Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Last Good-Bye


My Mom died this summer.

She had been in poor health for a long time. She had a couple of close calls last winter, and a rough spring. But she bounced back this summer. She gained back a few pounds. She resumed her busy social life and many activities with new vigour. We stopped worrying quite so much.

And then one day on a sunny morning in August, Mom went downtown for a hair appointment. She was chatting with people. Suddenly, she gasped, collapsed, and stopped breathing. That was it. The end. Neither CPR, nor anything the paramedics did could bring her back.

It took me by surprise. It took us all by surprise. We were not ready to let her go.

Mom with her Youngest Grandchild

Mom and Me in 2014

I went back to my hometown to visit Mom earlier in the summer. I stayed with her in her spare bedroom, and we spent a lovely week together. I went with her to have coffee with her coffee buddies, and to lunch at the seniors' centre, followed by an afternoon of playing cribbage. I accompanied her as she purchased flowers and we went up to the hospital so she could give bouquets of flowers to patients who needed something to brighten their day. She used to do this every week.

We had some lovely dinners at my brother and sister-in-law's place, cooked at home some nights, and went to the Legion for beer and burgers on Friday. Mom's two youngest granddaughters came for a visit on Saturday afternoon, and we all went over to the playground across the street. Mom and I also did several drives out into the country to all of Mom's favourite places. We even did a short hike to the fossil beds. 

Mom and Granddaughters Returning From the Playground, July 2018

At her initiative, we went to tour the two seniors' residences in the community. Mom wanted me to see the places so I could see for myself that she was not at all ready for that type of living arrangement. She talked about her plan for how she would manage to get out and around this winter once the snow became deep. (She did not drive, but used a scooter for mobility. However, the previous winter, there had been some weeks that the snow had been too deep for the scooter.)

In the late afternoon of July 25, I gave my Mom a hug, jumped into the little white rental car, waved good-bye to Mom who was standing at her window waving, and drove away. That was the last time that I got to hug my Mom good-bye.

I was planning to visit again soon, in August. Rob and I were going to drive up north and arrive in time for the Fall Fair. We planned to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday with her on August 31. But just days before we were about to leave on the trip, my brother phoned with the news of her passing. On August 31, instead of celebrating my mom's birthday, we held a Celebration of Life service. 

Her one surviving sister, and every one of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren came to the service. It was the first time in I don't know how many years that all of the family has come together.

Dad, Mom, Me, and My Baby Brother

I flew up the day after Mom passed away and stayed at her place in the same spare bedroom in which I had stayed just three weeks earlier. It felt peaceful being there at Mom's place, surrounded by her stuff, remembering her. It gave me a chance to grieve. As well, I spent lots of time with my brothers and other family who live in the area, and we supported each other, and made the arrangements together.

At my age, I now have had quite a few experiences with death. But there is nothing like losing your mother. It is so stark and irreversible. I am now the oldest generation left in this branch of the family tree.

I spoke at the service. I said that I can always come home to Mom because I have her in my heart.

14 comments:

  1. So very sorry to read this. You’ve penned a lovely tribute.

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    1. Thanks Anabel. There is so much more to say. In losing her, I realized how much I have always looked up to her, and how grateful I am to her for what she taught me about life.

      Jude

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  2. Hi, Jude - You have brought tears to my eyes. This is such a beautiful tribute to your mother. How powerful for you to articulate that she is in your heart so you can always come home. Sending you virtual hugs...until I can hug you again in person.

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    1. At the service, my dear friend Karen who first met my Mom when she was only 7 gave a beautiful eulogy. We laughed and we cried as we remembered her together. I and each of my brothers also spoke, either at the service or later at the reception, and my niece sang “Morning Has Broken.” If only Mom could have been there too, and heard how much she was loved and admired.

      Jude

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  3. I am sorry for your loss. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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    1. Thanks Janette. Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes words are all we have left.

      Jude

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  4. Such a nice tribute to your Mom Judy, thank you for sharing it. She was a great woman and one of my favorite aunts.

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    1. Yes, she was a special person to so many people.

      Jude

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  5. Such an emotional time, Jude. But what a wonderful way to remember your mom and recount your activities together. I’m so glad you got to spend quality time with her in July, and that her passing didn’t involve pain or prolonged agony. I can’t believe she was still living in her own home at 85. What a strong woman and a caring soul. Sorry again for your loss.

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    1. Liesbet, my Mom always used to say that when it was her time to go, she wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. She was determined not to end her days in a hospital. Although death chose her and not the other way round, I am glad for her sake that it was sudden without suffering.

      On another topic, it was great to meet you and Mark in person! Enjoy the rest of your time on Vancouver Island, and the next stage of your travels.

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  6. Kindest regards at your mom's death. We never know when the last time will be. How wonderful that your mom passed engaging in life, getting her hair done. Take care.

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    1. Mona, it is so true that we never know when the last time will be. I guess it is a good reminder to live life fully and to take the time to be close to the people you love. It turns out that all the stuff that we fill our days with and that seems so important means very little compared to relationships with our loved ones.

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  7. Hi Jude - I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to your Mom. Sending you virtual hugs.

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    1. Thanks Natalie. I appreciate the virtual hug!

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