More than a year ago, I went to visit my mom’s doctor. We knew she had dementia, along with a host of other health problems, but I wanted to speak with the doctor about our next steps and expectations. At the end of the visit, I asked him if he could give me a ballpark idea on how much time we had left with Mom.
When he said “Christmas” my heart fell down to my feet. He assured me it wouldn’t be the dementia that ended her life, but one of her other health issues.
Christmas came and went, but shortly after the holidays, Mom began having severe heart issues. Each day she survived, I looked at as a bonus day with her. We went to visit several times, then in early March, she ended up in the hospital. The doctor called a meeting with my dad, my brothers, and me to let us know Mom was on limited time and suggested hospice care for her.
My dad wanted to keep Mom at home and we all supported his decision, so just before all the social distancing began, we got Mom settled at home in a hospital bed with an incredible, amazing hospice team.
A few days before Easter, Mom was having some issues, so I spoke with one of the hospice nurses. She urged me not to wait to visit, but to come as soon as I could. So Captain Cavedweller and I made the three-hour trip to spend Easter with Mom and Dad. Mom had what the nurses called a “coronary event” just a few minutes after we arrived and I decided it was time to come stay with them to help Dad take care of her. I went home the next day, packed up what I’d need for an extended stay, and came back two days later. I spent the next ten days in a blur of helping care for my mother and helping my dad. Between cooking, washing what seemed like an unending pile of laundry, making funeral arrangements, and nursing (a skill at which I feel so inept), I watched my mom grow weaker by the day, sometimes by the hour.
But there, in the midst of it all, were some of the sweetest moments – moments I look at as such blessings and will always treasure. Two mornings I got up to check on Mom at 3 a.m. and stayed by her bedside. Surprisingly, her mind seemed crystal clear and we spoke of so many things during those precious hours before Dad awoke and her lucidity faltered.
When I thanked her for giving me a love of reading and books, she told me how proud she was of me, of my writing, and said, “I never dreamed you’d become an author and write such good stories.”
I asked her dozens of questions, too. Questions I am now pondering why I waited so long to ask. I found out when Mom was a little girl, she wanted to be a cowgirl and sing like Pasty Montana. I had no idea. None at all.
We talked about my favorite meal she used to make which was homemade egg noodles with chicken. She told me she never liked noodles, but made them because she knew I did.
Her memories of my childhood faded away months and months ago, but as we spoke, she recalled a few things that had happened. We laughed. I cried. And I saw my mom, not just as my mother, but a woman who had lived such a rich, lovely life. A woman who had once been a little girl who wanted to sing about being a cowboy’s sweetheart and had such a big heart full of dreams. She had eighty-eight years of triumphs and challenges, a life of great love and many losses. And it took facing the loss of her before I fully realized just how spectacular she was.
When we knew her time was at an end, my husband left work early and made the trip to be with us. One of the last responses we had from Mom was when I told her CC was on his way. He’s always been such a fan of her homemade cinnamon rolls and she’s always been quite fond of CC. I asked her if she wanted to make some cinnamon rolls for him. She shook her head. When I asked if she thought I should make some, she nodded slightly and squeezed my hand.
Together, Dad and I held Mom’s hands through a night that seemed as though it would never end even as we were afraid it would while CC was there to help however he could. Mom entered into her eternal rest in the early morning hours April 24, surrounded by love, listening to her favorite hymns, knowing she would be missed dearly, but never forgotten.
Mother’s Day is proving to be a bit of a challenge for me this year. My heart still feels so raw and the edges jagged from having part of it ripped out at her passing. A lovely, dear friend wrote to me that when our mothers die, a part of our soul goes right along with them. I completely agree.
But if Mom was here with us this Mother’s Day, there are some things I’d definitely tell her.
Here’s what I would say:
Because of you, I’ve taken adventures all over the world, into the past and future through books. I’ll never forget you reading the Trixi Belden and the Little House books to me or sharing the piles of books I’d drag home from the library. Even during my awkward teenage years, books and the wonderful stories in Good Housekeeping magazine were one way we always connected.
Because of you, I learned to cook and bake, care for a home, host a party, and sew, although we both know I never enjoyed sewing all that much. If it wasn’t for your help and nudging, I’d still be trying to sew that stupid pillow for home ec class. I probably never thanked you properly, but I used to love all those special things you’d make for me, like the crocheted Easter basket and the keepsake box that played music when you opened the lid. I still have them, even after all these years.
Because of you, I’ve been ruined for maple bars. No one can make them as good as yours. CC would say the same thing about your cinnamon rolls.
Because of you, I grew up to be independent and strong, but also have a tender heart. Thank you for raising me to be a good person.
Because of you, I grew up with a heart full of faith. No matter what life throws my way, faith has always given me a solid foundation to stand on. That is a priceless gift that I’ll cherish for all eternity. Thank you, Mom, for that, and for the hope that I’ll see you again one day in Heaven.
To those of you who have lost your mom, my heart goes out to you for I know your grief now on a personal level. May you find comfort in your memories and peace in the love lingering in your heart.
And to those of you who still have your mom with you, even if you can’t be with her to celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope you’ll tell her how much you love her, appreciate her, and maybe you’ll even ask her what she dreamed of being when she was a little girl.
Happy Mother’s Day with love.