On January 13, 2012, my oldest friend on this earth died. She was the model of modesty, empathy and a hard-work that she consistently made to look easy - in sum, grace.
On May 20, 2012, 'Iokepa and I were crushed in our automobile by ayoung man driving 80 miles an hour in a 40 mile zone - heavily intoxicated and then running on foot away from our destroyed car and my damaged body. When we met this truly nice young man days afterwards - in a jail cell - he touched us deeply with the goodness of himself and his life. We found the divine where we least expected it.
This week, on November 5, my 100 year old mother passed. She was smiling, laughing, uncomplaining - singing and tapping her toes to the music - until the very last breath. Who could ask for more?
Without a doubt, 2012 has been a powerful year for me. I am deeply grateful for the gifts.
. . .
Two months shy of 101 years, it was her time - but it is our loss.
Our mother never knew how strong she was until our father passed. Probably, we didn’t either.
When our father was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia that would take him painlessly in two months, our mother doubted that she could care for him properly. She wanted the doctors to take over. But he wanted otherwise. He wanted to die at home - and he did.
He did because my mother struggled for place deep inside herself to find her own confidence, her own courage, and her own strength. And she nursed him night and day, and he died in her arms. “You are beautiful. You were always beautiful.” were some of his last words.
For fifty-eight married years, our father loved his girl - his Mollie. Andhe told her so frequently. He noticed every new blouse or shoe or earring, and told her so. He celebrated her taste, her beauty, her smiles, her grace, her gifts as a loving mother and a loving wife - and he let her know that he noticed.
She never believed that she was beautiful - ever. But she believed that her Harry believed it. And for fifty-eight years, that was enough.
It was enough that she thought she that she only appeared to be strong - because she knew that her Harry was strong - and he was there for her.
Well, when he passed and I flew in from Portland with my sons, I quaked in fear at how I’d find our mother: weakened, uncertain, full of fear and remorse after fifty-eight years of that kind of support and admiration.
I entered this very funeral home straight from the airport, and there she stood: A woman transparently at peace. A woman without a single regret. She had lived her life with our father lovingly, without holding back. She’d cared for him at home, nursed him night and day - given him the last thing that he asked of her - and he died in her arms.
She saw the light around him at passing. She saw him transformed, at the moment of passing, into a much younger, smooth-skinned man. He was at peace - and she was as well.
She never once complained in these past sixteen years that she’s been alone. “I had the best man for fifty-eight years,” she’d say, “Everyone has to die. He was ready to die. How can I ask God for more?”
Sure, she had her lonely nights in their king-sized bed. Sure she had many solitary meals cooked for just one. Sure she missed the sharing of their days and their words. Sure she missed the, “You look beautiful Mollie.” But she’d never say it, unless one of her children pushed her to. She thought it was an attack on the God who’d given her so much. She thought that to complain now was to be ungrateful.
She was a woman who was grateful: For her children, her grandchildren, and her fifty-eight years with Harry.
She found out, perhaps for the first time in her life (and we found out too) how strong her life light shone. What her Harry knew all along.
We are all human - and we all have our lapses of confidence, have our fits of self-doubt - and our mother did as well. But Mollie Speert Miller was strong all along - and she proved it to herself in her last sixteen years. Proved what it was to be a matriarch - the spiritual heart of a loving family.
She laughed her delicious laugh…often - sometimes at her own expense. She remained curious - full of questions and empathy for all friends and family. She was a great listener - she loved a terrific story. She was opinionated to the max. In sum, she was adorable.
Adorable. She sparkled with life’s light like very few souls we encounter on our walk of light. She spilled it over to the hearts of friends and family. It was very hard not to love Mollie Speert Miller.
Harry did - with all his heart, and throughout all of his life. But, my brothers, Buddy, Harmon and I do now. My sisters in law, Judy and Lois, do. My husband ‘Iokepa does. Grandchildren, Emily and Jennifer and Karen and Rachel and Sam and Daniel do. Her connection to each of these grandchildren was powerful - individual and rare.
Mollie left her heritage of laughter, of music, of toe-tapping light. If we, who knew her can catch a spark off that twinkle, a crease of that ‘million dollar smile’, a moment of the compassion that was Mollie Speert Miller - maybe we can begin to celebrate the life that’s returned now home again, to her Harry.
Maybe we can find in our own loss, our sadness and our grief, a moment to celebrate their grand reunion.
And to say: “Alvinu Malkenu, our God, our King - thank you for the blessing that is our mother…returned to our father…and to You.”