I was 48 years old when my mother died in 2008. She had battled cancer for 5 years and she played the hand that she was dealt in the most dignified way possible. The last 10 days of her life were spent in a hospital. It was surreal how those four walls became a universe all their own while the outside ceased to exist.
The first few days after her death are a bit vague but I remember planning a service with my siblings that we thought brought dignity to her life. I remember the cards, flowers, people coming to visitation and the funeral. I remember sleeping harder in the first two weeks than I had slept in a long time.
The reality set in around week three when the cards and meals stopped coming and I started to get back into a routine. The reality manifested itself in the most odd ways. A routine that I had enjoyed every morning after the kids left for school was me sitting down with cereal, coffee, and the paper. If I saw something that I thought would amuse her, I would give her a call and we would start our day with me reading something humorous or ridiculous in the paper. Or maybe Oprah would come on and the guest would be someone that I thought my mom might enjoy. I would give her a call and more often than not we would just stay on the phone the whole hour and watch it together.
One of the first mornings that I sat down with coffee and the paper, I reached for the phone and caught myself before I actually dialed. The first few times that I went to the grocery store after she passed, I caught myself about to phone her to see if she needed me to pick up a few items for her while I was out.
What finally did me in was about a month after she passed I had an outpatient procedure done. I was curled up in the recliner, snugged under a blanket, and just generally miserable. Without thinking, I picked up the phone and actually dialed the phone number that was tattooed on my brain. The phone rang and the recording said, “The number that you have reached has been disconnected.” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the full extent of what losing my mother meant. My mother was a great listener and comforter. I knew from previous history that if I was feeling low that I could give her a call, whine for a few minutes, she would say something like “I’m so sorry that you are having a bad day.”, another topic would eventually be brought up and by the time we ended the conversation I would feel better.
That’s what good mothers do. They give you comfort. They will always be someone who cares how you are feeling even if you are 48 years old and fully capable of taking care of yourself. I don’t know if this is a mother/daughter thing. When my dad passed 8 months later it didn’t impact me in the same way. My mother and I made the effort to communicate and be part of each other’s lives. She brought me comfort, she was the thing in my life that remained steady and always was there waiting for me when I needed her. I know she appreciated me helping her when she was sick and unable to be fully independent, but I have the feeling that I still needed her more than she needed me.
One of my friends lost her mother a couple of weeks ago. I was out of town when she passed and missed the funeral. but a week later my daughter and I took a meal over. My friend had just pulled into the driveway when we arrived. It was her first day back to work and she had tears in her eyes. She told me part of her routine was to call her mother on the way home from work everyday to check on her. It seemed to hit her hard to have made that drive in silence. Before my mother died I wouldn’t have understood that fully. I was able to cry with her over that because I had experienced it myself.
If any good thing can come out of tragedy it is that we grow into a person of depth. All of the right things we say when others have tragedies that we haven’t experienced are appropriate. However, it isn’t until we have experienced them ourselves that we become the more full version of ourselves that God designed us to be. We are able to love each other more deeply and in turn it helps to heal us knowing we are not alone.
If you are lucky enough to have your mother still with you I hope that you have a close relationship. I hope that you love each other deeply. When that day comes when she has moved on to her next journey, please call on me if you need a good listener. I get it.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
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