I am Anita’s Daughter

My mother has been my hero, my dearest friend and my biggest fan. She was also the one who was (unfortunately) the recipient of my rage, toxic mood swings, the childish behavior. She has witnessed first-hand the destructive powers of the demons that dwell in my unquiet, brilliant, mad, mad mind. She has seen me through thick and thin, even when I have tried to hide the dark times, the times when there was no light, no way out of the darkness. Her faith, unconditional love and absolute refusal to give up on me are the only reasons I am here today, alive and relatively well. Mom did not allow me to feel sorry for myself, nor did she allow me to use my “magical mad mind” to be an excuse for not realizing my potential. She could see the woman I had the potential to be, she knew the gifts that had been bestowed upon me and believed I had strength in me that would carry me through whatever life gave me, so long as I kept faith.

I have said before that she was the strongest woman I have ever known and that still holds true. Sadly, dementia came in with silent steps and stole her away from all of us. Slowly at first, leaving us with questions that had no answers, until one day, I was not recognizable as Michelle or even as her daughter. But even with that diagnosis, my mother remained loving, caring, gentle and pleasant to all those around her. We don’t know what happens to our loved ones who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory-related disease/disorder, but I prayed that she was in a good place within her memories. Now I know that she is where all God’s faithful children go, where she will be reunited with those who have gone before her. You can call it Heaven, call it The Other Side, call it whatever you like, but I know that all of the sacrifice, all of the turning of the other cheek, the prayers, the sleepless nights and the rosaries and penance she offered up are now being returned to her on a grand scale. She believed with all of her heart and soul that by living a good life here on Earth, she would be rewarded in the afterlife. I can’t say that I understood that philosophy growing up, but as I grow older (and hopefully wiser) I tend to think I understand a little better now. It’s not even so much about going to Heaven, but is more about looking within to discover your riches; extending your hand, not in asking or demanding something, but in giving. Giving comfort, giving the touch of human kindness; living by the Golden Rule –
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That means when you see someone who is having an absolutely horrific day, instead of jumping to judgment *hugely guilty of that, I am* give that person the benefit of the doubt; they had a hard day, lost a loved one, found out they have cancer or just feel like they are unloved. Make the effort to put yourself in that person’s place and know that the last thing they need is to be judged. They need understanding, compassion and yes, even love. Not to say that you need to go up to the person and be all, “Hey baby – how ‘bout I rock your world and make you forget all your troubles??? but just to think of sending them love, peace, calm and acceptance. It sounds like cheesy, new-age goofy stuff, whatever. The bottom line is – it works.

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who met Mom told me that I was so lucky to have such a loving, accepting mother. They were not so fortunate; their mothers competed against them, made them a real-life Cinderella (without the ball, the fairy godmother and prince) or punished them for being beautiful, intelligent and kind. Seems like one of those Grimm fairy tales, but I have witnessed such interactions and always feel so sorry not only for my friend, but for her mother, who I think may be simply repeating what her mother did to her. My mom was a breath of fresh air to these girls and her kindness is remembered to this day. Not to say that Mom was a saint; she had a wicked temper, a sharp tongue when needed and rue the idiot who thought he could mess with her children, any of us. I remember her telling me that she had that same response when anyone messed with her brothers. I guess I take after Mom in more ways than I had thought. That fierceness is born out of love, absolute, unconditional and pure. There is no substitute, nothing can take its place; it can’t be faked, it is something that comes from within.

Money can’t make it, power can’t take it, hate can’t break it. Let us not forsake it.
Love.
Love is all we need.
Love is what I think of when I remember Mom;
Love is the legacy she left us all.
Share it, speak it, tuck it in your heart and keep it.

Mom was the best example of what true faith, unconditional love and a mother’s devotion looks like, lives like and loves like. If I can be a shadow of what she was, my life will be an absolute success. I will strive to be more loving, less judgmental; I will strive to find forgiveness, not only for others, but for myself. I will continue to learn what it means to be a good person and not turn my eyes when I see someone in need. I won’t be perfect, I won’t always bite my tongue or hold back those snarky thoughts, but I will make the effort. When it seems the task is too great, I will remember you, Mom. I will remember your sacrifices, your strength of belief, your faith in God and your family. I may falter, I may find myself off course and I may even fall, but then I will remember that I am Anita’s daughter and I will get back on my feet, dust myself off and keep moving forward. I know you are with me, your words are in my mind, your love is in my heart. I am never alone.