[This post was written by my cousin, Renata C. in loving memory of her mum, Emilia who recently passed away.]
|[Renata C. and Emilia ]|
My Dear Mum Emilia, whom everyone called Milka,
WRITTEN BY RENATA
She was a bubbly, funny, strong, kind, an amazing cook, a fantastic hostess, a great singer, with endless compassion for everyone. Gosh, I miss you Mum…
My mum’s life wasn’t an easy one. Her father abandoned the family when she was just three years old. Grandma never remarried, and had to look after two girls all alone. Moving into a town, having only few acquaintances here and there, sisters relied on each other. However, Mum’s older sister’s domineering tendencies meant compassion towards Mum was rare.
When Mum married Dad, her mother-in-law didn’t hesitate to show her disapproval. It didn’t stop my Mum looking after both of Dad’s parents. (Grandma later developed Alzheimer’s which was undiagnosed for years). Mum had worked extremely hard, taking care of a household with four children and elderly in-laws. Moreover, the livestock needed tending to and fields needed constant workaround, however it was predominantly my father’s hobby. The doors were open to any neighbour and family. The cars just pulled in; the gates were rarely shut… Often unannounced, not using a main door doorbell, people just walked round straight to the kitchen door, knocked and sneaked their head in. To have a cup of coffee or offer of the food was a given. Mum had welcomed all. Friends, cousins, their friends, colleagues, our classmates, teachers, priests, brother’s army mates (the service was compulsory), everybody was welcome. Our house was always full of people, some staying overnight. Almost every Sunday my Dad’s large family would gather at our place. Mum would prepare so much food, it would feed an army. Weddings, funerals, Christenings, for any occasion Mum would bake a huge cake and variety of trays of small ones. She would spend days, sometimes away from home, preparing food for friends’ and families’ celebrations. The number of dishes she handwashed in her lifetime! All that while being a working mother.
Mum and Dad were together for 41 years. As in every marriage, they had their ups and downs, but with Mum being of warm-hearted nature, ‘downs’ never lasted long. A great challenge arrives… Dad got diagnosed with cancer. Mum is devastated, she cries, but doesn’t lose hope. She prays and compassionately looks after Dad after many operations and treatments. Cancers goes away, but then pacemaker follows. Dad tires easily, eats less, but operation went well, so there is hope. Mum keeps looking after him.
Myself, after the collapse of communism in 1989 and having completed my studies, I had travelled to the UK. My newly acquired knowledge of English enabled me to communicate and find long lost family ties in the USA.
I connected with the second-generation cousins on Dad’s side. Absolutely brilliant! Visit is planned, Mum started to prepare the menu. “Just tell me how many and when.” Research and talking to older family members bring family history to light. It transpired that the family homestead was lived at by our family for over 150 years, every generation working hard to preserve it for the next. After all, a piece of land means survival. The whole family legacy is on this homestead. Generations of family members who were born here, lived here, played, worked, laughed, cried, chatted here, walked on the same ground. It is precious. When Lisa, our first cousin from the USA arrives for the first time, she gets on her knees and kisses the ground.
Homestead legacy continues; more visits and more cousins follow. Mum welcomes everybody with open arms. After all, this ground is their home, too.
When Mum was younger, the accident limited her walking ability. Looking after children and vast household, there was somewhat never right time to undergo a complex operation. In her final years, she could only walk with the support of two crutches. Being strong-minded, she refused a wheelchair. Step by step, slowly battling distances between rooms and outdoor places. Inevitably, over the years, she gained weight and developed diabetes as well. Her heart was weak so undertaking both hips and knee operations would be too risky.
When Dad became seriously ill again, Mum looked after him in his final months with only a little help. She lacked the sleep and was mentally and physically drained. In his final days, my father suffered physically a lot, but passed away in his sleep. Peacefully, with Mum next to him.
Mum’s grief was deep. Despite my health issues, I decided to take our three years old daughter and relocate for a little while from London. Husband stayed behind working. For our daughter, Slovakian is a second language which she could hardly speak then. That didn’t stop Mum to enjoy her granddaughter. She would play and draw and sing with her every day, for hours and hours, while I was cleaning and cooking. And grieving together with Mum.
This solution wasn’t feasible for a long term. Mum didn’t want to sell the house and relocate somewhere else. She built that house with Dad – literally. A note to the reader about the historical background: the house was built during communism; no private business of any kind was allowed, including no private building companies to do the job. Families would help each other over the weekends, alongside friends of whom some were professional builders. I remember the sand, mountains of bricks, pipes, door frames, building material scattered all over the yard that was shared with the ‘old’ house.
Mum was pregnant with my younger brother then, looking after me and another brother. It was an incredibly hard work. She built this house with her bare hands: for her children to grow up in, for Dad and Herself to grow old in, for grandkids to visit, to spend holidays in this house, for any close or extended family and their children to gather together in, anytime they wanted to.
Her house, the local church, the village, neighbours, former colleagues and nearby community were her life.
It was agreed that one of my brothers would sell his flat in town and relocate with his second wife and stepchildren. Mum always treated them as her grandkids, them calling Mum grandma. Another two grandchildren arrived. Despite Mum’s health issues and advanced age, it was given she would help out looking after them. And she did so. Being her grandchildren, spending a lot of time with them, mainly in her room.
Then Covid struck.
For various reasons, we haven’t seen each other from 2016. Summer of 2020 was a possibility. Mum can’t wait to see her granddaughter again. Yet, we mutually agree on postponing the visit until it is safe. We love Mum too much to risk her health.
My mum had a great respect for this virus. She understood the power of nature. Watching news, listening, observing that not everybody was taking it as seriously. She was ever so careful, minimizing outings to only necessary doctor’s visits, ever excited to get her first shot of vaccine. Too soon, only few days later, she tested positive.
We kept praying and hoping…every day. Mum got worse only after few days. There was shortage of medicine and not enough beds in hospitals, anywhere. Some people are helped at day care unit, but sent home afterwards. Thankfully, local hospital manages to convert another ward onto Covid station and Mum gets a full medical care. Waiting is an agony. So many people caring about her. She fights her battle to the very end. That definitely sounds like my Mum… Staff tell us of her ‘not giving up’ attitude.
On that sad Friday, my sister is unsettled. She gets through to the nurse, who kindly switches mum’s phone on and put it to Mum’s ear. “Hi Mum, you don’t need to talk, I know it is so difficult for you to breathe. Just save your energy. We all love you Mum. We thank you for everything you have done for us All. Fight this virus if you can. So many people think of you. Everybody is praying for you. We All love you so much. We love you.” Mum is conscious, forces herself to breathe out faint and elaborate ‘alright’ and waves her hand gently. A nurse thinks Mum is signaling she understands. We later wondered if that gesture was her ‘Goodbye’. A nurse tells my sister a priest did his weekly rounds of confessions in the morning and that he attended to mum, too. Two hours after my sister’s call, Mum passed away.
Due to Covid restrictions nobody is allowed to visit. The staff is ever so kind and caring. Yet none of her children can hug Mum during her battle. None of us can gently stroke her face, to physically comfort her, talk to her… She was motherly to so many, compassionate, she opened her arms to anyone who needed her help or friendly chat. I wonder if anyone was holding her hand when God called her Soul back to Him.
I don’t care about my grief. I care about our dear Mum’s pain. Lungs and body aching all over, every attempt to breathe so painful. She has no strength to breathe, no strength to talk. Not enough oxygen in her lungs to reply to her daughter: ‘I love you all, too’. It breaks my heart to think about it. I have to force myself not to. Instead, I think of her Soul being guided away by Angels, to the realm of respect, peace and love. She would be right at home there.
She respected all of her family and anyone she knew, even if sometimes it was not reciprocated. She was the glue that held the family together, she kept the traditions alive and put order to things.
Mum did everything out of love – because she loved…
She appreciated everything that life gave her. Family, friends, health, everyday things…she didn’t take people nor stuff for granted. In her view, everything is a gift from God.
Mum tried to live every day gracefully. She used to say: “Nobody knows, when they go”.
And she was right. Tomorrow is promised to no-one.
When my time comes to leave this world, when Angels guide my Soul away, I want my Mum to be the first one to greet me. I can’t wait to hug you and hold you again, Mum. I can’t wait to have a chat and laugh with you again.
Until then, enjoy blissfulness of Heaven and company of your loved ones, who preceded you there. I have my everyday choices to make here. Guide me Mum, that my choices- small or great, are the right ones; full of respect and love, as yours were.
Some people are simple irreplaceable. Mum, you are without doubt one of them.
We ALL miss you and love you very much.
May God grant you His eternal peace.
May God holds you in His arms forever.
May God let you feel His unconditional love forever.