( My mom, Caroline Maggio, with her namesake, my daughter, Caroline “Carly” Brown in 1991)
I have a little plaque in my kitchen that reads, “Mothers hold our hands for a while, but our hearts forever”. I lost my wonderful mother to Alzheimer’s almost 6 years ago. But the lessons she gave me are gifts of the heart that I hold dear, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.
She taught me to treat others with kindness and respect and if “you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” ( I’m still working on that one) She was the consummate caregiver when I was sick or sad. And, if one of her friends was in need, Mom always answered the call with a hot meal, a ride to the doctor or a simple visit. She was a first class listener.
My mother was my hero. She was one of those rare people who truly saw the world with rose colored glasses. She was a loving, compassionate woman at her very core. I remember driving in a rain storm, as I rushed her home from a doctor’s appointment, complaining that the traffic and wet roads were going to make me late for work. She simply smiled and said, “Your boss will understand and look how happy this rain is making the trees.”
Mom did have a tough side. It would only appear when absolutely necessary. She marched in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment with my sister and me. She took part in Civil Rights protests, too. When she was passionate about a cause, she’d find a way to make her voice heard. In the 1960’s when my friends’ moms wanted to take them out of our school because they hired “negro” teachers, I remember hearing Mom vehemently telling another mother how she thought it was wonderful that we finally had diversity on the teaching staff. One time, my mild mannered mother even broke up a fight in our junior high school parking lot between two thugs. Like so many women of her era, she took a backseat until she really needed to drive.
Mom always put others first. While many people with Alzheimer’s become angry and combative, the disease only magnified her sweet, calm nature. In her few moments of clarity once deep dementia set in, she would cry and say, ” I hope this never happens to you.” There was no evidence of self-pity…never one complaint.
My mother was the most selfless person I’ve ever known. When I knew the end was near, I took an extended break from KEYE-TV to care for her. On the first morning of my leave, I held her hand and told her, ” Mom, I’m not working for a while so I can spend more time with you. I know you need me, right now.” I’ll never forget her reply: ” I don’t want you to do that!” She couldn’t bear the thought of being a “burden”. That same afternoon, the nurse on duty called and pleaded with me to rush back to the nursing home. Mom was dying. Thankfully, I made it to her bedside before she left us. I sang to her and let her know having her for a mother was one of my life’s greatest gifts.
So on this Mother’s Day, if it’s not possible to hold your mom’s hand and tell you her much you love her, remember the gifts she gave you and hold them in your heart.