My mother left us unexpectedly in August of 2018, due to complications from pneumonia, and this is the first time I’ve been able to write about it.
I should start here by saying that I am feeling extraordinarily selfish. I don’t want to write this post. It is both tragic and irksome that my mother is gone. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by grief that I don’t know what to do with myself. Other times I’m irritated with her for not being here so she can comfort me over her own loss. Most of the time, I am becoming okay. Not fully okay, of course, and maybe I never will be. But I’m getting there. I’m getting through.
But that’s enough about me. This post is about my mom.
My mother, Mary Ellison, was born Mary McConkey in Washington, DC in 1951: the youngest of five children. Her father worked for the Department of Agriculture; at the age of five, my mother became an international traveler when her parents packed the family into a 1950 Ford Coupe and took the clan to Mexico City for my grandfather’s work. After two years in Mexico, the McConkeys returned to Virginia and eventually settled on a farm in Lovettsville. Mom grew up in the company of dogs, cats, horses, chickens, ducks, and a family that loved to laugh.
When Mom was sixteen, she met my dad, they married in 1968, and a few years later, I was born. There is a story I love to tell about how she taught me to enjoy reading by offering to pay me two cents a page of my picture books. When I got up to reading several novels a day, she told me I was on my own.
My mother was never idle. She raised me, ran her own business, volunteered at my school (sometimes 40 or more hours a week!), and managed a household which at one point included three people, three dogs, and a guinea pig. She was also a talented artist who enjoyed painting and sketching (I will post pictures of her work here some time).
Mom encouraged me to work hard for what I wanted (a lesson that my lazy self often chose to ignore), and she taught me to never forget that to help others is to help oneself, that beauty can be found wherever you choose to look for it, and that happiness goes hand-in-hand with dedication to one’s true purpose. My mother was both joyful, and a joy. I will never cease to miss her, and will never cease striving to embody the example that she set for me every day of my life.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.