The sun rarely shines in January. But it was shining today, as we remember you.
These are the words I wrote for you a year ago, when you finally were free of the cancer and the pain. We love you, mom. Thank you for being our sunshine.
December 28, 2017
When I was about 4 years old, I knew that my dad was kind of lonely. His life had taken some unexpected turns and I think he was a bit lost. I know he dated some, because I remember a story or two about a woman named “Jugsy.” But for some strange reason, he and Jugsy didn’t really seem to pan out.
Then one day, he introduced me to this tiny woman with a radiant smile and the blackest hair I’d ever seen. She was beautiful and she was young (she was only 20, dad!) and she just glowed. She was sunshine. And my dad? He was glowing, too. And a couple of years later he married her, and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t stopped smiling since the day they met.
And this beautiful woman became my Chris. We never used the words “step-mom.” That just seemed awkward and tacky and Chris—we all know Chris—was never awkward or tacky. I was the awkward one, but she loved me like I was her own. She introduced me everywhere as her daughter. There was no further explanation. Just daughter. She would always tell everyone that I got my brains and my curly hair from her. She and I were as unlike each other as two people could be. She was tiny and cute and I was tall and awkward. She wore outfits that matched and I wore inside-out sweatshirts and ripped jeans held together with safety pins. She was jewel tones and glitter. I was goth. She cooked amazing ribs, or so I heard. I was vegetarian. She collected Precious Moments figurines. I collected tattoos. But she was proud of me and she loved me fiercely, because, to her, I was her daughter.
|My two moms on my wedding day.|
(It was raining. But we were glowing.)
It was only a couple of years ago when I realized that, for all of these years, the name Chris, to me, was just another name for mom. And so, after 35 or 40 years of calling her Chris, I asked her if I could call her mom...if she would mind. And she said, with so much emotion, that she would love that very much.
Because she always was, and is, and will be my mom. She is a part of me and she gave me more than I’d ever dreamed she could: she saved my dad. I actually got to tell her that, on the day before she died. I held her hand and said, “mom, I just need to say thank you. Thank you for saving my dad. Because before he met you, he was so sad. And ever since he met you? He’s been so happy. You helped him find himself, and you built a family and a life with him and you saved him, mom.” And she squeezed my hand, and she nodded, and she smiled, and she knew. She knew it, too. She saved my dad.
She was this tiny force of love and sunshine when I met her over 40 years ago and her light never went out. She was fierce. And yet she was so, so kind. And she taught everyone she met, because of how she lived, to live with strength and kindness. To love with passion and gentleness. To use glitter—and butter—often, but with decorum. To refuse to eat fish obstinately...but very politely. To listen when others are talking with focus and interest; to look them in the eye and let them know that their stories were truly important. To live and to love with passion and with joy.
|Holding her granddaughter (my daughter) in the sunshine.|
She made every recipe she cooked taste just a little bit better. She made every room she decorated just a little bit nicer. She made every outfit she wore just a little bit prettier. And she made every one of us just a little bit better, because that’s just who she was. She made the world a little bit nicer and we are all just a little bit better because of her influence on each of us. She was—she is—sunshine.