Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Last week my mom died. Even as I write that, it does not seem real to me. My mom, who was always, always, always there for me, is gone.

It started simply enough. She was not feeling well so my sister took her to her house. But very atypical, she asked to stay. I traveled down to visit her. She looked fine but was complaining about some weakness in her legs. She thought she had some medication imbalance, had some doctors’ appointments lined up and I came home.

I had barely put my suitcase down when my sister called and said that they had taken her to the hospital. When I arrived the following day, she was mumbling The Lord’s Prayer, over and over. I remember a day in my life I did the same and wondered if my mom was in the same state of panic I had been. I laid down next to her, held her, and cried. And then the next day, a day of agony. My mom in obvious distress, obviously scared and crying out in pain. Over and over, for hours and hours. They gave her morphine and more morphine and nothing touched it. For me it was a day of sobbing and praying and so much anger that her god would put her through this.

And then there was quiet. A massive stroke had affected both sides of her brain. There was no longer recognition. Just a gentle staring and a rhythmic but labored breathing. We made the decision, based on her request, to remove all life support. Her lungs started to fill with fluid and the breathing got more and more labored. All through the night I would sit beside her, holding her hand, and listen to her breathing. But still she hung on. We moved her to hospice.

After a few days I left to return home, needing to restock my meds and clothes. On the train I got a call. Her breathing had changed. Barely discernible. I returned to her side and then she finally passed. It’s been a long, emotional week, but not without its blessings.

  • Long estranged from my brother (because of his homophobic wife) we shared a small hospital room for a week and sobbed in each other’s arms over and over again. The estrangement broke my mother’s heart. I hope she knows it’s going to be okay now.

  • Sharing tears and stories with my mom’s best friend, Joy. They had been friends for more than 60 years. Everyday Joy came and shared stories. How wonderful to see my mother, as a single working girl, as a newly wed, as a young mother - all through the eyes of her best friend who was with her through it all.

  • Meeting the myriad of women who came to say goodbye and tell us stories of how my mother had impacted their lives. I was bursting with pride.

  • After my father died (and donated his body to a medical center) there was no wake, funeral or memorial service. I never really understood why. Now, having read my mom’s final wishes, it came to light that my parents wanted to have their memorials together. My mother also donated her body and when we receive her ashes in two years, their ashes will be buried together. Just as they wanted. Together in life. Together in death. Theirs was an amazing love story.

I am not sure what life will look like now. How much will I miss our regular Sunday chats? Who will I piss and moan to when Martha is driving me nuts? Who will give me parental advice when I worry about my children? Who will gently nudge me when I’ve screwed up? Who will be my biggest cheerleader when I’m on a new challenge? I am now officially an orphan and I feel an enormous void.

I know how fortunate I’ve been to have my mother in my life for as long as I have. How blessed I have been to have an inspiration and model for healthy relationships, for deep and abiding friendships, for volunteerism and citizenship. I can only hope to be a fraction of the parent/spouse/friend she was.

Saying goodbye is so fucking hard.  But remembering is so very sweet.


  1. Hugs. Must have been such a long week, I'm so happy to hear about your brother tho, what a gift indeed.

  2. Your parents' story brought tears to my eyes...

    Saying goodbye is so fucking hard. But remembering is so very sweet.

    May those memories lighten your sorrow and comfort and strengthen you in the days to come.


  3. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds WONDERFUL.

  4. Oh honey. I'm so, so, so very sorry. It's absolutely wrenching. And after the string of sorrow your family has gone through lately, it just isn't fair.

    You know how to reach me. Let me know what kind of cross-continent support I can give you. Tea time. Chocolate time. Crying time. Whatever you need.

    also, really glad about your brother...

  5. I remember the first time I met your parents - Thanksgiving Day. I was so nervous and your mother made me feel instantly welcome and part of the family.

    She was a great and gracious lady. I will miss her as I am sure many, many will. And I will always be so grateful that she gave me my best friend.

  6. Oh my, 8thday! Too much pain. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I wish I could give you a great big hug.

  7. I am so sorry that she is gone, I am sorry that you lost her. It is hard to lose a parent that you love.

  8. And heaven just became A LOT more fabulous.

  9. I am so very, very sorry, 8th. So very sorry. It is such a hard thing, made more so by how sudden and unexpected it was.

    My thoughts are with you and your family. And please know how sorry I am for your loss.

  10. So sorry you are going through this hard time of grief and that your mom died in such a confusing and painful way.

    So happy that you were there to hold her and walk her through the transition. And that you and your brother reconnected. Hugs and blessings.

  11. I am saddened by news of your mother's unexpected passing. I will be praying that God will bless you and your family and give you strength and comfort in your sorrow.

  12. oh I am so sorry for your loss - I lost my mother last year on St. Patrick's day. It's very hard - and that's such a complicated relationship for so many of us.

  13. So sorry for your loss. The loss of a parent is so intense.

    your memories and your reconnections will keep you grounded. and the love you continue to surround yourself with will help you to heal.