My mother passed today. It was quiet. In her bed. In her life, she was unable to express a kind of joy or happiness perhaps because of self-sacrificing or the poverty of her upbringing. Her inability to find a fully self-actualized life let her define her life through others, often because she had trouble defining some personal passions outside of family-defined activities she never joined organizations. She only went to church when her kids went. She had few friends outside the family. For some that’s all there is, which probably suffices in larger extended families that get smaller with age. OTOH she did had what she called moments of “fun”, while she was separated from my father for about a decade she had a variety of brief romantic affairs that were interesting and diverting so her love of travel was indulged. That probably made her happiest, especially since my sister and I had separate, adult lives with their own issues among the fading relationships among our extended family. She was one of three sisters and two brothers who preceded her passing. She had been born in Honolulu where there was a fairly extensive family, leaving after high school and Pearl Harbor to study at a small business college in Berkeley, marrying my dad in her 20s as he was a struggling artist during the beginning of the Korean War when mom’s brother had enlisted in the USAF. The new extended family had its own dysfunctionality easily chronicled by the histories of Asian Americans in postwar America, punctuated by the death of my uncle in a mid-1950s air accident and my father in the 1980s. Eventually life living on San Francisco’s Nob Hill changed as most of the family moved to the suburbs but mom stayed in the city near Civic Center. She loved her second home she bought with her brother at South Lake Tahoe and even spent some time living with my sister there where her granddaughter was born. Eventually the commute to Tahoe on weekends got too much and she stayed in San Francisco until moving to New England where she’s been for the past few years getting at least a couple of years of gardening in. She had had a stroke about ten years ago and another one recently but she did pass quietly in her sleep, having had lapses of memory loss over the years after the stroke. She wanted to not die in a hospital and didn’t want to go to a nursing home or hospice. I promised her that when she and I visited my 92 year-old grandmother in a nursing home. I probably will remember all the pets that she had, even as I resolve to do better by them if I live with more of them. They do tend to define how good we are as parents and as children. Nearly 95 years was a good life.
Thanks to all who have offered condolences, and thanks so much for your sharing personal stories. Bless you all.