Twenty years ago today my mother, Irene DeTurris, died of colon cancer. That reality still blows me away, even two decades after the fact. It has been the longest, fastest 20 years, and if you have ever lost anyone special, you know exactly what I mean.
On the one hand, I think of the 20 years that have gone by and it seems as if my mom’s death happened a lifetime ago. I was only 25 at the time. So much has happened in the interim, so much that my mother should have shared. On the other hand, those 20 years went by in the blink of an eye. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were talking and laughing and sitting on the family room couch together eating ice cream and watching M*A*S*H? How is it possible that it has been 20 years since I’ve heard my mother’s voice? I hate to admit it, but it’s hard for me to remember what she sounded like. Even her singing voice, which was fantastic, has faded away, with only a few short, fuzzy cassette tapes to remind me of her favorite past time.
My mother was my best friend, and I don’t say that in some cloying, aren’t-we-special sort of way. I say it because it was the absolute truth. Don’t get me wrong. She was my mother first and foremost, and a strict mom at that, especially with me, her first-born. But I lived at home through college and until she died, so in my young adulthood our relationship deepened into a friendship that gave me strength and joy and courage.
I look back now and thank God that my mother and I had a chance to develop a deep friendship when I was still in what could have been my rebellious years. If I had wasted that time trying to remove myself from her influence, I would have missed my only opportunity to know her as a woman and not just a mom. The more I got to know her, the more I loved her as a person who just happened to be my mother.
I watched my mother die, held her hand as she took her last breath in that same family room where we used to watch TV together. That will remain one of the most powerful, God-infused moments of my life. Right up there with giving birth to my children. I guess it makes sense that our entrance into and departure from this earthly life bring us closest to God. But it is especially fitting that God should have felt so close in my mother’s last moments because she kept Him so close throughout her life.
My mother was a beautiful woman — physically, spiritually, the whole package. The standing-room-only church during her funeral was testament to the fact that she touched every person she met in a special way. Her smile, her desire to help others, her faith, her kindness were always evident. She was, in a word, amazing. Although I often feel cheated by her early death, I also realize that I was blessed in a very big way to have shared so much with her in the 25 years we had.