My mother passed away just over one year ago.
Several members of my family gathered to remember and feast in her honour. As I have no connection to my spirituality, much of their words fell flat in front of me. But I understand their intent: a woman they all loved died and they needed to gather and remember.
What I have to offer, is a story of Her:
My family never had much money. My father could never hold a job and my mother had the task of raising a gaggle of children. We walked a lot.
The nearest grocery store was a considerable distance away, walking there and back took quite a bit of time. One day, my father asked my mother to go to the store for a few items. She obliged, and set off.
Time passed. One hour. Then two. We children became anxious, looking up and down the street in hope of spotting her. My father became angry and demanded that we go out and look for her. Happy to get away, we left eagerly.
We walked to the grocery store and looked around. She was not there. We looked in the local thrift store, always one of her favorite stops. She was not there either. We looked in every store up and down the street from the grocery store to our home. She was nowhere to be found.
We returned home some time later, empty-handed and sad. My father’s anger was great. Where could she be?
As the sun set, my mother came home. We all ran to her, our fear washing away. We asked where she was, what happened to her. She told us.
She was arrested.
My father was a chain smoker. A pack a day, perhaps more. It was a difficult habit to maintain on a tight budget. My father coerced my mother into occasionally stealing a pack for him. This was in the old days, when cigarettes were put proudly on display in a rack by the front tills. She was caught, and taken to the local police station and given a fine.
She walked home. It was a very long walk.
She was so angry. The shame and embarrassment of being arrested brought out a fire in her that I’ve never seen before. She had never been arrested before, she only committed the crime at the behest of my father. She unleashed her fire upon him and he shrank back in the face of it. She swore that she would never steal for him again.
And she never did.
I have never forgotten how strong she could be.
Stories are now all I have left of her.