My mother died last week.
Already, I feel the need for a qualifier. Yes, Sandra Lee Lindsey was my mother. She conceived me in Pittsburgh, gave birth to me in Oregon, and took good care of me the nine months in between. But two days after my birth, she signed the papers that relinquished her parental rights and sent me to my own adored family. The family I grew up with, the family I know best, the family who will always and forever be mine.
But that would never have happened--I would never have happened--without Sandi being my mother first. In one of the very first letters she sent me after I located her four years ago, she wrote, "I have always said you were my gift to the world, and the best thing I've ever done."
That's no small praise, considering the brilliant and accomplished woman she was. Over the years, Sandi acquired a bachelor's, master's, and doctorate in English. She taught college English and writing for fifteen years. After that came a master's degree in Theology, including a semester spent at Notre Dame. At the age of 57, she received her Juris Doctorate from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.
The first week of law school in 1995, Sandi was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Her graduation four years later was the last time she walked. By the time I met her in 2002, she was mostly confined to bed with occasional forays in a wheelchair. She endured years of crippling pain, surgeries and hospitalizations with grace and optimism. Until this last year, she never talked about "if" she would walk again, it was always "when."
She was hospitalized this summer with pneumonia, where doctors discovered she had rheumatoid lung disease. It's a terminal complication of her illness, with no treatment except comfort care. I've made the twelve-hour drive to Portland three times in the last six weeks--once to take her four grandchildren to see her one last time, once to bid her goodbye as she started drifting quickly away, and a week ago to speak at her funeral.
I've returned home with a trunk full of books, papers, notes from the classes she taught, her dissertation, both masters' theses, letters, pictures, and journals. Sandi is gone, but she lives in me and in my children and in generations yet to come.
Thank you for my life, Mother.