Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Mom

My mom, dad and I during my dad's campaign for judge in 1981. I still have that Daddy for Judge t-shirt tucked away.


My mom's name was Susan. She was beautiful. And funny. A talented athlete. A gifted teacher. The life of every party. She was a devout Catholic. She hardly ever cooked dinner from scratch. But she could make the best pie crust you have ever tasted. And homemade cinnamon rolls. And chocolate chip cookies. And chocolate bundt cake with maraschino cherries on top.

My mom taught me to bake. And to love shopping. at Nordstrom. To sing the Lord's Prayer. And the Oregon Fight Song. To spend time chatting with my kids at bedtime. To find what looks good on me and buy it in three colors. To wear high heels. To use giant-sized velcro rollers in my hair. To be kind-hearted to those who might be disregarded by society. To water ski. To do a cartwheel. To have holiday traditions.

My mom and baby-me. In this photo, she was one year younger than I am today.

Now, there were things we clashed on. When I was little she wanted me in dresses with matching hair bows. I wanted no part in it. I think my mom wanted me to be the life of the party. And I was shy. My mom was Catholic. I am Protestant. For various reasons, my mom did not see the virtue of full-time homemaking. I have wanted to be a stay at home mom since I was six years old.

And, there are a few things that I did not inherit from my mother:

1. A green thumb - my mom planted silk flowers in our front yard. In the dirt. Lining the walkway. And also in planters. She even spritzed them with water. No. Of course they did not look real. Please. But it was humorous.

2. Love of lipstick. She was always trying to get me to put on "just a little lipstick." My mom took off all of her makeup every night. And then re-applied red lipstick. She wore the same color my whole life. Wine With Everything by Revlon. Covered by a layer of Black Honey pot o' gloss by Clinique. And you'd better believe when Clinique discontinued pot o' gloss she bought up all she could find. She had a drawer completely full of it. Lifetime supply. My parents' room was always decorated with a raspberry color. With raspberry sheets. Always. This was so her lipstick would not stain sheets. I.am.serious.

3. A love of country western dancing. I will never forget my mom teaching my friends to line dance in the hotel at cheerleading nationals. She was the coolest. At the time, I was mortified. I didn't fully comprehend how fun my mom was back then.

When I was eight, and my brother was four, my mom was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. She was 40. She had gone in for her baseline mammogram. And just like that, her world was turned upside down.

This was pre-menopausal, estrogen-driven breast cancer. Aggressive. Mastectomy, chemo, radiation. I remember very little of the hair loss or nausea or the emotional trauma my mom must have endured. But, endure she did. Endured and conquered.

Fourteen years later, my mom started experiencing some severe back pain. After much uncertainty, a tumor was finally found - it was wrapped around her spine. The breast cancer was back. I know it is strange that it was breast cancer around her spine. I don't know all of the technical medical jargon. But I know it was a recurrence.

I got the call from my dad when I was working at a Young Life camp at the Oregon Coast. And I cried. hard. on the whole drive to Salem. I knew that this would change my immediate family's life. Things were probably never going to be the same.

And they weren't. My mom was in the fight of her life. Knowing that it wasn't going to end well. She was fighting for time. Both of my parents retired early. My dad took care of my mom. Their life became a series of doctor's appointments, treatments, and medications. And medications to offset the side effects of the medications.

There is much that my brother and I were insulated from. Much of the pain and emotion my parents endured on their own. But, I will never forget my mom's attitude at her treatments. Hooked up to an IV at the oncology office. She was so encouraging to the other patients. Cheering them on. Offering a smile. Assuring them that they could keep on going. They could endure.

And, she was my greatest cheerleader. The last few months of my mom's life are a blur for me. I finished my law school finals on April 29, 2004. Eric and I were married on May 1, 2004. (we were insane. i know.)

Dad, Mom, Me, Eric, Robyn, Randy


After a whirlwind of travels in May, I was scheduled to begin my bar exam review course (read: six weeks of living hell). Within a few days of starting my studies, my mom was in the hospital. The cancer had moved to her brain. She had between six weeks and three months left to live.

Six.weeks.is.like.nothing.

There was no way I was going to spend the last weeks of my mom's life studying for a test. I could skip the July exam and take the February one. What was seven months? But my mom would hear nothing of it. She insisted I take the exam in July. Have you ever tried to argue with a woman who has terminal cancer?  So, I took the exam for her.

My mom was so sick by the time I finished the bar exam. Bed-ridden and frail. Unable to eat. Or talk coherently. Delusional at times. But as I walked in the front door of their house that day, my mom raised both arms in the air and cheered "Yay Jocey! My girl did it!"

My mom took her last breath four days later.

A beautiful life. A beautiful wife. A beautiful mother. A beautiful friend.

How I remember her . . . 

I grieved hard. Especially when I had Marshall. And she wasn't there.

But with every month the loss was more bearable. And life continued. And, I came to trust God in His Sovereignty - in His goodness and His love for me, even in the loss of my mom.

We had Eliza. She is my mom in so many ways. Loves being the center of attention. She is ready to go at the word "party!" She loves making new friends. She loves shopping. She loves wearing dresses. Yes, with matching hair bows. And lots of big jewelry. The more glitter and sparkles, the better. My mom would be so thrilled.

Marshall named my mom Grammy Sue. Our kids love stories about her. Eliza loves hearing the ways she reminds me of her. And I love to talk about her. So, thanks for listening. There are pieces of me that come from pieces of her. And she is missed. And loved. Even by three little people who never knew her for themselves.

8 comments:

merrymt said...

So beautiful Jocelyn. I always wanted to know more about your mom. And I'll never be able to tell you how important you were to me that 6 weeks where I was discovering God when I was supposed to be studying for the bar. He had a reason to stick us together. I love you so much!

-Merry

MG Atwood said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom. She was my high school PE teacher at McNary. ALWAYS smiling, upbeat, a true cheerleader of life. When I ran into her while she was teaching at Chemeketa,and shared her cancer story with me, she was still smiling, still cheering life. Such an inspiration. Such a zest for life. Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom. She was extraordinary in every way. Boy, could she light up a room. Thanks for the memories. Hugs, Barbara and Gene

Lysa W said...

Thanks friend for helping me to remember today that each moment is a precious gift.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness Jocelyn - that was so touching. Your mom was a beautiful person, inside and out. And she fought the good fight. Love the story about her lipstick! And in addition to having many of same interests as her grandma, I think Eliza physically resembles her, too! Hugs to you my friend. - Cathy Gaskin

Anonymous said...

Jocelyn, once again you have brought tears to my eyes. I had started to read your blog out loud to Jerry but needless to say....I was not able to finish. What a wonderful way to share about your Mom. It gave me a glimpse of who she was before her cancer. What a gift you are giving your children by sharing her with them. Sometimes it is in reflection that we see our gifts for how precious they truly are. I remember praying for her while you and Jen were studying for the bar and taking the exam. Thankfully you got to share that victory with your Mom. As a mom I am sure it meant the world to her!

Love,
Janice

p.s. thank you for not putting fake flowers in your front yard : ) tee hee!

bonzoey mom said...

Jocie...Your mom is beaming right now...AND herding all the other angels over to read your loving tribute. There never was a more captivating cheerleader.

When we were tween-agers she used to drive me crazy with, what she considered insanely chic, her damn white lipstick. This was accented by religiously placed crossed bobby pins into her spit curls in front of her ears...only to be removed when a cute boy would wander into our line of vision. I was dumbfounded years later when she discovered her raspberry lips...but thankful for the new addiction.

I have so many pictures of her that you might want. Please let me know and they are yours.

I love you.

Her buddy "Sieg"

Spencersb said...

Such a beautiful account of a life well lived, thanks for sharing.
Steve