      And so glad to hear that you’re inspired to write. The topic of moms makes for a powerful writing prompt. Makes me feel good about offering up what I can on this blog post. Thanks for visiting and hope you’ll stop by again. xo

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