It had been a cool spring, a strong breeze was gently caressing our skin where the Florida sun had warmed us. Mom and I had settled on the back porch, her with her scotch and me with my wine.  There was a comfortable silence between us; one that had come from years of sharing, caring, love, understanding and acceptance.

“Mom, how did you handle Daddy’s death, leaving you at 42 years of age with a 5 year old business in a foreign country?”

“It wasn’t easy that’s for sure.”  Mom said and then lapsed into silence.

“I know that.  But with the three of us – Peter 24, Ricky 18 and me at 13 when women did not own a lot of businesses and especially in Italy…  What was it like for you?”

There was a long pause.  I thought perhaps she had stepped back into time and had been transported to the late 1960’s.

“It wasn’t easy.  Women were not thought of as those that could be successful in business without a man at the helm.  But your father convinced me that I had the business acumen to be president and he could sell Ice to Iceland so between the two of us we were sure to excel in opening the first American Diaper Service in Rome, Italy!  When he died I couldn’t afford to give credence to the culture that excluded women.  I had two children left to educate and send off into their lives.  It helped to focus on your welfare rather than my own; at least until I could get a handle on what I was feeling.  I found little time to grieve”.

“I cannot imagine my being able to do that at 42, let alone my age now – 66.”  I said softly.

Mom took a sip of her scotch and swirled the liquid in the glass causing the ice to clink.  She stared out at the preserve behind our house before she spoke.

“When you don’t have a choice, you muster up all the armor, the ammunition, and the intelligence you have and continue to crawl, shuffle, step, or march to move forward.  You don’t have a choice.  And while your life has changed and will never be the same, it wasn’t all bad.   I made a new life for myself and for you.  I discovered through a job, through good investments and friendships that I was more than capable of caring for myself.  I was even able to help women whose whole life had been handled by their husbands and once they were widows, couldn’t even write a check let alone handle their affairs.  This allowed me to give of myself and realize that God had equipped me for the battles to come.”

“But you faced so much alone with no one by your side.  Moving back to the US, then to Florida, getting a job, and of course your 10 year battle with cancer – all by yourself.  How did you manage to keep that crazy sense of humor?”

“Ah, well”, mom sighed.  “There were plenty of tears, fears, worry and frustrations.  But at the end of it, I always knew where I was going.  The journey was scary, but my faith assured me that God was making a place for me when the time was right.  Course, there were days when I wish He would get that room ready sooner rather than later but —“

And then she laughed – A hearty, belly of a laugh.  “Remember when I started to date?  Oh, the men that asked me out and then wanted to invite me into their apartments to show me their ‘sketches’, or who thought that if they bought me dinner they could have desert – me for desert, that is.”

I joined in the laughter.  “Oh, I remember.  You were dating more than me!”  I was a bit jealous until you told me about your dates!  That couldn’t have been easy.”

The smile disappeared for a moment.  “No, it wasn’t.  It made me feel even lonelier that I had felt before the date.  And once you and Ricky had flown the coop, it was hard.  That’s why as soon as you and Thad married I returned to Italy to finalize the closing of the business.  I needed time before I faced the next chapter of my life truly alone.  Then the smile returned to her face and little color rose in her cheeks.  “But I did find a second love – it was fun, relaxed without the stresses of raising a family or running a home.  Mature enough to know a good man when he entered your life, and still young enough to enjoy golfing and dancing and travels together.  And for a while it was good.  But, in the end, it was just not meant to be.

I could see the breeze starting to lulled my mother into sleep – or maybe it was the scotch.  I still had questions, so many questions.

“But Mom – Mom?  You had to face ten years of cancer alone – how did you do it.  I really want to know.  I need to know.  I have faced my share of medical mayhem and truthfully I don’t think I could have done this without Thad by my side.  Your strength and courage is beyond what I can muster.”

Her eyes opened as if in slow motion and they glistened like crystals in the setting of the day’s sun.  Were those tears or a sparkle of light and steely strength?  She reached across to embrace me.

“Loretta, I was never alone.  I had the most powerful prescription there is – the B.I.B.L.E. – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  I had my faith in God and He provided the Holy Spirit’s presence to be felt whenever I hit a new low.  In the end, it was Jesus that walked beside me to the peace that surpassed all understanding.”

“Keep the faith, my darling daughter.  Hold on to the hem of Christ’s robes for the ride on earth is rough and sometimes it feels like hell.  But the path beyond to eternity is lined with those that have passed before us, angels to guide us, and Christ to embrace us on the journey home.”

My mother died twenty nine years ago on February 24, 1992. And this blog is my version of one more conversation I would love to have with my mother.  To see her eyes, to listen to her voice, to seek her wisdom and a chance to hug her just one more time would be the most wonderful gift I could ever have for my birthday next week.  But alas, I at least have my memories of her and the knowledge that someday she will be lining the path that will take me home to Jesus.

If your mother is still with you, make the time, take the time to talk with her.  Ask her about her life as it was, is now and what she hopes will be in eternity.  Give each other the best gift of all – the gift of time.  Because time is the one thing you can never get back.

May you feel God’s arms around you.

Loretta