My mother died on Sunday, the 9th of September. She was almost 88 years old. She and my father had been married for nearly 67 years at the time of her death. She was the last of her immediate family to die, and she was proceeded in death by her parents and her two sisters. Her passing was not unexpected, but it was still like being punched in the stomach.
My mom and I had a conversation that I still recall vividly. It took place in 1968 while my family was living in Albany, Georgia. My father was in the Navy at the time, and he was at sea. I was crying in my room because I had somehow come to the realization that one day my mother would die. My mom heard me and came into my room, and she asked me why I was crying. In between sobs I told her, and she sat on my bed, and she told me it would be a long time before that happened. Well, it was fifty years, and it was not long enough.
My mom had a tough childhood. Her father had multiple sclerosis, and he was unable to work. This was during the Great Depression, and there were no social programs like there are today. My mom had to come home at recess and at lunch to care for her father because her mother was working to support the family. Her father died when she was 13, and shortly thereafter her mother was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; the doctors said it was a one in a million chance.
I remember watching my mother while she ironed. She would have the news on or the Mike Douglas Show or something similar. I learned about world events because I saw the reports from Vietnam and the 1967 Six-Day War, and I saw the news reports from the civil unrest which at that time was spreading across the nation. When Martin Luther King was shot she sat my sister and I down and talked about how we should treat all people with dignity and respect. She told us color, class or beliefs shouldn’t matter.
My mom didn’t write a great novel, and she will likely never be remembered for some great thing she did, but she was my mother, and she loved me, my brother and sister and my father. She had a beautiful smile which she did not lose until the last week of her life. Dementia and a series of mini-strokes took her life, so I lost her twice. Once when she could not remember me, and finally when she died.
I spent the night on the floor next to her during one of the last nights before her death. I stroked her hair, and I rubbed her legs, and I listened to her breathe. I did it because she would have done it for me. I said goodbye, and all the other things one says at times like that. We all felt peace when she died, but it still hurt. Does still. Goodbye, mom.
I can tell you all of this would have been worse if we had not been united as a family. We all knew what my mother would want, and we all supported my father. We had powers of attorney in place, and my mom had a will. We never needed a guardian because we had planned ahead. If we can help you through times like this, let us know.