April 24, 2018

New Perspective

My mother died at home in the most gentle, loving manner. My sister, my father and I were holding her hands, stroking her face, telling her how loved she was. Her surviving sisters, brother and sister-in-law all called at one time or another to tell her they loved her.

Dad told her many times that he loved her and that she was beautiful.

We had decided to bring her home. Hospice ordered a hospital bed and all the supplies we needed to make her comfortable.

Many nights my 89 year old father would sit with her for hours, holding her hand.

Mom and Dad were the absolute best dancers I've ever seen. They could Swing Dance like nobody's business, always gathering a crowd around them as they boogied!

They collected albums (remember those) of all the Old Standards. With Mom's hospital bed in the living room, we would play Frankie Lane, Ella Fitzgerald, Keely Smith and Louie Prima. With each record that played, Dad would share a memory of their early days, dancing, concerts, picnics, camping in the Rockies. Sixty-eight years of marriage and lots and lots of precious memories.

There were also a tremendous number of epiphanies as we sat vigil with Mom.  It broke my heart to see her so vulnerable. Never in my life had I ever thought of her as helpless or indefensible. In those moments, I discovered that I had only thought of her as "Mom" never as a "Woman". I'm not sure I know how to explain it to anyone in a way they can understand, or if we all suddenly "get it" as our mothers pass from this world to the next.

As we have been sorting through her letters, memoirs, stories, we have uncovered incredible things about her. She saved every Mother's Day card, Birthday card or just card-card we ever gave her, sometimes not the whole card, just the part where we wrote, "Happy Birthday Mom, I love you".

We discovered that she wrote letters to congressmen, NASA, Historical Societies, and various VIP's. She kept copies (typewrite carbon copies) of all her letters, inquiries and thank you's. My sister and I were both awarded scholarships when we graduated from high school; Mom wrote thank you letters to the organizations and schools that awarded the scholarships. She fought hard to keep my brother from going to Vietnam and to get him out of Vietnam once he was sent there. At the time, he was in the Air Force and the only son of an only son. No descendants to pass on the Young surname.

She clipped every San Francisco Giants newspaper article for the past 50 years, as well as every article of historical significance. She clipped notes to many articles, explaining the mood of the country or what our family was up to at the time, what her thoughts were.

Her collection of Genealogy articles is overwhelming. She has copies of Land Grants, grant deeds, birth certificates, baptismal certificates, wedding certificates, honorable discharges. We had ancestors who have been state congressmen, sheriffs and sheriffs deputies in the wild, wild west. One great-great uncle had a run-in with Jack Black Ketchum and lost, she's got the hard evidence of that sad event.

Mom never, ever let the sun cook her the way most of us did. At the beach, in the garden, sitting on the patio, she wore a wide brimmed sunhat. Everyone who took care of this tiny 89 year old woman came in expecting someone with at least a bit of age to her skin. Every last one of them were visibly amazed at her beauty and skin. One of the visiting hospice nurses actually slapped both hands to her cheeks and exclaimed, "Oh my god, she is beautiful!"  When the mortuary people came to take her away, the woman also exclaimed the same exact words! 

Well, I didn't mean to go on and on. I just wanted to say that it was an honor and incredible gift to be able to take care of my mother in her last weeks of life. I discovered that she loved me (who knew?) and that I sincerely loved her.


22 comments:

  1. Hi Toni - what a wonderful post to read ... and yes, your mother sounds a delight .. full of the joys of Spring and life - gosh she had lots going on. It seems you've helped your father so much ... just sad life ends - take care of you all - Hilary

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    1. Honestly,Hilary, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren found Mom to be delightful. I'm not sure you can define her relationship with her children that way but we did have delightful moments. Thank you for your caring.

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  2. thank you for writing this post, toni. your mom sounds like an interesting person; please tell us more about her and her memorabilia if you so choose to.

    take care of your dad and of yourself. your mom is now at peace. condolences to your family.

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    1. Number one priority on the agenda is definitely taking care of Dad. He admitted to being emotionally overwhelmed and a bit in a fog. That's one of the reasons I have been out-of-touch. His house is way out in the boondocks and internet is iffy, as is cell reception and walking in the dark wondering if a mountain lion is following you!

      Mom was indeed interesting.

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  3. You wrote this so beautifully, Toni, and it was an honor to read. I am so glad that in the end you found out how much your mother loved you.

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    1. Thank you, I'm glad it touched you. I'm glad too!

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  4. I'm sorry for your loss, Toni, but happy for you that your journey with your Mom ended with such a grace-filled experience of love and reconciliation.

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    1. Thank you so much, Debra. Death and dying do inspire changes and I am so thankful for the grace, the love and most especially, the reconciliation. As my friend Mitch used to say, "All's well that ends well!"

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  5. This is a wonderful tribute to your Mom, who must have been a wonderful person. Glad you were all together at the end. Hugs, Valerie

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    1. Valerie, thank you. I'm not sure if this is a tribute to my mom, she had many, many facets, but more a reckoning of how little we know of each other when we only count our relationship in the equation. Hugs back!

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  6. I'm sorry for your loss. We can only ope for such a peaceful loving ending with loved ones.
    Is that your parents or a stock photo? Because it is just the damn cutest picture. ((hugs))

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    1. Margaret, thank you. Both photos are my parents.

      It was a peaceful loving ending, as you said. I couldn't have asked for better.

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  7. Toni, I'm so sorry for your loss. How wonderful that her passing was so peaceful. This is a lovely tribute to your mom. Thank you for sharing it with us. Sending you lots of hugs during this difficult time xo

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    1. Enjoying your hugs. They support from friends and family have truly lightened the load of this difficult journey. Thank you all for your compassion.

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  9. Hi Toni :) Hugs!!! What a nice post to read. I'm sorry for your loss of course, but look at what you've discovered and the nice memories you can keep of your mom. Wonderful. Take care of yourself. xx

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    1. Discovery has been wonderful. I will definitely cherish our last days together with our mom.

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  10. so much love and tight hugs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    you are so lucky to be able to look after her in her last days ,i was not as lucky (crying)

    thank you for this special post in which you learned she loved you and that you loved her either

    i can imagine the pain and melancholy your dear father can bear now days ,may he be blessed with courage and strength to face it!

    may she rest in peace in heaven forever
    may your beautiful heart be blessed with strength to bear this sorrow my precious friend

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    1. Dad is truly grieving. He has known Mom since they were 5 years old. Their families lived in an apartment building and Mom was good friends with Dad sister. They lost track of each other but found each other again at a USO in San Francisco during WWII. Then found each other again back in Colorado when they both returned home. I can't imagine being in love and married for 68 years.

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