Life tossed a lot at me in August 2011.
It took all I had in me to avoid a straight jacket and/or a mental ward. Both bitter & sweet being torn between giving birth & getting acquainted with my precious all-consuming first child, Liam and losing my precious and irreplaceable mother to the horror that is ALS. Sadly, losing her has put so much else on the back burner. Nevertheless, Baby L has brought light and
life to darkness and death for me. And he did the same for my dear mother in the 10 short days she had with Liam before leaving us. I thought I would share with you the piece I had read at her memorial service last Saturday. And a couple photos of her with Liam that I will cherish forever. As I go forward, I will borrow from the loving way she raised both me and my brother (see his tribute to her here) as I raise her grandson. Love you forever, mom.
It's impossibly hard to capture our mom, Connie Christoph in a brief statement. As much as I adore and thrive on words, they fail me when it comes to truly filling all of you in on how absolutely vibrant and beautiful she was as a mother. How when others talk about the things they'd do differently from their moms when raising their own children, I draw a blank, because there's not a single thing that comes to mind. She raised us just right. She really did. Which is why her leaving us is an especially crushing blow. What do children do, even grown ones, without the person that shaped and encouraged them so naturally and awesomely.
Small little details that come to mind... Every single Christmas our dear mom made sure we had three special things beneath the Christmas tree: A sweater for warmth. New PJs for sweet dreams. And a book for continued learning. Even though she was a school teacher herself, she understood the importance of letting us take what she called "Mental health days" off school from time to time. When I couldn't sleep, yes, even as a child I was an insomniac, mom would tell me the most vivid, imaginative tales of a pair of sweet little beings she conjured up, called Candy kiss & Lollipop. I recall tales of their adventures and cool imagery like talking rainbow-colored fish and glittery waterfalls all serving to calm a worried child. She inspired in both of us, a desire to experience new things, from trying an exotic ethnic dish we'd never had before to not being afraid to venture off to a place we'd never been. She encouraged us both to find ourself through embracing the world. And to express ourselves freely and fully.
Mom taught us from a very very early age not to tell lies. She told me that Jesus lived in my heart and he would know when I did fib. When I grew up she loved telling me how I would ask her how he didn't get all wet when I drank water since he lived inside me. Being truthful made saying goodbye to her extremely difficult. It was impossible for me to honestly say "It's OK for you to go now mom". Because it wasn't. Living without my sunshiney mom is an unbearable thought. I did manage to say I wanted her to rest, to be free of the torturous set backs caused by ALS and medical procedures gone terribly wrong.
Nevertheless, despite ALL that she was plagued with, she fought, harder than my brother Jamey and I realized she had in her, and our already massive respect for her managed to grow and grow in her final couple months. She was, and I say this not to boast, or lessen the value and amazingness of any other mother on the planet, but seriously she was the very best mother there ever was. Not just to Jamey and I, but to my husband, Tim and to the countless children she taught. Always always instilling gently, great values. Always teaching selfless love. It was a total honor for Jamey and I to share her endless motherly love and nurturing with the elementary school aged community. And it sustained her.
I mention her incredible fight this past summer with a vast mix of love and sorrow. Mom mustered up all the will, all the strength, all the unfathomable courage that she did with one very special goal in mind. To meet my first child and her first grandchild. And she achieved that. Against a lot of odds. Amidst unfair trials. And somehow, I do believe, alert little baby Liam sensed that, for her stared at her with awe when he first "met" her via Skype the day after he was born. He was calmed by her when placed in her arms, or upon her propped up legs. He cooed when he was held up to her face for kisses.
It saddens me way too much to think of Liam not getting to know my amazing mother for himself. But I find a bittersweet peace in the fact that he will also never have to experience the crushing pain of losing what we all know would have been the very best grandmother in the world too. Everyone that knew and loved mom will make sure Liam and any other potential grandchildren will know so much about the incredibly special woman their own mommy called mom.