My world changed one week ago, when my mother had a stroke. One minute she was pulling weeds in her garden and the next minute she was in a coma in the hospital, from a blood vessel that had burst in her brain. When I got the news, I flew from our home in Montana to my hometown in Pennsylvania.
Even though I left as soon as possible, my mother never regained consciousness, and passed away the day after I arrived. I was blessed to spend her last night by her bedside in the hospital and talked with her most of the night, convinced that she could hear me.
I was holding her hand on Wednesday afternoon as she took her last breath, along with my father and my siblings, surrounded by many of her grandchildren.
I always thought I’d have more time. There are still so many things on my list that I want to do with my parents, and I always thought we’d do them “someday”. I always thought my parents would get sick, we’d spend time together and then they’d pass away. I thought they’d be “old”, would have lived a full life, and I’d be okay with the separation. I didn’t expect to feel like my heart was being ripped out of my body.
When my maternal grandmother died about 8 years ago, I couldn’t understand why my mother was so sad. My grandmother lived a long and happy life for 97 years. With the passing of my mother, no matter the age of their passing, I now understand. Some things have to be experienced for us to “get it”.
I didn’t expect our last telephone conversation just a few days before to be the last time I’d ever hear my mother’s voice. I’m so grateful that as always, we both ended the call with, “I love you”.
This whole experience has been surreal for me. My mom was the poster child for senior health. At 77, she looked like she was in her early 60’s and still worked out regularly. She was full of energy and was always busy helping someone else. For her, giving wasn’t something that she did, it was who she was and her way of life. From volunteering at the local senior home to building houses for charity or helping a neighbor, my mom lived to give.
She’s been there for my father, my four siblings and me, the grandkids and great-grandkids and anyone else who needed anything. She was the one that I turned to when I needed a shoulder, and the first one that I’d call to celebrate good news.
She was the one that I’d call for an opinion or for advice. Just last week when I got the phone call from my sister telling me about my mom’s stroke, I quickly packed for the trip. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, I decided to pack a dress for a memorial service, just in case. I couldn’t find the right black dress, but found a brown one instead. As I pulled it out of my closet, my first thought was, “Can I wear a brown dress to a funeral?” My first instinct was to call Mom and ask her… and that’s when it really hit me. If I needed the dress, it would be for her funeral…. and I didn’t think she’d mind if it was brown.
Sunday we celebrated my mother’s life at a beautiful memorial service with more than 400 friends and family. They all came to offer their condolences, share stories of her life and celebrate this amazing woman that I was lucky enough to call my mother.
As I write this blog on the airplane returning to Montana, my mind is still spinning. It’s still not real. I still expect her to call me when I get home. I’m still processing the whirlwind week and the finality of losing my mother. As a writer, I’m sure many of my upcoming blogs will be inspired by the wisdom of my mom, and from the bittersweet beauty of this experience.
I know that love never dies, that our loved ones are with us always, and that the memory of my mother will live in my heart forever. I also know that life is short and we never know when we’ll have our last opportunity to say the things we want to say, until the moment is gone.
So, if you want to say, “I love you”, go say it now. If you need to say, “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you”, go say it now. Go do the things you want to do with those that you love- now. Don’t think that you’re too busy or that you can do it tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.
As I close this with a grateful yet very heavy heart, I have to share a tweet that was sent to me by a friend, which sums up my feelings perfectly…….
Your mom is going to make such a beautiful butterfly… but we’re sure going to miss the caterpillar.
p.s. THANK YOU for the many emails, tweets, Facebook posts and phone calls… your love and support during this difficult time mean the world to me!
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You know I understand oh to well, I have no words to take away your sorrow. I only have my understanding and love
Hugs, my friend
Thank you Sam. Sending love and hugs back to you. 🙂
My heart and prayers continue to go out to you and your family. I teared up reading your post. I can’t even imagine that taking place in the way that you described. I’ve had close encounters with my father’s illness as recent as just prior to our exchange while you were at your mother’s bedside.
What a blessing it was to have the relationship you did w/your mother. That in itself is such a special gift and unfortunately I hear too often of those passing with out the connectedness of a loved one or a last word: “I love you.”
Your mom’s beautiful life will continue through you and your family…a legacy that never will die.
Much love, prayers and hugs,
Thank you Duong. I’m still so sad and think that I’ll wake up from the nightmare soon… but life goes on. It’s funny how we all know this is coming, yet it never seems real. Perhaps that’s because the love lives on and we’re still connected- even if she’s not “here”. Big hugs to you my friend. 🙂
p.s. Did you see my mom’s angel wings?
The photo of my mother above was taken about two weeks ago on the beach in South Carolina. My brother Dennis vacationed with his entire family, and my parents joined for a fun week on the beach.
On the photo, my brother and my cousin’s husband were standing on either side of my mom. On this cropped photo, their shoulders remind me of angel wings. Somehow, I think this photo would make her smile. 🙂
Now I see her angel wings. Beautiful. With love, Hebe
I am so taken by your post. I experienced the very same situation with my mother, and packing the “funeral dress” as I hurried to get to California from my home in Santa Fe New Mexico. My mother was in a coma, and I was with her as she took her last breath, kissed her and rested my head on her breast. So shocking, 4 years ago now…I am an artist and this experience has been the subject of many paintings. Her spirit is with me and I will never forget the experience of being with her at the end, a profound connection…..
Best to you and thankyou for your post,
I know you are getting home after a hard week. Probably one of the hardest of your life. I’ve thought a lot this past week about what you must going through and about losing my own mother 3 years ago. In some ways, it seems like yesterday. My memory of those days after is so clear because of the wonderful realizations i had during that time. I felt like my mom was all around me. Butterflies seemed attracted to me, and i knew i just knew it was her spirit. I felt so connected to them. A trip to the beach for a walk, i was surrounded by sandpipers, her favorite bird. They walked along with me, and one in particular, stayed close to me, even when I stopped and sat for a spell. I felt her spirit within the little bird. It wasn’t so much of a reincarnation type thing but that her spirit was a part of everything beautiful that she loved. And that same spirit was within me as well. My mom found beauty everywhere, even though alzhiemer’s tried to take her mind, her eyes and heart still saw beauty. In my eye rolling teenage years i was embarrassed. In my 50+ year old adulthood I am inspired to find beauty in everything i can, because that’s her. It’s her legacy to me.
I know that these days ahead will be sad sometimes, and there will be always sadness, but joy and recognition of your mom will be everywhere. I think its God’s gift to us when we lose someone we are so connected to, that their love stays with us manifesting in lovely surprising ways.
If i could send a bouquet of butterflies to you, i would, But something tells me that your mom will handle that.
My thoughts are with you. It was always the thing I dreaded, the passing of my mother. Your mom was so young, so it was unexpected – such a shock for you. I believe she heard every word you spoke during those last few hours you were with her. I was once knocked unconscious after a bad fall from a horse. I could hear what people were saying to me but could do nothing about it. I could neither speak nor move in that very far away place – it was a safe place – I think your mom is in a very safe and loving place and she didn’t have to suffer to get there.
Blessings, love & hugs, Hebe XX
I admire you and your words. So sorry to hear about your mom passing. May she rest in peace.
I’m so glad you were able to be with your mom before she died. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to her.
I love her picture – when I saw it I immediately thought you had some how Photoshopped angel wings on her. Now I see she was surrounded by family. Wow … it’s pretty amazing that she was enjoying a week at the beach just a couple weeks ago.
Much love and hugs to you during this difficult time.
Your experience so echoes my own. The journey my Mom and I took began last May when she entered hospice and ‘ended’ when she passed last November. She has been so present in my life and has been showing up all over the place in messages and in BUTTERFLIES:) so it was no surprise that one is here on your page. I too have had the blessing of writing alot about her; two of the chapters in my book are about her. I wish I had been with her at the time of her passing, but she orchestrated it differently My heart is with you and your family <3 Edie
Love, like a soft blanket, warms the heart during the coldest of times. We care about you and hope that our love helps soothe your heart at this time of sorrow.
Bless you Dearheart.
YES I SAW HER WINGS!! 🙂 When I looked at her picture I immediately thought so.
What a beautiful tribute you have written to your mother. I lost my mom when I was 6. It’s doesn’t matter what age you are, the loss of a mother is felt very deeply. You have planted such wonderful seeds of love, compassion and inspiration for people all over the world. Now you Receive, Recieve, Recieve.
I am so glad to be a part of this community of Love and Inspiration you’ve created.
Take time and take care.
Gail, I just saw this, and want to send my heartfelt condolences./ I had no idea that this had just happened in your life!
with warmth and love,
Though the words in this article are perfect I’m finding, five months on since my Mom passed, that I’m getting little joy in life. Instead of the pain diminishing or being controllable I’m finding the pain is constant with superficial joys layered on top of it here and there. I’m even discovering more & more the depth of her sacrifices and the challenges she faced. The rest of my immediate family are very cold people and a few are bad liars, thieves and bullies. My Mom’s side of the family are wonderful but unfortunately in another country. So essentially I’m suffering alone. I have one friend whose willing to listen but even he has limits. As selfish as it sounds, I feel unloved and miss my Mom. She was an angel on this Earth and had to deal with an abusive husband for decades. Now dear old Dad and my oldest brother are hoarding my Mom’s money that she inherited, lying and stealing in broad daylight. Right now my only consolation is knowing that my Mom is watching them and that there could be a place in hell for them if such a place exists. I definitely really understand why some people turn to drugs and alcohol but that’s not my way. I’m just not enjoying life but at the same time trying to not let the bastards win by fighting through this. Thanks.
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I lost my Mom 2 months ago to stage 4 colon cancer. Horrible horrible pain she suffered with. I was with her a lot from her diagnosis and for the following 6 months until she passed. I miss her a lot and have so many stories to tell her and catch up on our discussions. Im very afraid of death and I pray that there is a heaven where God takes care of his children like my Mom and everyone else at they are all safe. I look for signs hoping she can see me and hear me but no signs seem to be offered.
Michael, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s been nearly two years now since I lost my mom, and I still miss her everyday. I had two experiences in the last year with two different InspireMeToday.com luminaries, where they’ve passed on messages to me from my mother.
Depending upon your religious beliefs, this may or may not resonate with you. In each telephone call, I was given a message from my mother that had to have come from her, for what they shared was so private and personal that no one else could have known these things.
Most importantly they both shared the one universal message- that love never dies. We never die, but rather, we return to the Divine force from which we came, and the love continues. I believe that our loved ones are still near us, watching over us, and available to hear us in every moment.
If your mom was anything like mine, I’m guessing that she would want you to live a happy life, not one spent mourning for her. She’s isn’t really “gone” Michael, she’s just in another place or on another plane… but her love for you continues even now. I believe with all of my heart that most of all, she’d want you to be comforted in knowing that she’s healthy and happy where she is now, she’s watching over you and still celebrating the joys in your life with you, and is still there to listen to you when you speak with her now. The hard part is in hearing her answers. 🙂
As we age, losing those that we love is a part of life. I hope it comforts you to know that she’s still there, that she still loves you, and that she’s still watching over you, even now.
So ask yourself, what could you do today that would make your Mom really happy- and go do that. For me, I take my mom with me on hikes into the woods, and talk with her there. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I can feel here there with me. Regardless, it’s comforting and makes me feel close to her again.
I hope this helps you Michael.
Sending big hugs and love,