In Memory of Anna Louise Foley
On December 7, 2009, my mother passed away at the venerable age of 95. She was comfortably at home in my sister's house in Tucson, Arizona, where she had been living for the past year. My sisters, Eileen and Mary, were both with her. I was due to fly to Tucson on the 8th, to help out, since she had been under Hospice care for a few weeks. Eileen called to say she would probably not make it until day's end and I quickly changed my flight--but I was too late. She died before I had left the house an hour later and I got into Tucson around 1:00 a.m. on the 8th, by which time my other sister, Pat, had also arrived. I was enfolded in the warmth of my sisters' arms at the Tucson airport, after two lonely and harrowing flights. We spent the next few days making plans, going through her things, enjoying memories and stories, as well as each other's loving company.
We scattered my mother's ashes from Chimney Rock, in Pt. Reyes, California, on December 29th, when all of the family could gather. We fashioned our own memorial service for her on the 28th, at the Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley. Both ceremonies were moving and meaningful for all of us, I think. I read the following excerpt from a book I was reading before she died, and shared just a few words of my own after that. The excerpt expresses what I hoped my mother's last hours might have been like; my words expressed best how the loss of her affected me.
It was now that Ursula, nearing the end of her days, discovered at last what life is. She could hear the voices but not the words of her guests. They spoke in shallow waves that rose and broke, subsided, and rose again. Occasionally, someone laughed. Frances had lit two lamps, and as people moved about, their shadows came and went on Ursula’s bedroom wall. She found herself enjoying this silent company.
Our lives are brief beyond our comprehension or our desire, she told herself. We drop like cottonwood leaves from trees after a single frost. The interval between birth and death is scarcely more than a breathing space. Tonight, in her house on a Mexican hill, Ursula Bowles listened to the five assembled in her sala and thought she heard the faint rustle of their days slipping by. She could see now that an individual life is, in the end, nothing more than a stirring of air, a shifting of light. No one of us, finally, can be more than that. Even Einstein. Even Brahms.
- from Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr
But for me, my mother is gone. I will never again make my daily phone call to her, reporting on the weather or the 13 cardinals at the feeder or the antics of my two little dogs, one of whom left us suddenly last week and the other of whom is too old to still be alive. I will never again say to my mother, “I love you to pieces," and hear her say back to me, “I love you, too, girl.”
For now I am the bereft 5-year-old who hid behind the couch rather than leave my mother to go to kindergarten, who fought against the idea of being in a world where she was not.