Sunday, December 23, 2007

Passages...

My mother passed away on December 17. She had been in and out of the critical care unit for a couple of months. Every return left her weaker and weaker. At the last admittance to CCU, she made the decision not to have extraordinary life support administered. This was the first time she had ever stated that she was just too tired and did not want to go on if she had to be in pain and unable to care for herself. In her condition, bad heart, lungs and kidneys, we knew she would not make it many days.

A little about my mom---She had eight of her own children and mothered many other children at various times of our lives. Other cousins even lived with us for a time. Although my father was in and out of the hospital due to bleeding ulcers and colon cancer all of my life, my mother managed to take care of the family with no public welfare. And the most amazing part is, she went to college from the time she was in her thirties until she graduated with a degree in library science and a masters in secondary education in her late fifties. Most of my admiration and love for her comes not from her being the very best mom there was, but from the fact that she still followed her dreams to realize what she felt was important for her well-being and fulfillment. In the end, it never really hurt any of her children that she spent so much time pursuing her own goals. And maybe it even helped as we could always look up to her and see the sacrifices that one may have to make to achieve a goal. She was the 1989-1990 Kentucky Mother of the Year.

My father passed a few years ago. He was honest, hardworking, fun-loving, witty, quiet and just a plain good man. At his funeral, every single person who spoke of my father spoke of how honest and how good he was. At my mother's funeral, people were still remembering my father in the same manner. My father was loved by all who knew him and he was easily liked---the kind of person that you could be in the same room with for hours and never be annoyed with him due to an annoying habit. He never cared what his children aspired to as long as we did whatever we chose to do as well as possible and we were happy. I always loved collecting tidbits of stuff (what many would call junk) and he always told me that even if I wanted to be a junk dealer I just had to be the very best one I could be.

My mother on the other hand could often get on one's nerves. She was often pushy and demanding. She had very specific goals for her children as well as for herself. We all had to participate in numerous extracurricular activities. It was not a choice. I can't even begin to list all of the clubs and activities that we were members or volunteers. We were expected to make above average grades without ever being told to do our homework. We knew we were to be good citizens, good humans and there were no excuses accepted for bad behaviour. There was no doubt that we were expected to succeed.

Which brings me to the last thing that my mother asked me. I had spent the early morning hours with her in the hospital as we were taking turns to be certain someone was with her in her last hours. She motioned for me to come over and asked me what I was working on now. She has always been used to my fickle/flighty/disjointed art where I work with polymer clay one week, textiles the next, and who knows what the next. She also knew how I started so many different businesses, but would sell them as I could not stick with them a long time. I told her about my current artwork---the ink paintings and the line drawings I am doing with sterling silver wire on polymer clay. She was weak, but said, "Oh, that is so good. It sounds like you are loving it this time. Maybe you can focus on this." I told her that I was loving it. I get whatever craftiness that I have from my mother. I can never remember my mother without a crochet hook, knitting needles or a quilt top on her lap if she was sitting still. Even on her deathbed, she asked for her crochet hook and thread. You would never believe that someone in such terrible health could have such nimble fingers and with no arthritis.

I returned to Raleigh and immediately submitted two of my ink paintings into the Visual Art Exchange's juried show. We had been home only two days when we received a message that mother was going downhill fast and so we prepared to return to see her. After my mother's passing, I came home to the first email in my box that said that my paintings were juried into the show!

Now for reflections on time, life and death. My youngest son died at the age of fourteen due to complications of Crohns. At the time of his death, I felt nothing would ever be the same. Time would never move on. Life would never be the same. I felt that time had stopped.

With the passing of my mother, I felt for the first time that time is passing like lightening. So fast that we have so little time left. I watched as my mother's friends and her brothers and sisters filed past her casket. I could see many of them picturing themselves there instead of her. Time is very short for them even if they live a long life. It puts a sense of urgency on the way one sees life---especially if thinking of living up to my mother's high expectations of accomplishing something in my lifetime! ;) So I had better end this long post and get to the artwork. I know she is counting on me to stick with something!


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14 Comments:

At 12/23/2007 2:54 PM, Blogger Penny A said...

Jeanne,
My thoughts are with you at this difficult time; and although I have only known you for a short time, I feel certain that you need not worry about 'accomplishing something'!

You are living a full and creative life. You are a truly generous and supportive person/friend, with a nurturing and giving spirit. I do not doubt that your mother was proud of you the last time she saw you; and feel certain that she will remain so, as she 'looks over your shoulder' for the rest of your time here.
Sending you sunshine and thoughts of peace,
- p

 
At 12/24/2007 7:25 PM, Blogger Debbie said...

I read your blog with pleasure, and inspiration.
Thank you for sharing your feelings and observations during this difficult time. You are so right - time seems to sometimes stretch and drag and float along forever, then suddenly you find yourself confronted with the fact that it is marching by with no mercy.
Peace be with you and your family.

 
At 12/25/2007 8:33 AM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Penny,
Thank you for your positive and thoughts. I am so glad to know you!

 
At 12/25/2007 8:50 AM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Thank you, Debbie. I appreciate your thoughts!

 
At 12/26/2007 9:39 AM, Blogger Kim Cavender said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful, and inspiring post. A lovely tribute to your mother and your father. You're a wonderful, amazing, and talented lady and I'm so very glad to know you. Stay strong. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your fabulous work in the new year.

Wishing you comfort and peace,
Kim

 
At 12/26/2007 4:12 PM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Kim,
After writing this, I have thought of hundreds of things that I should have mentioned. It is only a matter of time until I write a little something else...

Thank you for your friendship. I am so glad I got to meet you!

 
At 1/04/2008 10:43 AM, Blogger Tejae said...

Jeanne, you're such a sweetie for posting this. It's such a nice remebrance of your mother and father. Thanks for sharing it. You mother passed on my mothers birthday. I can't imagine your loss. Please take comfort in knowing your online friends are giving you a big hug and prayers during this difficult time.

 
At 1/04/2008 1:00 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Jeanne, I can't think of anyone I know who has accomplished more creatively than you. You are one of my heroes. Not only that, but you are one of the kindest and most generous and dear people I have ever known.
Your description of your Mom reminds me of my own Mom. Strong and beautiful women have strong and beautiful daughters, don't they?

 
At 1/05/2008 10:19 AM, Blogger altermyworld said...

Jeanne, tears were streaming down my face as i read this beautiful post, i was able to see the pride, the grief, the joy, the hope, the sadness, all that was wrapped up in this time.
My thoughts are certainly with you at this time.
ANg

 
At 1/06/2008 5:53 PM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Tejae, It is so nice to have online friends. I am overwhelmed by how much this means. I have never had such a misfortune during my time on the internet. I often wondered how some could publish so much personal info. At times I am sure I was even taken aback by some outpouring of problems or misfortunes. But I must say that all of the good thoughts make the difficult times much, much easier! Love, love your hearts!

 
At 1/06/2008 5:59 PM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Amy,
Yes, I think strong and beautiful women have strong and beautiful daughters. And you are doing a great job with continuing the strong and beautiful!

Thank you for the sweet thoughts. I am so proud and happy to call you my friend.

 
At 1/06/2008 6:02 PM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Ang,
I am glad you were touched by the post. Just give a hug to those near you. Never know what and when we will be able to.

Thank you for posting!

 
At 1/07/2008 6:08 AM, OpenID tinat said...

Jeanne,

Again, what a wonderful tribute to your parents. I think that no matter what we are never prepared to loose them. Keeping them close to our hearts and knowing what they wanted for us, I believe makes us better people. Your parents sound a lot like my grandparents!! :0) Life is way too short!! Live it to your fullest and fill it up with things you love - and for me it is to give what I can to make things better...

May God continue to Bless you Jeanne! You have an amazing talent and a giving spirit!

HUGS!

 
At 1/09/2008 7:19 AM, Blogger Jeanne Rhea said...

Tina, Thanks for posting. I just checked your blog and saw that you lost your father about a month earlier. My condolences are with you!

 

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