My mom died at home on Thanksgiving day 1977. She was 46, barely a month shy of her 47th birthday on Christmas day. She had battled non-Hodgkins lymphoma for nearly a year. We were hopeful at first that she would survive, but after a hard summer, there was no avoiding fall's steady decline, and by the time Thanksgiving came, we knew she was going to die any day. Cancer has a way of "preparing" you for death. After watching my mom waste away and fall into a coma, her death was almost a relief. She must have experienced excruciating pain, but I never knew. My parents protected my sister, brother and me from that even though we were all young adults at the time.
We may have been prepared in a sense for her death, but we were far from ready for the aftermath. As young adults, we were poised to spread our wings, but within a year there really was no nest to leave, no home we could point to as having left behind. My dad sold our house and remarried. I graduated from college, married and left the S.F. Bay Area. My older sister relocated to Southern California after completing her teaching credential. My younger brother continued at UC Berkeley.
I was cleaning out a drawer the other day, and came across my mom's obituary in the Montclarion. In the photo, my mom is smiling and wearing a blond wig. The newspaper didn't do a very good job of cropping the photo, and you can see pieces of the rest of the family. My dad's eye is to my mom's left, my brother's shoulder is on her right. My sister and I stand behind her. Our faces are cut off. I think it's the last picture the five of us took together.
The headline describes my mom as a "women's activist." To me, she was just my mom, and even after 32 years, I still miss her.