For My Mother

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

World's best mom.

Very early in the morning of April 5th, my mother passed away after a long and hard battle with lymphoma. Thankfully, I was able to spend a week and half with her in March and I was able to spend the majority of the day with her in the hospital before her death.

The last year has been tough. She was diagnosed with lymphoma on my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary last year. However, she fought hard and braved through waves of chemotherapy and radiation. She was able to see my college graduation as well as most of my Fulbright to Russia. She was in remission for a few months and was back to fully enjoying life. I came home and had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s with my family. My mother and I baked hundreds, if not thousands, of cookies, a cake, and numerous pies as per our tradition. We also went skiing before Christmas, which was her favorite hobby.

After my Christmas vacation, my mother drove me back to the airport. The last time she hugged me was when I was waiting to go through security. Somewhat sad, we said goodbye, but not for long. My mother excitedly told the woman at the start of the security line that she would be visiting me in Russia in a few months. My parents had planned to come to Ulyanovsk in March. I spoke with my parents weekly on Skype, and all my mother could talk about was her preparations for the trip.

Then, almost exactly a year after it all started, the lymphoma came back unexpectedly and aggressively. Within a matter of days, my mother was hospitalized as she fought against the disease. She was heartbroken when my father told her that they could not go to Russia as planned, but became excited when my father said that I was on my way to see her. She rallied bravely for almost two months, but her body could not withstand the chemotherapy and she passed away peacefully with my father holding her hand.

A lot of people say they have the best mother in the world, but I know for a fact that I had the best mother. Personality wise, I am much more like my father; however, my mother was responsible for the person who I am today. I know she knew how much I love her, but I don’t think she knew how grateful I am for everything she did for me. All of my major interests are a result of her.

Yes, I am aware that I am wearing a pink dress in this photo. That was back before I could make decisions for myself. As my mom liked to tell me, that's back when I basically had a mow-hawk for hair. It makes up for the dress.

My love of cars and driving are from her. My mother was always and excellent driver and enjoyed to drive quickly. Somewhat to my mother’s ire, I also developed her love of driving a little too quickly. I also inherited her die-hard love of diesel Mercedes sedans. While my father purchased the first diesel Mercedes in the family, and before he met my mother, the true aficionado of these vehicles was my mother. Two years before I was born, she traded in her BMW 3 series for my beloved 1987 300D. Although she missed the much more sporty Bimmer, she loved the “yellow car” very much when it was hers. It was in this car that I came home from the hospital after I was born. I have had numerous first days of school in the car, and I went to and from my 8th grade, high school, and college graduations in this car. It was also the first car that I drove, and is the first car that I personally own. My mother loved the car when it was hers, but later lost interest in it after it became my fathers. Although she refused to ride in it in later years (unless when absolutely necessary, like when the roof rack was needed to carry home some furniture), she always had fond remarks and memories about the car.

The old Mercedes was also the family winter vacation car until we moved to Connecticut and got at SUV. We took many ski trips in the car and I still have the ski racks. That is another way in which my mother influenced me. She was an avid skier, both downhill and cross country. My mother taught me how to ski when I was little, but I later switched to snowboarding. While some things changed, we always went skiing as a family around Christmas time and around spring break in New England. We would also take numerous shorter day and weekend trips throughout the winter months. One of the things she wanted to do whilst in Russia was to go cross country skiing with me.

She never gave up on skiing, even after she fell and dislocated her shoulder doing it over ten years ago.

Another one of our winter traditions was to bake excessive amounts of desserts at Christmas. My mother was an excellent cook and baker. While I do not have her finesse for cooking, she taught me how to bake very well. Baking is a simple and fun hobby with the best rewards ever. I have inherited my mother’s point of view that it is a sin to bake from mixes. I also have inherited my mother’s love of sweets. While some people might refer to this as gluttony, I prefer to call us epicures, which implies having refined tastes and is less pejorative.

Yummy cake baked by my mother for my dad's birthday. Also, the look that I got very frequently from her. The "I can't believe you are related to me/where have I gone wrong/it must be your father's genes" look.

My mother was also responsible for my favorite sport, martial arts. When I was in the 3rd grade, she saw that the town parks and recreation department offered Tang Soo Do. She told me about this and signed me up. I trained in Tang Soo Do every year and eventually earned my first degree black belt in my senior year of high school. In college, I joined the Tae Kwon Do club and actively trained for four years and competed in various tournaments. Although my mother was bored with martial arts, she did come to a few tournaments with my father while I was in college. She wanted to see a few of my tournaments during senior year, but she was physically unable to attend due to her treatment. She was happy when I said that I had found a place to continue Tae Kwon Do in Russia.

Perhaps the most important influence my mother had on my life was helping me to develop my predilection for foreign languages and traveling. My mother was an avid world traveler who studied many languages throughout her life. Most importantly, she like me, majored in Russian. She, like me, also studied French, German, and Latin. My mother also knew a little Spanish and Chinese. Her interests in languages stemmed from her interests in travelling the globe. I do not know how many countries my mother had visited, but I have been to most of the countries in Western Europe with my family, including Iceland of all places, as well as Japan, China, and Thailand. My mother was very adventurous, especially when it came to trying new foods. From her, my family has developed a love of almost all foreign foods. From my mother, I developed my love of extremely spicy foods.

Thailand with mommy, nana, and my big brother. Dad took the photo.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, it was my mother who encouraged me to take Russian and signed me up for it in my first year of high school. She also actively supported my study of Russian at college. She had majored in Russian in college and earned a master’s in Soviet Studies from Yale. When I was in high school, she helped me with my Russian homework from time to time and also with my French homework. She was happy when I did a summer program in St. Petersburg and was overjoyed to visit me there. Both of my parents had visited the Soviet Union before they knew each other and wanted to see the new Russia.

My mother was very happy when I again followed in her footsteps and began to study German in college, although that is another funny story left for another time. When things didn’t work out with my attempts to go back to Russia for the summer after my junior year, my mother encouraged me to do a summer program for German, which I did. Again, my parents visited me in the summer and we had a delightful weekend trip to Munich. Thanks to this summer program, I was able to work out a minor in German by taking a few more German classes my senior year. I even won a German prize from my college, and a history prize, both of which were incidents of good news, which gave my mother happiness and hope while she was undergoing her first round of treatment. She was incredibly happy when she found out that I got the Fulbright and was happy that I didn’t wind up in Siberia. All in all, she seemed interested in my city, although she didn’t seem too interested in visiting all of the Lenin museums.

Words cannot express how devastated I am at the moment; however, I am happy that my mother lived a wonderful and adventurous life. I would be a completely different person without her, and I am greatly thankful for everything she did for me and my family and for all of the fun times that we had together. While she is physically gone, she will always be in my memory and I hope that she continues to watch out for me and my family from heaven.

  1. Mark says:

    Susan, your mother was a wonderful person. We will miss her and her cakes and cookies at Christmas at my mom’s house. Love from my family to yours, Mark.

  2. Susan,

    I literally cried reading this, I was so moved. I am so sorry, words cannot express. I will think of you and her in my prayers. I think I can speak not just for myself but for the other Fulbrighters as well when I say we are there for you in your time of need.

    Hang in there.


  3. GT says:

    Susan, I’m so sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful tribute to your mom. Hang in there, and let me know if you ever need to talk.

  4. Rikki says:

    Wonderfully written, Susan! Hang in there, I’m sure you have a great support network and find solace in that you she is so very proud of you and all you have done. Best of luck to you, Rikki

  5. Joan says:

    Susan – What beautiful writing you do. I am so sorry to hear about your mom-she must have been quite incredibile to raise a daughter like you. Our best to you-looking forward to seeing you this summer, Joan

  6. Susan – I’m so sorry for your loss, and like everyone has said – this was a beautifully written tribute to your mom… it is clear she was so proud of you and led such an amazing life! I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Juliana

  7. Margarete Lamb- says:

    Liebe Susan,

    My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family as you struggle through the grief and sadness of losing your mother. It was such a pleasure to meet her, I am so glad that I could spend a few hours with her, first at the airport when you checked in to fly to Bonn and then at dinner during your parents’ visit to Bonn. It was obvious to me how loving your relationship was between you and her. I also realized that she was a fun-loving and strong person. You certainly have a lot from her, and she will always be with you in your heart and mind.

    My heart is aching for you and your family. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

    I hope to see you very soon.

    With great fondness,
    Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger

  8. Ekaterina Sosnina says:

    Dear Susan, our Linguistic Department in Ulyanovsk is in great sorrow…
    We know that no words could help in such grief but we wish you and your family to be strong these and other days.

  9. Zed says:

    My deepest condolences, I only met your mom twice and both times only for a few minutes, But she, like your dad and brother seemed to be great people who fit perfectly with you personalitywise. My heart goes out to you and your family.

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