Friday, February 26, 2010

Goodbye, Mother

My mother died on Feb 16. Today I feel like I'm sitting in a maze of emptiness, with no concept of time or location.

She was 82 years old, enjoyed good health for most of her life until about 3 years ago when she was diagnosed with end-stage lung disease. She'd had breathing problems for several years, and was always tested for cardiac pathology. We'd celebrate when the angiograms came out clear, having no idea that pulmonary scar tissue was already forming in her lungs.

So, she declined, ever so gradually, but always remembered to call me on Thursday mornings, saying "hi, my girl". Then she started forgetting. One week. Then two weeks in a row. Then the numerous hospital visits started. She lived in a town 70 miles west of Minneapolis, so got to ride in a helicopter more than once. And, finally, the transition to assisted living. She'd say, "I know this is where I need to be" and the tears would roll down her face.

Two weeks ago, the staff suggested she be placed under hospice care. Throughout that day, I wandered around with my stomach in a knot, thinking "this can't be happening". My sister, niece and I had visited her on President's Day, the 15. She was very weak, but asked me to hand her the Valentines she'd gotten in the mail. She loved Valentines - the bigger and more glittery, the better. I remember my niece hugging her goodbye. I remember giving her a kiss on the forehead. I remember silently telling myself that she was just fine.

On Tue, after not having gotten out of bed in several days, she had a surge of energy and wanted to be taken to the game room to play bingo. She stayed for the entire evening. They wheeled her back to her room and she simply stopped breathing.
I got the call and spent the rest of the night sitting on the edge of the bed, staring. My dad has been gone 20 years. And yes, his death was different. At that time I was frightened because I didn't know if I could tolerate the pain of losing him. I guess I thought M's death would be easier. I am indeed glad she is no longer struggling. I'm also glad for myself - not having to jump every time the phone rings. But I still want her to call on Thur morning, telling me how busy she'd been, volunteering at the blood bank and library. Telling me that this was aboslutely the last year she was going to have a garden (well, maybe just a few extra potatoes).

The two of us never talked much about the db. I was in my late teens when diagnosed, and her only reference point was several of my young relatives had died from or were currently suffering from complications. She didn't know how to help me. I don't know what I needed. She'd ask if my testape was still negative and I'd scream back at her. My 20's were very stormy, and I think tne entire family wrote me off as a nutcase. So the silence remained until I required emergency surgery for a detatched retina. She hated the TwinCities - said it made her nervous to be here. When I called and asked if she would come and stay with me, she said "of course." For the entire 7 days that I had to lay on my face to recover, she cleaned. Tidiness is not my forte, but neither am I too slovenly. I was on heavy pain meds and would wake every so often to hear a brush tackling some new surface. "What are you doing, Mom?" ..."Oh, nothing much - do you have an owner's manual for the vacuum cleaner?"

Tonight I will be removing her picture from my family collage frame and putting it on a little table that I have for the ancestors that have passeed - my dad, uncle, and brother. The picture was taken on her 75th birthday, at a little party we had. I got her a corsage, which my sister said was stupid, but M loved it. She said she even wore it to church the next Sunday....."it was a little wilted, but I wanted them to know I got it from you".

Mom, I miss you already. I know you are in a better place. My favorite recent memory will be this past Christmas, when you had on your bright red sweater and were smiling because you family was all together. Rest in peace.

19 comments:

Colleen said...

What a great mom - and how pretty she is. You're in my thoughts, but you know that...

Kerri. said...

Your mother was a beautiful woman, and your post is a lovely tribute to her. I'm so sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Zazzy said...

Thinking of you, I've been wondering how you're holding up. I find myself thinking sometimes that I'm ready, that I know that this is coming. I'm not sure we're ever going to be ready to lose our mom.

Here's to our memories, to the good times and the bad times, to the times we were there for each other and the times we regret, to the mountains we climbed and the lowest spots in our paths, to the many hellos and to this one last goodbye.

Hugs.

Araby62 (a.k.a. Kathy) said...

Oh, Kathy....{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}

You can say all those things, and know it in your mind, but it doesn't make the loss any easier on your heart. Thinking of you...

Rachel said...

Oh, Kathy, I am so sorry.

Thinking of you.

(And yeah, moms always know when you need a good cleaning of your home....)

Lyrehca said...

This is a beautiful tribute.

My sympathies for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I have never read your blog before but I feel like I know you. My dad is in a home now and slowly expiring. It is hard to see him suddenly fall asleep after just being fully aware and doing well. I hope I can be as gracious in my comments of him as you are of your mom. God bless you and your family.

Auntly H said...

my deepest condolences for your loss

J.B. said...

You're mother had a great smile.

Peace to you, Kathy.

phonelady said...

Oh kathy so sorry for your loss .

art-sweet said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mom. Holding you both in my thoughts - as we Jews say, may her memory be for a blessing.

Molly said...

Kathy,
So sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my grandmother the last week of January. I too, feel good that she isn't struggling with pain, but sad that I don't have her here anymore.

God bless during this difficult time.

Peace,
Molly and Dixie

Karen said...

Oh Kathy, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for that beautiful post, allowing all of us to know what a wonderful woman she is.

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Scott K. Johnson said...

MN, I'm so sorry about your loss, and I'm sorry I'm so late in finding out.

I hope that my late comment does not pull up emotions that you have dealt with already.

Your post is very beautiful and a very touching tribute.

Please do let me know if there is anything I can help with, even if it is just an ear to bend. I love you dearly MN. (((hugs)))

Sandra Miller said...

I'm just now catching up with your blog-- and found this entry.

Kathy, I am so sorry. I lost my mother many years ago... I still miss her.

This was a lovely tribute -- both to your mom and to how much you meant to one another. Thinking of you and sending you a hug (that I wish like heck I could deliver in person).

~Suzanne~ said...

Kathy,
I am so sorry for your loss! What a beautiful tribute you wrote about her! I am thinking about you!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry.

New Treatment said...

I am sorry for your loss and pray that you find your peace. I am sure your mom is in a better place than here and free from pain.

Your post is a moving tribute. Your mom was blessed with a child like you.