“Mamma, don’t leave me! Please!” I pleaded, squeezing her frail, limp hand.
“The angels are calling, dear,” she whispered, looking heavenward, gasping for air. “Just…. be…. happy,” She choked out her last words, took her last breath, and closed her eyes. A smile, as always, graced her dying face. Her fight was over. After a long battle with cancer, the angels came.
“I can’t go on without you,” I sobbed, kissing her cold forehead one more time before they took her away. The next few days were a blur of family and friends stopping by leaving their condolences and covered dishes. At her grave, I tossed yellow sunflowers, her favorite flower, as her casket was slowly lowered into the ground.
Later, as I stared up at my bedroom ceiling, I could still hear her say, “Just be happy.” Mamma’s life hadn’t been easy. Daddy left us, years ago, leaving her a single parent. However, she never complained---when life got hard, she listened for God. “If only I could hear his voice, too,” I sighed.
Unlike Mamma, happiness played hide and seek with me. Oh, there were some happy moments, but the sad ones far outweighed them.
Without Mamma encouraging me to “just be happy”, all hope was gone. If I couldn’t find happiness while she was here, surely it’s out of reach now.
Ironically, I had everything any woman would ever dream of having. Yet, sorrow filled my heart. Unlike Mamma, no one ever needed me. The kids, all grown now, had moved away, making their marks in the world. My husband, Peter, an esteemed surgeon, was too busy, on call, saving lives to be home at night, or know me anymore.
I reached for my bottle of sleeping pills, wishing I’d never started taking them last year when my youngest daughter left home. But being alone, I couldn’t sleep. And, my husband even went back to work tonight, the same day Mamma was buried. The kids couldn’t get away—not even for their grandmother’s funeral. No one cared. I was all alone, as always.
Maybe, just maybe if I take a double dose, with my vodka, the pain will go away. I just can’t take it anymore.
I turned the bottle over, my hands shaking, praying one more time, “Dear God, if you’re there, then please answer me. With Mamma gone, I don’t have anyone to tell me to ‘just be happy’.”
As usual, there was a dead silence. Nothing. Again, no answer from above. Did Mamma’s God even exit? If He knew how much I depended on her, then why did He take her away? She was only 69 years old. And here I was, about to turn 50, in the throes of a late-middle age meltdown, having done nothing with my life but be a boring doctor’s wife and now, a put-out-to-pasture, retired mamma.
I pried open the bottle, and poured my glass of vodka when the phone rang.
Although tempted to let it ring, I grabbed it.
Before I could even say “hello”, I heard, “Mamma, it’s me Heidi,” a sweet young voice whimpered.
I opened my mouth to tell the young woman she’d dialed the wrong number, but couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
I listened to her ramble on through frantic sobs, “I have no reason to live, Mamma. Kyle’s cheating on me---I found receipts for flowers and motels in his coat pocket. Life is just too painful to go on….”
I took a deep breath. Then began…
“First, honey, this isn’t your mamma…but you can’t give up. You have to keep fightin’,” I said, surprised by my own words. Then I heard myself say, “My own dear mamma passed away only days ago. She always told me, ‘Just be happy’”.
The young woman stammered…”I’m so sorry, ma’m. You do sound a lot like my mother. Sorry to have bothered you and for your loss.…”
“Wait! Don’t hang up,” I pleaded, praying for wisdom.
Then, remembering something else, Mamma used to say, I continued…
“Yes, dear, life is painful. Pain is inevitable, but happiness is a choice.”
Amazingly, the young woman listened to me, thanking me, as we hung up. She said she wanted to meet me soon and talk more.
And, I felt strangely, happier, myself.
I tossed out the bottle of sleeping pills, and poured out the vodka.
“I choose happiness.” I smiled, realizing God spoke to me.
“I’m gonna make it, Mamma. For I choose happiness.”
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