Mother died 20 years ago, give or take. She spent some miserable years with breast cancer and various treatments, and when the time came she was more than ready to go.
I knew a woman who went into a coma after a hard childbirth, at least the doctors called it a coma, and they stood in her hospital room saying they couldn't save her and she was going to die. The thing was she could hear everything they said, she just couldn't move, couldn't speak, and couldn't do anything more than shout, inside her head, "Don't give up on me! I'm alive! I'm here!" She survived (obviously); and I learned not to judge awareness by responsiveness.
I talked with Mother a lot towards the end of her life - we all did - though I didn't generally get a response. It didn't matter; I knew she might be hearing me, and that was good enough.
Which brings me to the last time I saw her smile. She grew up practically next door to my father and his siblings, and on one of his last visits my uncle David leaned down to her, greeted her in a loud, celebratory voice, and Mother smiled. It was fleeting, in a sense, but it's as permanent a memory as I expect to have.
Sometimes I have to work to remember Mother before those last hard years, but sometimes it's no work at all. All my childhood memories end with her, the center of my far-ranging universe when I was a kid grubbing in the dirt. From later I remember her brilliance, her knowledge of every piece of classical music they played on public radio, her demons and her delights.
I lost a mentor to cancer when I was a young adult and I raged against him for years because I still needed him and he wasn't there. Mother gave me much more (including life), and I've never been angry with her for leaving. She earned her peace. But I've had plenty of occasion to miss her, and wonder what her advice would have had been along the way. And I wish she'd been able to meet Annie, and Annie meet her.
Happy Mother's Day, Amy.