Remembering Mom on the First Anniversary of Her Death

Catherine Kostakos with me, March 1948

One year ago today — October 5, 2011 — my mother passed from earth life into heaven, joining my father, her siblings and parents, and untold numbers of family members. Although Mom was in excellent physical health prior to her death, dementia had caused significant cognitive changes and much anxiety for her and our family.

In March 2011, Mom was coping with the loss of her car and her independence after having a minor accident. She had been especially agitated for a couple of weeks. One afternoon, to my surprise and relief, she told me in a calm voice, “I talked to your father last night. He told me not to worry, that everything would be all right.” Mom’s decline was especially rapid after that day, culminating in her death six months later.

Her passing was much harder on me than I ever anticipated. After months of sadness, I decided to undertake the monumental task of digitizing her photo albums — more than 1,000 pictures. Amazingly, this arduous task became a primary source of healing. As I handled each photo, I looked into the faces of my parents and loved ones. Seeing their happy faces lifted my spirits; touching these tangible reminders of their earthly life made me feel close to them. As I worked on this project week after week, something miraculous happened — my sadness lifted and my heart was healed. This was such a profound experience for me that I wrote this article, “Their Pictures Are My History,” which was published in an online magazine.

Sunday will be Mom’s one-year memorial service at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in the Washington DC area. As I prepare emotionally and spiritually for this and other remembrances, I know that Mom and Dad are still helping me in unseen ways, especially in the genealogical connections that have been made in the past year. I can’t help but think that Mom has rallied the troops “on the other side,” causing them to prompt their living family members to find my online trees and email me with new information. But that’s a post for another day.

Thank you, Mom, for giving me life, love, guidance and support while you were here, and for continuing to be close to me each day. I hope my life will be a testament and reflection of the importance of good parents and the values of a strong family.

(I’ve posted a few photos of my parents and me as an infant here)