A daughter losses her Mom to Parkinson's, then Mom sends her a special fantasy gift.
|Patricia Susan Heaton was my mother. A beautiful lady, thirty-six years old, with long golden curls and aqua eyes. Mom suffered from Parkinson's disease. On what was to be her last summer, Daddy rented a lovely cottage on the beach where soothing sounds and sights of the sea could work its magic.
Mom tried to comfort me, stroking my hair. " You know, my darling, when we leave our body we become part of a greater circle that surrounds us. I'll always be with you."
Every night, I got on my knees and cried as I begged God to save her.
"God, why are you taking my Mom? She's a great person! Why does she have to suffer? I try to understand. But.....I don't.... please give Mom a miracle. I promise to always be a good girl. Thank you." I ended up in a puddle of tears halfway through the prayer.
Mom was an author of children’s’ books. Butterflies were the main characters. They had magical qualities and got into all kind of mischief. The books were popular. She had been sick for five years and knew someday she couldn't illustrate so she taught me. She said I had a "natural talent". We worked together: I would draw the butterflies and she made up the story lines.
Once I started illustrating, her fans said it was the most productive work she had ever done. One of her beloved butterflies, “Whisper Wings” became ill and it had to tell her flying friends about going away but still watching over them. That book sold the most copies because Mom had told her fans about her illness. She donated the money from sales to Parkinson's disease research.
I always worried Mom was in pain. She said that there wasn't a lot of pain but she was very tired. If I was constantly shaking, my body would be very tired too.
We had a nurse to do things Mom didn't want us to do. I would feed her favorite foods; she loved “blueberry buckle” baby food. I brushed her baby fine blond hair and put her makeup on. Sometimes her head would shake so much we spend an hour but she said, "it is important to look your best at all times." The two of us would giggle about looking great for guys but she always taught me that loving myself was the greatest gift of all.
When she felt like it she would tell me stories about her childhood and how she met Daddy. They had a romantic story that I asked to hear constantly. She was a professional ballet dancer and wrote occasionally for magazines. He played piano and organ for an off-Broadway show. They met when she was dancing in "The Nutcracker".
Daddy had come into the rehearsal hall because he heard the music outside. After watching the rehearsal, he went up to Mom and introduced himself.
Mom said." It was love at first sight".
She would always say, "Our very souls spoke".
lt was snowing that magical day as they walked outside together. He flagged down a horse driven coach and they held hands under a tartan blanket. Three months later they married, and after many attempts, I was their only child.
Mom and I were the best of friends even though I was only nine. She prepared me for all the magical changes my body would make as I grew up; my period, first boyfriend, feelings about boys, sex and birth control, about trusting people, the reasons why I shouldn't try drugs.
She started to cry when we spoke about my wedding.
"Can you do something very important for me?"
"Whatever you want."
"Help me chose a dress to wear to Heaven."
We picked the dress she wore when she and Daddy renewed their wedding vows.
It was a cream satin dress, v-necked with swirls of pastel colors on sheer fabric that draped the satin skirt. Her 'butterfly dress' is what I had called it.
We also made memory books from all the pictures and cards that were in boxes. It took hours because she had a story for each picture so I would write underneath them. There were programs from plays and menus, and brochures. It was a walk through her life.
"I would not change a thing. I have been so blessed. I just don't want to leave you and Daddy."
My Dad withdrew into himself before she died. He didn't visit her bedroom often. I felt badly for Mom but she was sleeping almost all the time and had stopped eating. I think she understood he just didn't know what to say. She had a full time nurse now and one day she just stopped breathing. Her little body was finally still and I thanked God for that.
The next year we rented another house on the seashore for the summer. I hoped nature's beauty would bring peace for us. Dad sat for hours at the window and watched the ocean, nursing a Scotch and water. Our maid, Doris, had come with us and she tried to get him to eat and go to the social gatherings he and Mom had gone to before she was sick.
One morning, I was walking alone on the beach kicking the sand. Tears were stinging my eyes.
All of a sudden, I noticed a girl sitting alone in the tall sea grass. She seemed to be listening to the sea roar in a pink conch shell. She told me her name was Athena, it was a name chosen by Neptune, God of the Sea. I told her my name was Andrea; I was named for my Grandmother, a famous Vaudeville performer.
She said her parents were sea nymphs. At first, I laughed out loud. It occurred to me that she might be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. She sounded so serious that I didn't question her story. I really could use a friend even if she was "wacked". I would just go along.
She really was stunning. Her golden hair was so special. I had never seen hair with that glow. There was something about her that was remarkable. You felt ten feet tall when she looked your way.
I told her about my Mom and she listened holding my hand. Crystal tears slipped from her eyes and landed in the sand, leaving jewels of colors. She seemed to take my pain and make it a part of her. My Mom's memory was still there but it didn't hurt as much.
Then we hung out, making up fantasies. She told me all about Atlantis, a city under the sea. It was magical, like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. We played like younger kids for hours, she knew so many games.
We went on adventures that lasted for days. Doris would pack lunches for us, glad that I had met a friend. Dad listened to my tales and smiled but never said much. He would kiss the top of my head and say, "I love you Princess. You look just like your Mom". How I wanted him to love me for myself.
I popped out of bed in the morning for my new friend. I would meet her near the ocean in an empty shack. I never saw her home or met her parents. When I asked, she simply said, "Let's do something fun!"
Our sandcastles were masterpieces, incredible works of art. We would work all day in the sun and the tide would come in and wash them away. I would cry and she would laugh.
Her laughter sounded like tiny silver bells. She told me I must learn not to hold on to anything or anyone so tightly. She tried to teach me to live in the moment. Nothing seemed to make her unhappy. We wished on the stars at night.
She always wore the same clothes. I would bring her lunch and she acted like she had never eaten a bologna or peanut butter sandwich before. Everything was a source of pleasure for her. One day, she reached over and lightly kissed my cheek. It felt different, like a fairy kiss, delicate yet it lingered on my cheek.
Sadly, the summer ended. One day, I went to say goodbye and she wasn't at our special place. I roamed the beach calling her name. I would look for her face the rest of my life.
We went back the next year. The shack was gone. New people had claimed our beach home so we had to stay somewhere else. Dad was coming back to life and I had a boyfriend that I wanted to tell Athena about.
I was growing up. Without Athena I really lost my delight in sandcastles and seashells. Childhood games weren't as much fun. I would never have a friend like her again.
I believe she was a "gift from my Mom". It was her present, to make that first lonely summer easier and to teach me about letting go with love.
By: Kathie Stehr