Winter Solstice, 1986

Sue last photoTwenty-six years ago, around midnight of December 21/22, Mary Sue Tipps Mathys died. The woman who gave me the gift of life and mothered me so well, died at 60 years of age. This chapter from Big Topics at Midnight tells about that holy night. 

Mom was a godsend. Despite her warning that she wasn’t going to be one of those “over-involved” grandmothers—since she had a full life of her own—my parents’ home became an oasis from the chaos of married student housing. Each month the four of us traveled ninety miles south for a visit. Mom carried infant Laura around the house so Howard and I could sit down to eat a meal. In the afternoons, Mom and four-year old Paul went on “Grand Adventures” around town. They walked up and down Fisherman’s Wharf, looking at the harbor seals and bags of sea shells for sale and went on regular visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stopping at the otter tank for the afternoon feeding.

After Thanksgiving, Mom and Paul decorated the first Christmas tree Laura had ever seen. Mom’s gruff exterior melted as she enjoyed the antics of her young grandchildren.

That all came to a screeching halt around midnight of the winter solstice. The shrill phone woke me from a sound sleep.

“Nancy, Mom’s gone,” Dad said.

“Gone?” I asked.  “What do you mean ‘gone’?”

Almost a month before Laura’s first birthday, and three days before Christmas, my mother was dead. She was putting the last stitches on holiday decorations when her heart stopped beating.

This woman who, thirty-two years earlier, had held me for nine months nestled under her heart, slipped out of her body on the darkest night of 1986. Paul insisted on going to the funeral home to see her body. Standing at the edge of her coffin, he asked that I lift the lower half of the lid so he could make sure that she would leave this earth with the feet that had led the two of them on so many wonderful adventures.

I held my full moon baby close to my broken heart as I ached for the loss of my own bright mamma during that dark season of grief.

Mom's drawing from the Christmas Card she mailed the week before she died.

Mom’s drawing from the Christmas Card she mailed the week before she died.

3 thoughts on “Winter Solstice, 1986

  1. One among many favorite passages, Nancy. You know that I’ve grown to adore your mother. I love it and you, too. Thanks, A PS Remember that we changed Fisherman’s Warf to Wharf?

  2. I do love it that I can just go in and quickly change a misspelled word. That is a challenged speller’s dream. Mom would have been so proud that I corrected the mistake!

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