Note about the photo: My dad was back from World War II, he had built their first house, and the first baby was born – me. I can hardly imagine the excitement and hope for the future that Mom and Dad had as their lives together began to unwind and reveal the joy, the pain, the adventure, but mostly the love that led them through 68 years of marriage.
I began this 12 days ago. Mom died on June 17 at 7:00 a.m. It’s been 24 days since my sister and I have functioned in anywhere approaching a normal pattern. That’s ok. We both had 24 days to spare for our mother. We will forever be grateful that Mom’s pain did not last very long, that she was able to go out under her own terms, and that she died comfortably at home. At least one of us was with her at all times, holding her hand, telling her how much we loved her, what a good mother she’d been, and that it was ok for her to go, we understood.
We had a memorial on Friday, June 24, before Janine went back to Alaska. It was small and intimate, at my house, and it was a good send-off. I had made photo boards and I’m going to do some blog posts matching my eulogy to photos – partly because I think it’s interesting to look at old photos, but mainly as a tribute to Mom.
Even though we hadn’t really had mom for years because of her dementia, I still miss her terribly. Even though she was 87 and deserved to die on her own terms, I miss her. I’m at Pismo Beach now, alone, hoping to catch up on sleep and quietly contemplate mom’s life. In all the hubbub, no one has had time to properly mourn her or consider her life.
It’s still perplexing how all of this happened so fast. We knew, of course, something big would happen soon. Each day that something didn’t happen was one day closer to the “event:” losing a parent. I mean, Mom was 87 and Dad is 93. We knew it was looming. We’d been blessed by all those years. But then it happened. So fast. June 1 was the first time we knew we were in trouble – 17 days.
Mom had been in pain before June 1, but it was perplexing. Dad would call and say, “Your mother is in terrible pain. We have to go to the hospital.” One of us would rush over and Mom would be sitting on the couch laughing or standing at the stove. So we’d leave only to get another call the next day. Looking back, she may have had a small fracture that was irritated more and more by certain movements – I don’t know – until it reached critical.
People ask – doctors, officials – when did she fall? But how would one know unless that person was present? With elderly people who don’t remember so well, it’s likely that you’d never know when a fall occurred. Elderly people fall at home, they fall in hospitals, they fall in nursing homes, they fall in supermarkets – they just fall. Sometimes Mark has gone over to help Mom up from a fall, but not often and not for a while. The doctor said she may have fallen sometime that we didn’t know about and had a hairline fracture that could have worsened just by leaning hard against something, i.e. a fall that didn’t quite happen.
But now I understand why broken hips and broken pelvises often spell the end for the elderly. It’s too much for an already frail body to recover from.
Mom, rest in peace. We knew you and loved what we knew. Our kids and grandkids – your great grandkids – all knew you and loved you. You made us all better people just by being you. You will not be forgotten. You made a difference. We will try to continue that difference, learning from you as we contemplate the details of your life and fully understand your tremendous courage.