By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The month of April is usually touted as the time to plant gardens, flowers and to embark on the new beginning of life. April is recognized locally as the Kentucky Circuit Clerk’s Trust for Life Month and Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. A quick search on Google (yes, I can use Google now) lists April with a slew of “National Month” recognition’s — African American Women’s Fitness, Alcohol Awareness, Amateur Radio, American Cancer Society, Celebrate Diversity, Community Service, Fresh Florida Tomato, Jewish-American Heritage, National Autism Awareness, Better Hearing and Speech, National Food Month, National Garden Month, National Mental Health Month, Multiple Birth Awareness Month, Occupational Therapy month, Older Americans Month, Parkinson’s Awareness, National Pecan Month, Pets Are Wonderful Month, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Stress Awareness, and Women’s Health Care Month. April is even known as National Soft Pretzel Month!
On a more personal note, April has both happy and sad memories. My mother, the strongest figure of my life, celebrated her birthday on April 11. Lewanda Hedrick Bailey was an amazing person — unfortunately, it was only in my adulthood I came to the full realization of that. She was creative, crafty, humorous, musical, frugal, and logical. She was a hoarder, insecure, old-fashioned and not much of a disciplinarian when it came to keeping me under control. She was a devout Baptist and Christian, avid church-goer and loved her family, although I readily admit I certainly stretched the limits of her patience well beyond all reasonable limits.
Mom had a memory for numbers. My ability to remember birthdays, special dates and occasions is a direct genetic gift from Mom. Mom always made a big deal when her birthday fell on Easter Sunday. Those occasions were rare but she did enjoy a few Easter Sundays with her April 11 birthday.
Her death on April 25, 1998, is by far the saddest memory for the month of April for me. Ironically, my mother died on the same day her oldest brother died, 23 years prior. My Uncle J.R. was preparing for open heart surgery the following week and in 1975, such surgeries were new and very risky. He was home awaiting my other uncles to join him for a weekend fishing trip — one we hoped would not be his last venture with his brothers. Instead, while Uncle Fred and family were en route from Ohio, Uncle J.R. had a massive heart attack and died, right in front of my mother. Mom never quite recovered from that, and when she died on the same day that she watched her brother die, it was more than just coincidence, I think.
This Thursday marks what would have been Mom’s 83rd birthday. Later this month will mark exactly 15 years since she left us. She spent five weeks in the hospital, dealing with fluid buildup from congestive heart failure and diabetes. The nurses and doctors kept telling us that Mom’s heart was worn out. Maybe the mechanical part was, but her love never faded — that much I was sure of.
The loss of a parent is a hole that is never filled, regardless of siblings, children, and other family members. It is a part of you that is empty. Even after nearly 15 years, I still catch myself thinking, “I need to tell Mom” some news that I know she would have been interested in.
Recently, I’ve had several friends and family members who have lost their parents, and I know so well the pain they feel. I also know that birthdays and other occasions will be harder, especially with “the firsts” — those special occasions and holidays when the loved one is no longer present. My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to them, because I’ve truly “been there and done that.”
So, while I celebrate and mourn in the month of April each year, I continue on with life as I know it — basking in planting flowers and a garden, looking forward to harvesting the fruits and vegetables of Nature’s Bounty, and enjoying the precious time I have with my ‘grand-girls,’ Sierra, Kynna, Autumn and Hannah. I wish Mom could see them, I wish she could see Rickey and LeeAnn and know how well they have turned out.
Somehow, I believe in my heart she does.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you every day but love, appreciate and cherish you even more!