Sunday, July 1, 2018

It Will Be a Year

I'm pretty sure on this day last year, a Sunday, I was sitting with my mom at her care facility. I wheeled her around outside, listening to the chirping of the birds in the trees, and enjoying the warmth of the sunny day. I told her stories about the birds we listened to, the butterflies floating nearby in the little garden of flowers, and the cute dog that was a part of weekend visits there. When we went back inside for her lunch, I sat content by her side, enjoying the time with my mother and learning all the different oddities of the others seated around her.

There was a man who wheeled himself around and around the room as if searching for his lost love. There was a boisterous lady who reminded us of an old family friend with a biting, sarcastic humor. There was a sweet black lady who was blind, and had a marvelous singing voice and a huge sweet tooth for candy. A Chinese lady who befriended me and tried to get Mom to talk more. These people had become a normal part of my life. I'd grown fond of them, and looked forward to seeing them as I visited my mother.

How was I to know that in one week my mother would be gone? How do any of us ever know? No, her health wasn't great, but she seemed stable. It had been easy to picture heading into fall and Halloween at the facility, and then Thanksgiving and Christmas. In my mind I planned all sorts of fun things for Mom and the other residents. I would read stories to them, and make little gift bags. I couldn't wait.

Friday of that week, I got a very serious phone call from the Home. Mom began bleeding, vomiting actually. They wanted to know which hospital to send her. I chose an older hospital that we had used most of our lives; I knew that they knew her history best, and would give her good care. I phoned my work office and told them I wouldn't be in. I told them my mother had another emergency.

By the time I got to the E.R., Mom was doing better, rather quiet and calm. A doctor pulled me aside and much like our decision with Dad, told me it may be time to let the Good Lord intervene if He so chose. She had lost huge amounts of blood. They would only give her a blood transfusion if the family requested it, but in observing her failing health, her passing would be inevitable anyway. My brother and I spoke about it, and as long as Mom was comfortable and not vomiting any longer (they had given her something for that), we would begin the vigil of letting her go.

I remember sitting with my mother back at the care facility later that day. She told me that I looked pretty in the color I wore. She would fall asleep, become agitated, and then awaken where I would reassure her with words of comfort. I sat by her side quietly for hours.

The next day my husband and I visited with Mom. She did not wake up. Her breathing was shallow, the gurgle in her chest had begun. I laid my head upon my mother's shoulder while tears found their way out of the corners of my eyes. I began singing softly to my mother, silly songs she'd sung to comfort me as a child. Later that night, I received a phone call around three a.m. Mom wouldn't be here much longer. I live an hour away and wanted to leave immediately. My husband was worried for me driving at that hour and in the state I was in. My brother was able to be at our mother's side, and we remained on the phone together for a long while.

My brother later told that a sound like soft footsteps seemed to enter the room though no nurse was there. A napkin blew down from Mom's table, though no breeze created it. And in our mother's hands was clutched her Miraculous Medal necklace though we couldn't imagine how it had gotten there. Mom passed very peacefully.

I remember being strong for myself and other family members during the preparations for her funeral. I remember holding up well and greeting loved ones and friends with my own comfort for them and the words, "I know she is with God and Dad now." And my mother looked beautiful--radiant almost. I had no difficulty standing near her casket and soaking in every last detail that I could of her.

Why is it that I am having such a rough time right now? What is it about this first anniversary of her passing that has thrown me into a black hole of despair? For I find that I am not the same person. I am easily offended, sad and depressed. I cannot find the laughter that was such a big part of my world--of my family's world. Why is grief refusing to let me go of it's ugly grip?

I have many emotions when I think back on all that our family has gone through in these last two years. Two years of losing both parents. Two years of Mom's dementia and failing health. Part of what I feel is guilt, you see. Guilt over relief that a burden has been lifted. Guilt over not being there for my mother's final breath. Guilt over making the decision about the blood transfusion. But what is it that Mom always said?

My mother wrote me many notes and little letters in cards through the years. And one that I found recently said this: All our love always and forever. I want you to know all bad things pass but good thoughts last forever. Hold those good thoughts in your heart.

 And another: My Dearest Karen, I'm not the writer you are, but I speak from my heart. We grew together not just mother and daughter, but best friends also. We had laughs over the years but most of all, love. When you tell me I taught you compassion, you already had it when I was sick in your early years. I have been proud to be your mother. We are human, Kar, the Lord didn't mean for us to be angels on this earth. To me being kind and sympathetic as we all are is what I believe the Lord wanted for us. Don't waste this precious life on past mistakes; live it with joy and laughter as much as possible. All my love, Mom

These tangible reminders of how my mother saw life, are guides, beacons to me,  of how she wants me to live. Would she want me to remain guilt-ridden? I think not. Would she want me to wallow in depression? No. I think Mom is speaking to me through these little notes. I think she always knew how I would feel--how I would take her passing. As always, she is there to teach me and guide me. And in my heart, I know that these feelings will pass.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (And in the mourning.)


  1. A beautiful, beautiful post, Karen. Thank you for sharing this. This (or part of this) could easily fit into your memoir. <3

    1. Thank you, Ann. I appreciate your comments and helping me to truly think about the memoir.

  2. Oh Karen, I can feel your grief. I am so close to my mother that I worry about all of the same things. I have a couple of friends who have lost their parents in the last year and are feeling the same grief. I don’t know exactly how you feel but I think that rereading your mom’s notes is the best thing you can do. God is with you and so is you mom.❤️

    1. Joanne, thank you so much for your lovely words of encouragement. I know you are close with your mom also. Giving our hearts away hurts sometimes, but it is who we are and how we were brought up.

  3. The first year after losing a loved one is a bear. Even the good memories hurt. GriefShare and my church family helped me navigate my husband's passing 11 years ago. I think about him every day, but the sharp edges have softened. As long as we are here, God has a plan and a purpose for us. Your Mom gave you a rich heritage of faith and love. You will get through this.

  4. Beautiful! What a treasure those notes from your mother are!! Thank you for sharing, Karen. I relate so much!