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almost a century

by Judy
April 26, 2015

Although I don’t have any grand statements to make, I do want to give words to and honor my mom’s 99th birthday that happened just a few days ago. To be sure, it does feel like quite a milestone that she has reached this age after having a stroke almost three years ago. Since surviving the stroke, her level of engagement has gotten less and less and even a year ago, my mother felt she was imminently leaving this world. It shows yet again that we just don’t know…we don’t know when the “hand of our maker” is taking us from this earthly plane and we don’t know how we were born either. It really is a mystery. My mother has had all different responses to living this long. On one hand she will sometimes say to me that she’s lived too long, that she should have left earlier. And then a few days before her birthday I mentioned she would be 99 soon and then I said. “Let’s make it to 100.” She responded with that delightful sense of humor that comes out of nowhere, “That’s only a year …is that all you’re giving me?” Laughingly I said, “Well, let’s take it one year at a time.”

My mom turned 99 on the 23rd of April. It was a quiet day on the whole with lovely moments of joy and sweetness. Cards and messages had been coming for days. Pat got an ice cream cake - I got champagne, cheese and crackers, an apple tart and made a fruit salad. I set a beautiful table in my mother’s dining room with the food, champagne and birthday balloons. It was unlikely my mother would go into the dining room, but I knew she would appreciate the care as she always loved creating a beautiful table for guests.

Her two close nephews both wrote poems to her (from California) and Pat wrote a prose/poem – all very touching. I wrote a letter of love and gratitude. Most of the day mom just slept peacefully dressed in pink. In the morning she had a birthday massage and the masseuse said how inspiring my mom was. I asked her why and she said because under the circumstances that she is in, she still has so much spunk.

In the afternoon, the party lit up when a number of neighbors came in to wish her a happy birthday. We all toasted my mother with Champagne and ate ice cream cake. In many ways it was more of an event for the celebrators than for my mother whose life and heartbeat aren’t really attuned anymore to a lot of excitement. She did graciously receive our love and attention.

Throughout the day phone calls came to wish my mom happy birthday. 

Later in the afternoon a very dear friend of hers, Rita, came to visit. We brought her up in my mother’s wheelchair as she can’t walk too much. My mom said hello and then fell into a deep sleep. We talked with her for a while. Rita had not seen my mother for some time and in spite of the sleeping was very happy she had come.

My mom was born in 1916, a year before the Russian Revolution and in the middle of World War 1. Woodrow Wilson was President. There were no computers, cell phones, not many cars, and very few planes. There was no television - movies were just coming into being. It was a radically different time - almost one hundred years ago.  

My mother does not know on one hand how she got here...to 99 years of age...and on the other hand, she cannot relate to it at all. She said inside she feels like about 40 years old.

Her dear caregiver, Pat, of six years, wrote this prose/poem to my mom based on her first name SELMA:

S is for special, that is the special person who you are which cannot be duplicated.

E is for extraordinary, you exert your natural disposition in many unusual ways to let everyone feel special.

L is for longevity, love and laughter, all three blended together in you. Longevity, you have proven that to us today. Love, you are surrounded by it every day. Laughter is the key to your longevity.

M is for magnificent, we see that every day in the appearance of the splendid beauty you show each day.

A is for amazing and you never cease to amaze us.

Put them all together it spells SELMA, a wonderful woman, a loving and caring mother and a friend who always is helping and thinking of others.

I feel so blessed just to know you...Pat

I too feel blessed and full of gratitude. How many daughters get the chance to be with their mother for so many years? 

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