Twenty Years Gone

By , December 27, 2018

Today marks a sad anniversary in our family: Gertie, Mark’s mom, passed away 20 years ago today.

Gertie Zeiger in Yakutat

Gertie Zeiger at Ocean Cape, Yakutat, Alaska, autumn 1995. One of my favorite photos of Mom (Photo: William W. Zeiger?)

Mom passed away from pancreatic cancer in the midst of a wonderful family Christmas gathering at her and Dad’s house in Cheney, Washington in 1998. After 20 years, the joy and fun of that visit tempers the sorrow of the time. The memories of fun, laughter, and visiting begin to counterbalance the unthinkable loss.

Twenty years on, I find it more comforting to focus on the precious moments, such as discovering 5 year-old Aly making passes over a nutcracker with a toy wand. When I asked her what she was doing, she explained that she was trying to make the magic of Christmas make Grandma well again! (Oh, that her grandmother could meet the young lady Aly has become.)

Gertie and Beth Zeiger

Mom and Beth on vacation, sometime around the time Beth graduated from college, I think? (Photo: William Zeiger).

We played so hard that visit, as if trying to stave off reality. We held epic “Nertz” tournaments (see Family Violence Our Way—A Raucous Card Game). My brother, David, piggybacked Aly around the house while my sister, Beth, chased them. We shared quiet moments, too, around Mom’s deathbed, in groups and individually.

All too soon, it was all over.

We held a memorial for Mom soon after, so we kids could attend before returning to far-flung homes and work. The outpouring of concern, memories, and honor from friends and relatives overwhelmed us. Of course, none of us kids could speak at the memorial, but in our silence, we felt deep gratitude to those who could and did.

Since then, December 27th has been a day of remembrance, a bittersweet note in the Christmas holidays. Augmented by Mom’s birthday, Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary, and Mother’s Day, each year’s markers pass, and pass again, twenty years on.

Not that she doesn’t come to mind on regular days of the year as well. A particularly fine photo portrait of her, taken before the disease truly began to ravage her body, hangs in the cabin living room. I think of her when I drink fireside coffee (see A Cup of Coffee That Brings Tears to My Eyes). I strive to remember her in ways photos can’t recall her to mind (see Remembering My Mother’s Hugs).

In the next 20 years, these memories may fade. In that coming period, I’ll reach the age Mom was when she died, then, hopefully, I’ll pass it. I hope I’ll live long, and keep my mental faculties to mark that coming 20 years, and many years beyond that. She was a wonderful lady; she deserves to be remembered.

2 Responses to “Twenty Years Gone”

  1. Eva Hensley says:

    Mark, Thinking of you and what a wonderful tribute to your mother. Her smile on the picture truly tells she enjoyed life! I too, have lost my mother (and father) and am so glad to hold onto those precious memories.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you, Eva. I’m grateful to at least have my father still, and my lovely step mother, of whom, I maintain, Mom would thoroughly approve. The loss never gets easier, though, does it? I wish you a preponderance of happy memories of your parents.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy