Missing mom

betty ming liu Art, Inspiration, Relationships 13 Comments

Today is the second anniversary of Mom’s death. Even though she was an impossible diva for most of her 92 years, she came around in the end. During her very last days, she was even remarkably loving. And because she changed, I truly miss her.

I will always be glad that Mom died while holding hands with my daughter and I.  We sat by her bed in the nursing home, one of us on each side. Writing this brings me back to the feeling of clutching her frail little fingers…..

Last year, thinking about her death was still too new, too raw. But right now, everything is softer and more tender, especially because of a poem by Mary Oliver.

I recently found this lovely piece on Facebook, where it was posted by my friend Vivien Orbach-Smith. The words form a lovely, lacey wedding veil that I’m offering now to my mom. In the end, she found her way to becoming “a bride married to amazement.”

When Death Comes

When death comes 

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth. 

When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


Vivien Orbach-Smith

I also appreciated the comments that were added on Facebook by Viv, who I met ages ago when we were both NYU journalism department adjuncts. Viv told her friends that the poem is her “personal reminder to live every day. Since this is probably our only go-round, why not spend it as “a bride married to amazement!”

Amen, Sister!

Doesn’t Viv give great Facebook?


My mother spent a bitter lifetime in a miserable marriage (she and my dad BOTH take responsibility for that one). So I like the image of her as a tiny, ancient bride. And I’ve added one of my floral paintings here to serve as her bouquet.

If you’d like to read more about my mother’s last days, here’s what I blogged two years ago. Love you, Mom!

Flowers are a pain to paint. But this one turned out ok.



Comments 13

  1. Love the piece, the poem, the painting. Thank you for a loving gem before Valentine’s Day (esp., before the V’s Day Madness). I went back & read the post from 2 years ago–what beautiful imagery. We just lost a dear cousin, so all this was particularly moving & important. Thank you so much for your wonderful ability to traverse the moving & the zany in your blog.

  2. It is two years and two weeks for me since I lost my mom.

    Just a few minutes ago, rummaging in the guest room, I opened a box.

    Inside – lavender stalks from her garden. She is still with me.

  3. Betty: That poem is wonderful. Thank you so much for bringing it to us. Your painting is, as always, exquisite. Parental relationships run the gamut from the most loving and supportive that can be found in this life to absolutely insoluble nightmares and I’m sure we have all seen both extremes as we go through life. Those of us fortunate enough to have had the best sort of parents learned early what unconditional love really means. Hopefully, the legacy of those parents comes when we practice such love with the people, especially the young people, who are part of our own lives.

  4. Thanks Betty, I really needed that. My father’s 2nd anniversary was on Christmas. His birthday was last month. I’ve been trying to reconcile not so much with his death, but with the many years of his life that were hurtful. So I miss in a different way. Never got to know him, and when he was ready, he got Alzheimer’s.
    With this, I’m following your day by day, bird by bird perspective.
    I think the last memory and moment is probably your best one and possibly puts the past to shame.

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    toby, my parents spent of most of their lives practicing conditional love. but i finally experienced unconditional love when i became a mommy myself. holding my baby gave me such contentment. sometimes, all we needed was to simply smile at each other. thank you for reminding me to practice this. i have to remember to love her unconditionally now — instead of bombarding her with demands. p.s. — i’m glad you like my painting!

    and skye, yeah. at least you know that in the end, your dad was willing and ready. i guess that has to do, right? but as a resourceful adult, maybe you can discover some of what you need in other relationships. i’ve been able to find chunks of maternal and paternal affection from other (usually older) folks in my life. and there are moments when i know former students have sought it from me.

    as you point out, we can find our way — bird by bird. https://bettymingliu.com/2012/01/my-youtube-inspiration-for-you/

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    imchuckle, gerry and carol — your comments just popped up!

    imchuckle, i appreciate you reading my earlier post and kind words about my painting. blogging is always such a great emotional outlet. and i also thought about v-day in choosing the poem. since i’m going into this feb. 14 as a single woman, i am definitely happy to be married to amazement!

    gerry, i need to remember to post paintings more often. it’s sort of a chore to label them but i gotta do it. thanks for the support. xo

    and carol, i got chills from your comment. your mommy left you something sweet. wonderful.

    hugs to you all. xoxoxo

  7. Very touching and your piece 2 years ago really captured your experience, and one day all of ours, in a profound way.

    My mom is now 92, in good health, and although making it through each year now, is a gift not only for her, but especially for me.

    God bless.

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      yankees49, you truly are blessed to have a elderly mother in good health — i wish i knew what that could’ve been like. hope you enjoy every minute with your loving mommy. hearing about your positive experience is a dose of much-needed healing energy for me. :)

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