In Loving Memory of Janet Van Wie

Janet Eileen Van Wie was my mother. She died over seven years ago from metastatic ocular melanoma. I don’t care to talk about the cancer or her treatment chronicles here other than to say that she had the Isolated Hepatic Perfusion at NIH that in turn gratefully gave her another year of life.

There are so many words to express love and longing over
a departed family member during an opportunity like this. I missed out on that for my mother’s obituary when my brother’s wife wrote and submitted it…and for my mother’s eulogy at her funeral, I really expressed my grief from my personal and heartbroken perspective only -because the piece of her death that I knew at that time was about me as her only daughter. I guess I should start by reflecting on what a wonderful person she was.

My mom was a stay at home mom while I was growing up…the rarely seen acronym SAHM these days. I had a fairy tale upbringing in a fairy tale suburb in MI…her children were the center of her world and I was so loved and cherished and happy growing up because of her. She was a great mom. She had extraordinary patience and was a skilled and attentive listener. I read a quote about how a mom is the person who when discovering there is not enough pie to go around suddenly has never quite cared for it (and who doesn’t like pie?). Well, that was my mom all the time. She put her needs and wants last for others. She never really complained either and always seemed to happily go along with what other people wanted (or whatever they asked of her, even unreasonable or invasive requests). If you wanted her opinion, you had to ask for it. She was very quiet and never had a bad word to say about anyone, unless they really deserved it! Ha! And even then it was expressed during a privately shared moment. She never sweat the small stuff and painfully endured many of the big things life dealt her privately. She was classy, sensible, plain and lovely to be around. So far, I do not really share any of her afore mentioned qualities, except that I strive to give my son a fairy tale upbringing unselfishly. I am smart like my mom, though! She was highly intelligent and academic. I was always proud about that in her. I am also a Christian like her and a Republican like her (though she was more Reagan and I am more Goldwater). She was well traveled and educated and I was fortunate enough to visit several countries with her. She was an avid reader and took up quilting later in life after not sewing since I was a little kid. I share her craftiness too. She worked as an elementary school teacher before I was born and then worked administrative health information work in Banner Hospitals for years after I started H.S. and even earned her third degree in that field at the same time I started college. She had lots of friends and went to shows, dinner and shopping with them. She spent the weekends with her family mostly and ended up telling me that was her favorite thing…those weekends.

It was interesting in that mom became outspoken during her illness…when she knew she was going to die. We learned about many things she did not like that she had always done; restaurants she willingly went to, movies we would watch year-after-year, foods she ate, card games she played, people she knew, sweaters we gave her that she would politely wear…she did not like them! All to be around the people she loved or to make the people she loved feel good. It made us all kind of feel bad and wished she had said something before. But I can say that in her last year of life, I think the only thing she ended up doing that she did not want to, was die from cancer. It was bittersweet because I did get to know my mom in a whole new light and I really liked it! It was real and raw and commanded attention. I think I am currently more like who she was in her last year of life with intermittent sprinkles of her enduring qualities. I got to take care of her. It was a privilege. After all she had invested in me though, it wasn’t enough.

I try to live my life without her in a way that I know would please her and I make sure to keep alive her warmth & generosity (even though for me that means I have to think twice sometimes) and I try to always embrace the coarse honesty of her dying personality in my everyday reality. And of course, as I sit here and write this almost 8 months pregnant with my second child, I try to be the mother she was by loving BIG for them as best as I can. And it works! I hear her and see her at least once a day in myself and that makes me smile. I embrace and know her in a whole new way as a mom myself now. She’s not in her hand made quilt, good china or Thanksgiving dinner recipes she left behind…she’s in me! And since she taught me how a mother loves their child, the love I subsequently give to my children is her too, living and growing.

She was wonderful! She was my mother.
Please donate to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation in memory of: Janet Van Wie
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Janet Eileen Van Wie
6/17/41 - 8/31/04

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