I remember last Memorial Day vividly. It had only been two months since my mother was diagnosed suddenly with stage four bile duct cancer. The family was still trying to adjust to this news and the ever changing, dire medical ups and downs. We barely had our head wrapped around the treatment plan, let alone making plans for Memorial Day.
I remember that long weekend, we somehow all wound up in our backyard, sitting like we do every year at our ancient picnic table. It tilts to one side, so when people sit down or get up, they have to do it verrrrrryyyyy slowly, or the table will tilt and the pasta salad and drinks, etc., will start crashing down. Every summer we say we need to get rid of it, but no one does.
So there we were – my husband was grilling hot dogs, my brothers were there eating everything in sight. My then 5 year old wanted to know what was for dessert and could we set up her little teepee play house. My mom was eating some beans with her hot dogs. And then she threw up. Right in the middle of the meal, right at the table, right as the sun was streaming through the leaves of the beech tree she had planted years ago in our backyard. And there was nothing anyone could do about it.
As I usually do, I just went into super woman crisis mode and had the mess cleaned up while the men were still sitting there in shock. My daughter saw some of what happened, but not the whole thing since she was bopping around in the grass.
So here we are now – another Memorial Day is upon us. The picnic table is gone (my brother finally took a chainsaw to the thing and carted it away.) My mom has gone through more than 10 hospitalizations, chemo, radiation, surgery, chemo — and she has a chance at living now. We don’t know for how long, but she is alive. She is a skelton of the person she was before, but her sprit is strong and she is alive. In our backyard, she is growing lettuce and a variety of herbs and tomatoes – my little daughter is thrilled with their project (she wants to make a salad every night now, because she wants to pick the lettuce!)
We have a set of chairs in the backyard, plants, the grass needs to be cut and the blackberry bushes are doing well. We have plans to buy a hammock. I don’t know what we will do this long weekend – there is a graduation party to attend, there are invites to come over to people’s homes and family to visit.
I was thinking about all of this during the week, and reminded myself that Memorial Day is supposed to be about veterans and the people who lost their lives in war. It is not something we are distant from in this family, since my stepfather fought in Vietnam in two tours and then became a respected, successful and powerful anti-war activist.
But this year, I was thinking – when we remember the dead and the senselessness of war, we should take time to remember the mothers. All those mothers who raised all those children who went off to all those wars. All those mothers who had to live sick with worry for weeks, months, years. And all those mothers who had to live with the burning grief of a son or daughter lost to conflict. I think about this, at a time when my family is trying to recover and grow stronger and is finding that challenging, and I think about this at a time when our country is fighting on so many fronts and the world is facing so many crisis situations and I think – we should all remember the mothers on this weekend. The mothers who have had to bury the dead, sometimes — all too often — they are even burying children who were not soliders, just civiliians going about their day.
I have a lot to be thankful for. And this year when I think about the fallen, I will remember to think about those mothers who were left behind to pick up the pieces.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Theta Pavis, a New Jersey mom.