My mother, Diane Mobley Strain, died on the first day of spring; March 21, 2007. Her lungs were inhibited by pulmonary fibrosis (also called interstitial lung disease) - an illness which gets progressively worse over time, until eventually the victim can't get enough oxygen. It's cause was never clearly established since ILD can have a wide variety of both biological and environmental causes.
For a time, she was sleeping with an oxygen tube at home and riding a scooter around since any extended walking would leave her coughing and short of breath. One day, she fell and severely broke her shoulder. She had to have surgery which included taking a piece of bone from her hip to rebuild the shattered shoulder area. However, the hip became infected and she had to then undergo a number of other surgeries to clean out the wound. Over this time, she was bedridden and became weakened. This, plus the anesthesia and general stress of the procedures accelerated her ILD to a critical point.
As she wished, she was asleep under the influence of pain killers once she had to have a ventilator. It was hoped that her body could get enough oxygen and clear out the CO2, but there simply wasn't enough lung tissue left for her to recover. With her family and closest friends around her bed, holding her hands, she passed away without any discomfort or suffering.
But the important thing about my mother is not how she died - rather, how she lived. She was many things to many people, but of course, my comments will focus on what she was to me as a mother. My earliest memory of her is sitting with me at the dining room table, struggling through my homework. As a child I'm told I was difficult because, although I wasn't mean or disrespectful, I had a tendency to daydream. This meant I had trouble in elementary school and it was very frustrating getting me to concentrate on my homework. Of course, I was completely incapable of appreciating her efforts at the time but she sat with me constantly, making sure I learned. In her unending attention (what a child would think of as strictness), she handed over all of her time to teach me about responsibility and give me a sense of living by principles.
But what was really rare about her was her combination of principled responsibility with incredible love, compassion, and sacrifice. She demanded a lot from others, but she always gave more than she got from the world.
She not only sacrificed her time, but she and my father sacrificed their money at a time when money was scarce in the family. This included things like sending me to private school to get me over my school difficulties, but it also included giving my brother and I the best childhood they could. They'd make huge sacrifices to provide special Christmas gifts for us like large high priced toys and computers - things most children from higher income families would be lucky to get.
My mother's compassion extended to those outside our immediate family as well. My parents were always taking extended family and friends into their house when they fell on hard times or needed support. In addition, she worked with my father in their churches to help feed, clothe, and provide companionship to the poor and homeless without making any demands of them.
I wasn't present, but my father told me about a time when he saw her admiring a very nice (and expensive) coat. She was surprised and thrilled when he unexpectedly bought it for her. It was cold that day so she put it on and they went out to run some errands for the church. Arriving at the home of a poor woman to bring her some things, they saw her sitting on the front steps, shivering. She had no money for heating and no coat. My mother instantly took hers and put it around the woman. She could see it looked like a very nice new coat and said, "I can't take this". My mother replied, "This old thing? I was about to throw it out anyway" and left her with it.
We also had a lot of good times. My mother could really appreciate and enjoy special times with the family and going to do fun things. She really glowed when she talked about them and I think enjoying things in life is part of what makes a person able to sacrifice where important and give where needed.
As I look over pictures of her I've found some we took when we were visiting Los Angeles. A relative knew one of the guards at Paramount Studios so we were fortunate to get to tour the studio where they were filming Star Trek: The Next Generation
. I have a picture of myself sitting in Captain Picard's chair, with my parents sitting in the chairs on either side. We also got to see the Cheers
set and took a picture of all of us standing behind the bar holding up glasses. In all of these photos, including others from Christmas time and so on, I've noticed something. She always had a big smile, but it wasn't the same as mine. I could see in her face that it wasn't merely the event, or the trip, or seeing these things that was making her smile - it was that she was happy for us
- and happy that we were having fun together.
From the time I was born (actually before) to the day she died, for 35 years, her commitment to being the best mother she could be was absolutely unwavering. At one point as a teenager, when my brother was having problems, my mother told him that there was nothing he could do that would ever cause her to abandon or give up on him, and he says that knowing this was a point that saved him. Throughout our lives, her priorities were never confused. Her love was like the firmament of stars in our universe - it was as dependable as the sun's rising.
My mother's conscious experience in life has ended, but she has made an impact on her world and left it a better place than she found it. She and my father have made my brother and I what we are today, and her life has given inspiration and example to others, having subtle and far reaching effects beyond what we will ever fully realize. Through our experiences with her, she has passed on a part of who she was so that we may go on consciously experiencing the world through her eyes when we keep her in our thoughts. This is the best way we can honor her. She once carried me inside her, and I'll carry her inside me the rest of my life.