Giving Thanks: In Memorium

This November marks ten years since my mother’s death from cancer. It’s hard to believe, really. There’s at once both the sense of “only ten?” and also “ten already?!” I was then in my first year of med school, attending New York Medical College (her alma mater) and taking the first plunge into our shared profession of medicine. Barely three months into the start of classes, I was already drenched in medical facts — truly “a firehose into a teacup,” as the analogy goes. It was a period in my life that would prove thrilling in its scope, an opportunity to dive into mysterious depths of the human body and there explore its wonders. Yet at the time, in the midst of grief’s ache, it seemed more like a powerful riptide, threatening to pull me under.

Autumn split-rail

I have written elsewhere of the experience during my mother’s final weeks of illness. Yet as it does every year, autumn calls to mind different memories – of friends and family filing past the grave, offering unforgettable kindness simply by their presence; of the chill in the air that gray, late-November afternoon; of the cemetery’s bare hillside, and a strong-appearing, fragile-feeling girl tottering on it. Even now, ten years later, the memory of it can take my breath away. We stood there, my father, sister and I, beneath a Japanese maple, mourning together and yet alone, struggling to maintain our footing on the quaking ground below. That tree was just a sapling then, bare-branched and bracing for the approaching winter. It’s a decade older now, considerably taller and stronger for having marked those years.

I wonder sometimes what my mother, an ophthalmologist, would say of my choosing this path – family medicine; writing; teaching; living in Nepal. It’s not that I think she wouldn’t approve; her heart was one of service and mission, of the love of medicine and the care of patients. My being here is surely fruit of that legacy, and my family continues to be incredibly supportive in every way. I know, too, how much she’d enjoy sharing in these wild stories and experiences. It’s more that I can’t imagine what those conversations would sound like. Ten years ago, I was just beginning to come into my own as an adult; there was still much growing left to do, many conversations yet to be had. It is a deep consolation to know that one day, in the fullness of time, we will someday have them, she and I. Likewise, it has been consoling to have had those conversations over the years with many of you who also knew and loved her.

This is, then, perhaps best of all an elegy to the Kensico (statue)woman who was beautiful mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, physician and friend to so many. It is at the same time an encouragement to we who, thankful for her memory, have gone on living, loving and caring for one another, as we seek to serve a hurting world in this same Spirit of Christ.

A dear friend (and longtime friend of my mother’s) shared a beautiful reflection with me this morning on the unrelenting, daily pressures we all feel, and on discerning how best to spend our time. She writes: “The key for me is to try to be in the center of His will. When I spend time on what He wants, there is peace, not anxiety. It is a daily battle for me not to get sidetracked…”

With this call in mind, let us fix our eyes on Him, the same Lord who has received my mother into glory, that we might live in such a way as to hear for ourselves those sweet words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”

Mom Med School

6 thoughts on “Giving Thanks: In Memorium

  1. Dearest Rebecca,

    Your reflection of your beautiful mother is tender and loving. I know in my heart your mom is sharing in your mission as you labor among the people of Nepal. And how proud she is of you, for you had a wonderful teacher and mentor. Having lost my mom over 45 years ago, I too wonder what our adult conversations would have been like. Even after all these years I can still see her smile and hear her laughter. I hope it will be the same for you and Jessica as time goes by.

    Wishing you peace, love and thanksgiving blessings from Good Counsel.

    Love ,
    Althea

  2. Thank you, Althea, for those kind words. =) I was sorry to have missed you during my visit to GCA last month! Hope you got my e-mail, though. Looking forward to seeing you next time I’m back in the States! =)

  3. I think your mother is proud beyond measure of both you and Jessica, and is also very happy to see how your family has grown, mirroring the Japanese maple. It is hard to imagine conversations with loved ones when ten years, or more, have passed…but as for what is remembered, your mother was certainly one loving, talented and intelligent person who left a smile on the faces of those she encountered. She was truly was a light in this world.

    I think your tribute to her is beautiful and I’m so thankful to have known your mom.
    Love,
    Dana

    • Thank you, Dana =) Thinking of you these days, too, and your dear father. He would be so proud of his amazing, beautiful girls and his incredibly talented son, I know. So good to see you earlier this month and spend some time together!
      Talk soon, B

  4. Dear Rebecca,
    I am so thankful to share in your deepest and heartfelt admiration and love for
    your mother. We, on the cousin side of the family, loved her also and had so
    much admiration for her dedication to her family and to her work. We have many
    wonderful memories and thank the Lord that we are part of His family. Blessings to
    you in your important mission of caring for many on the other side of the world.
    Love, Ruth

  5. A:hover { COLOR: red } A { TEXT-DECORATION: none; COLOR: #0088cc } A.primaryactionlink:link { COLOR: #fff; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #2585b2 } A.primaryactionlink:visited { COLOR: #fff; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #2585b2 } A.primaryactionlink:hover { COLOR: #fff !important; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #11729e } A.primaryactionlink:active { COLOR: #fff !important; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #11729e }

    Dear Becca,

    Thank you for the awesome update. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. Wow! Also thank you for the encouraging card you sent us. You will never know how that blessed us. I will try and write more a little later and fill you in on what is going on in our lives.

    Blessings on you,

    Ray and Noramalee

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