by ~ Anita Skocz
Today is three years since my best friend and mother passed away. With her ninety years of active living ~ the parade of recollections have been unending. I had to use an umbrella for the deluge of happy tears, but surrendered it willingly as the laughter ran through me like beer at a picnic. Elizabeth was my mother’s name, but she had one rule, “Call me Libby!”
My mother’s rule was her “secret formula.” She had a youthful and playful spirit, and her looks always defied her age. In her mind Mrs. Skocz added years, and Elizabeth just did not speak to her lighthearted energetic soul. So, rather than search for the “fountain of youth,” she felt “Libby” rang true to that vivacious rascal that possessed her being. “Libby” announced her high spirited nature ~ it animated her.
With her flare, she implanted her valued seeds in her four children by example. Our eyes witnessed a person that was creative, kind, loyal, giving, forgiving, understanding, authentic and loving. As we discovered our unique talents and gifts, she became a champion and an advocate of our dreams. She dusted us off plenty, and encouraged us to follow our hearts. Our cousins and friends confided in her, and there were no problems that could not be solved around a table of Polish food ~ jesc-jesc, eat-eat!
As the years passed “the rule” held up, Libby’s appearance and zest for life never divulged her age. In fact, when most in her age group cursed the mirror, my mother carried on a friendship with the reflecting glass, and kept to her rule ~ introducing herself with a radiant smile as Libby!
At the age of 79 my mother experienced a massive stroke, and the doctor announced to our family that she would more than likely be in a vegetative state. I rolled out in the hallway with him, and with a calm clear voice I let it be known.
“My mother is not a statistic, you can not pronounce her fate by looking at her age. When she wakes up, not if, please make a note to call her Libby. That is how she likes to be addressed.”
In a few days she still lay unconscious, and my two sisters and I hovered near her and playfully kept saying,
“Mom likes me best.”
As we laughed, and kept the mood light, she opened her eyes and said.
We started crying as she smiled and motioned with her hand that she loved us all. Shortly after, the doctor breezed into the room and addressed her as Mrs. Skocz. She immediately shook her head no and pointed to me. I knew what she wanted.
“Doctor, my mother likes to be called Libby.”
She smiled, and acknowledged my statement in her behalf, and fell asleep. With rehabilitation she regained her ability to walk, but her communication was slow. She could make small phrases, and the first one…
Her challenges were many, but they did not distract her from her joy or from being a loving mother. She inspired us all and kept us laughing. After my father died, my mother came to live with me. God blessed us with a colorful collection of caregivers, and Libby delighted in the different flavors. She cherished the visits of her children and grandchildren. Her thoughts of living rather than just surviving, along with “her rule,” animated the best of “Libby.”
Many smaller strokes over time stole her ability to walk in the last year, but she listened, laughed, gave, forgave, lived, and loved as “Libby” until three weeks before her ninetieth birthday.
St. Peter: “Elizabeth, welcome to heaven!”
Mom: “Tell everyone. Call me Libby!”