The photo is a silhouette of two people watching a sunset on Sanibel Island.
It’s me and my mother, Eileen.
Tucked into the frame is a prayer card with a green Celtic cross bordered by these words:
“Grieve not ...
“Nor speak of me with tears...
“But laugh and talk of me as though I were beside you.
“I loved you so ...
“‘Twas heaven here with you.”
It will be three years this October since Mom passed at the age of 82, and not a day goes by I don’t read that card.
I’ve got another dog-eared one in my pickup truck.
It makes me stop and think about this daughter of Irish immigrants, who bore me and my six siblings.
She raised the family after Dad died suddenly in 1972.
Which is one reason I smile after reading the last line in that moving inscription.
It was hardly heaven for her a lot of times.
What Mom managed to do, especially over those following two decades, is deeply appreciated by us, particularly three of my sisters who have children of their own.
As Maureen, a mother of three sons, aptly put it:
“I don’t know how Mommy didn’t kill all of us.”
Me included, even though I left home at 17 for college in the Midwest and headed to Florida upon graduating.
When I brought my future wife home to meet Mom during her final years, she was sure to kid that the oldest of her seven children was the biggest pain in the rear end of all of them.
Like Sherri needs reminding.
It was always good for a laugh.
What I wouldn’t give to hear Mom’s again.
When Sherri calls her mother daily I think how fortunate she is to have her mom around.
Truly, you never know how grateful you should be having someone like that in your life until they’re gone.
Not that I didn’t show Mom my indebtedness.
The surprise visits home.
Flying her here.
Our trips to Ireland.
I loved sending her flowers on the odd day for no other reason than as a sign of my love.
After Mom passed, I found out she’d saved the rose petals in a big glass bowl.
The last few years after I’d visit Mom in south Jersey and the airport limo arrived, we’d embrace several times, not wanting to let go.
Take your time, the driver would say.
Leaving at last, I’d always look back, waving and watching her until we were out of sight.
July of 2008 was the last time I saw her alive.
Yet it was not our final parting.
That farewell was truly mystical.
It was August 2009 and Sherri and I had brought Mom’s ashes to Ireland, so I could spread them at the foot of Benbulben Mountain in County Sligo, my ancestral home.
When I tossed up the first handful, they fell a few feet away.
But as I cast the second, a gust arose and carried the ashes into the wind.
The breeze continued until Mom’s ashes were gone.
‘Twas heavenly, indeed.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.