I was reading on another blog, Blind As A Bat, about Beth and dealing with the loss of her mother. It brought back all sorts of thoughts about my own Mom, who died on 17 February 2007, after a year-long battle with lung cancer.

I learned a lot from my Mom, and my Dad. I learned that roles people play aren’t defined; that what you do in a relationship, the part you play, can change over time. Mom’s didn’t just bake and be a Room Mother; they weren’t just Den Mother’s or on the PTA. Mom’s went back to school to become a nurse so that Dad’s could get a teaching degree after he retired from the Air Force.

And Dad’s don’t just throw baseballs with their sons. This son wasn’t the best catch, and to this day I still throw like a girl. But Dad’s can also take their sons on bike rides; they can go to arts-and-crafts shows; Dad’s can do the dishes and cook the meal’s because Mom’s working while he goes to school.

My Mom and Dad are those kinds of Moms and Dads.

My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early part of 2006, and my Dad did what he does best. He researched and called doctors and spoke to people. He took care of my mother every day from the time she was diagnosed until the day she died. And that is not the easiest thing for anyone to do. But it’s what Dad’s do; Dad’s who love their wives with all their hearts; Dad’s who’ve been married to Mom’s for over fifty-one years.

Carlos and I went to see my Mom and dad just after her diagnosis. It was all good spirits and a happy visit, but lung cancer casts an ugly shadow over everything. The survival rate is minuscule; surviving even two years with lung cancer is rare. But he and my Mom went through all the tests and the chemo; losing the hair, the appetite; the sleeplessness; the days to too much sleep; the forgetfulness.

In January of 2007, my Dad asked that I come out again. He was having a tough time being on-call 24/7. And he wanted a helping hand; he wanted an ear; he wanted a visitor. I stayed for about a week, and my Mom seemed in good spirits. We had fresh crab for dinner one night and Mom went crazy over hers. We told stories and laughed; we ate, we drank, we talked. And the clouds grew a bit darker.

A few weeks later my dad began using hospice care to help him care for my Mom. He needed a break every so often. It was a full-time job with no breaks. I remember he gave me the name of the woman who handled the hospice care program and he asked me to call her. I had been asking him if he wanted me to come out and he said it was decision I needed to make for myself.

So I called the woman from hospice and spoke to her; she told me my father had been working so hard caring for my Mom; she told me he was reluctant to ask for help. I told her he was stubborn as a mule–a trait all the family shares–and she said, “I can’t say that, but you can.” I asked is she thought I should go out there, and she said, “As soon as she can. Your mother really doesn’t have much time.”

Not much time. Awful, awful words.

So Carlos and I flew out to Oregon. My mother seemed all right. Alert. Awake. Happy to see us. My sister and brother had come up from California, so we were all together again, for a while.
It seemed as though, once she had her family around, my Mom knew she could go. The next few days her health began failing. She slept most of the time, but when she was awake, she would say the most wonderful things.

My sister visited the month before as well, and she told a story of having dinner, everyone around the table and Mom asleep on the couch. With the idea of death becoming more clear, she began talking about religion. We all have our own thoughts and ideas about religion, what’s right, wrong, who to believe, what to follow. My sister said something about having so many choices, what do you believe.

My Mom woke up for a moment and said, “You take all the best parts of all of them.”
Another time, in that week she died, Mom was asleep on the couch, and her legs slid off to the floor. My sister went and asked if she wanted to change positions and Mom said, “I’m just going to lay hear and let them all watch me.”

I like to think she was talking about the people waiting for her.

Another day, after we’d gotten a hospital bed for her, i was sitting by her side, and she looked through the front window and asked, “Who are all those people on the deck?”

There was no one there, but she saw them, waiting for her.

She died quietly and peacefully in her home. I was sitting in the living room, with Mom asleep across the room. I wanted her to go. I wanted her to be peaceful. I didn’t want her to hurt, or to worry about us. I wanted her to have her hair back and her smile; and that laugh; and the way she would say, “Oh Bobby!” whenever I said something outrageous–which was, and is, often.

My Dad came out of their bedroom and went to stand by her side, and she was gone. That’s a sound you don’t ever want to hear, or will ever forget, the sound your Dad Makes when your Mom has died.

So, that’s my Mom. I was glad to be there when she died; happy to hold her hand on her last day; to send her off with the sounds of her family and her dog, her husband of so many years. Not long after I got home from Oregon, Carlos and I decided to start house-hunting. Nothing seemed right. Too small; too far out; not enough trees. Then the realtor showed me another house, and I walked in the front door and you could see into the kitchen. I pictured my Mom, in one of her housecoats, sitting at a table in that kitchen with her morning coffee, looking into our backyard.

That was the house we bought. And I can still see her, every so often, in that kitchen, looking at my yard. I think of her every day. I talk to her every day. I cry a bit, like now as I remember and relive those last days with her. I told Beth, on her blog, that it will get easier, but it never really gets better

I miss you, Mom.
I love you.



Filed under Blind As A Bat, Cancer, Dad, Sadness

6 responses to “>Mom

  1. >Bob, what a beautiful testament. I got all blubbery again. My real Mom was really my stepmom…just an outrageous woman we lost a year ago.She wanted one more trip home to Maine. she got it the hard way. I put her ashes along with many other friends and family in the stream out back of my house. My last remaining half-brother, who is so totally different than me but loves me with passion, and I figured on the way to the ocean, she could visit each town we lived in two weeks ahead of the bill collectors. As a medium/psychic for much of my life, I don’t feel her often as I feel other spirits, so I’m guessing she did what she did and moved on.She was so looking forward to being with my father again-you wouldn’t think so as they fought most of their long marriage- but they really learned how to love someone by simply sticking it out. And they demonstrated that same loyalty in sickness that you talk about with your dad.I’ll tell ya…( TMI) they made more noise making up than they did arguing. LOL Thanks for this sharing.xoxox charlie

  2. Bob

    >It’s funny, I’d read what Beth said on her blog, and all my Mom stuff came out. I was planning on writing about her on the anniversary of her passing, but I had to do it today.We all have shared feelings and emotions, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we’re like; we all feel that same sense of loss that just won’t go away.Thanks for sharing your story with me.Bob

  3. Dan

    >thanks for the cry and sharing!

  4. >oh Bob….I’m crying. Ya know, when you lose a parent, it feels like you’re all alone. No one else knows how you feel,…the pain, the loss. But you’re NOT all alone. there are so many people who have gone through the same thing. I think we really need to be there for each other….support one another. It’s so hard to get through each day sometimes.Your parents sound like WONDERFUL people….they raised you right? ;)this was a beautiful post Bob….beautiful.

  5. Joy

    >This is a wonderful tribute to your mother, father, and family! Thank you for writing it. I cried for you, for my father, and for my son and what he went through when I almost died. (no picnic for me but that’s on my other blog) My father died in 1977, and you’re right that it gets easier but not better. I miss him so much. My mother is 88, so I appreciate her all the time. Her mind is still sharp; she lives by herself, drives, and is amazing! I’m glad you have this blog and enjoy getting to know you. You grew up in Oregon but now live in SC?

  6. Bob

    >Thanks Joy.I was actually born in Mississippi, grew up in California, moved to Miami and now live in Camden.My parents retired from California to Oregon, so that’s my connection there!

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