I remember feeding Mom her favorite chocolates as a kid, kneeling next to her on the hospital bed we’d given a permanent residence in our home.
I would unwrap the foil, Mom would open her mouth as widely as she could, and I would gently place the treat on her shriveled tongue. It never disgusted me, her skeletal frame or the way her mouth spasmed as she fought for control over her dying muscles.
These were some of my favorite memories.
A lot of weird things happen when you’re young and your mom is sick. A lot of strange memories are made.
Like the excitement of Mom picking us up from school when I was in kindergarten, with Dum Dums tucked under her leg for us to snack on as she drove us the half mile home in her electric wheelchair.
Or the silly phrases she would pre-program into her computerized voice to leave us in fits of giggles.
Or the horror of coming home one day in 3rdgrade and seeing her hooked to an oxygen tank, knowing the end was near. (And now, as an adult, realizing the dread in my mother’s heart that must have increased tenfold when she saw my reaction.)
Or that chilly January night just months later, when Dad woke up all four of us kids in the middle of the night to tell us she was gone.
Memories like clinging to her silk comforter and not letting anyone wash it even though it smelled like urine — precisely because it smelled like urine — which is how her room smelled at the end and it was the only piece of her we had left.
In memory of Mom, in memory of her spunk, even in memory of these odd memories themselves brought to you by Lou Gehrig’s disease, our family established Chocolate Day.
Each year on the anniversary of her death, no matter where we are or what we’re doing (hi, future bride mid-fitness plan here), we spend the day bingeing on the food so beloved by my mother that nothing — not even paralysis and a feeding tube — could stop her from sneaking little bites with her 7-year-old daughter.
We’re on year seventeen since the original Chocolate Day.
For a long time, the day was — quite literally — sugar-coated anguish. But that gradually changed as I delved deeper into the faith my mother so adored and discovered the stunning revelation of the Communion of Saints.
What used to be a frigid day filled with hellish flashbacks has turned into a day-long chat with my mom over chocolate and across the veil.