My grandmother was born a fatherless child and her mother was confined in a sanitarium. She grew up in an orphanage and in the homes of less-than-loving relatives. She was abused. She was unloved by those who should have loved her, unsheltered by those who should have sheltered her. But she was a woman of great spirit, intelligence, and strength, and she ran away from those dark places at fourteen to find new paths in the big world.
Of the many accomplishments of her life, she raised three bright and curious daughters. But my grandmother was perhaps too distracted with her own overpowering instincts of survival to give much time to nurturing a deeply loving relationship with her own children. And when you’ve never known a mother’s love, how do you try to express the mother’s love in your heart to your own sweet daughters?
My grandmother died in the slow thaw of early spring. As her daughters gathered around her deathbed, they nurtured her with a motherly love that had been able to grow in their own hearts because of the decisions she had made long ago. And while it may have taken all of my grandmother’s energy and resolve to end the cycle of abuse in her own life, the echoes of that choice will be felt for generations. Because her daughters knew a mother’s love even if they didn’t always feel it. And because of her, I know and deeply feel my own mother’s love.
In death, I feel her spirit more clearly than I ever did in life, free from the hazy static of those lurking demons that she fought so hard to silence. In death, the love she felt in her heart courses freely without the pain of living to impede its way.