Every Day is Mother’s Day

My mother passed away last night due to a problem with her fistula (essentially a port through which they do dialysis). She suffered from dementia and end stage renal failure. It’s been a long journey for her these past few years, and I can take comfort in knowing she’s no longer suffering through one medical crisis after another.

This past year we haven’t been able to have much of a conversation due to her dementia. Our talks would last maybe thirty seconds, but I’m happy to say that they consisted of, “How are you?” and “I love you.” Those were my last words to her. Not everyone gets to say goodbye on that note, and for that I’m grateful.

The situation is strange. She passed away just before Mother’s Day, and I’m flying out to go to her funeral tomorrow, on my birthday. I’ve never been one to care for birthdays (especially not this year considering my great birthday bash plans consisted of going to my see my neurologist), and Mother’s Day would have been meaningless to her at this point. In a way, it all seems fitting. The other day I was thinking of what I could send her for Mother’s Day and I couldn’t come up with anything that would make sense. Nothing would have made sense to her except for those words. In a way, that’s what it all comes down to anyways.

So I’ll say them one last time for whatever it’s worth:

Mom, I really wish I could’ve been there with you in your last hour. I miss you, and I love you so very much.


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Luckily, she did get to see my house before she began her downward decline. Here she is playing my piano…music was always her passion.

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34 thoughts on “Every Day is Mother’s Day

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience and your lovely photos. I am so sorry for your loss. My mother has been on dialysis for 1 ½ years and will soon be undergoing her fourth or fifth (I’ve lost cost) surgery to balloon and stretch one of the veins in her arm. Prior to her having to go on dialysis, she constantly told us (my siblings and me) and the doctors that she would die before she went on dialysis. One day, she had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. The doctor told us she got there just in time because her potassium level had gotten to 9 and that most people die when it gets to 8 (with the normal level being 2.something.) If she did not undergo emergency surgery for dialysis, she would die.

    As Mama laid on the hospital bed with her eyes closed like she was asleep, the doctor told one of my sisters and me that maybe we could get her to change her mind. That was a conversation I was not looking forward to because my mama is a very strong-willed but stubborn woman. However, before my sister or I could say anything to her, Mama, with her eyes still shut, told the doctor, “Do whatever it takes to make me better.” I was shocked, relieved, happy, and thankful. Occasionally, she’ll have her pity party and say, “Y’all should’ve just let me die.” I kindly remind her, “That’s not what you told the doctor.” Then we both burst into laughter.

    One of my dear friend’s aunt who was in her 80’s (older than my mama) died this week. She was on dialysis, too, and told everyone she was tired and did not wish to be on it any longer. She died peacefully with her family at her side. It made me think about my mama and how she’s still here with us. And then when I came across your experience, it made me think even more about Mama.
    You’re so right—everyday should be Mother’s Day because we never know when it might be our last day with our mother. Take care. I pray you find much comfort in your faith and the hope of seeing your dear mother again. (John 5:28 & 29)

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    • Wow, thanks for sharing your story. I can totally relate. My mom was the same kind of person. She used to say, “If I’m like that, it’s time for me to die.” But the thing is (as I’ve learned from my father’s experience with cancer) people often change their minds. With my mother it was hard to ask her what her wishes were, but I did try once in a lucid moment about year ago. Her answer was ambiguous, leaving me in the dark about what to do. It’s a very very sticky thing, when that time comes to make those decisions. It’s hard for healthy people to know what it’s like to be in that position. Luckily you’re mom is able to tell you what her wishes are!

      Best wishes to you and your mother. I know dialysis is very hard and strength-zapping. All those problems with the fistula, surgeries, etc.—all of that is so very hard. Give her my best wishes too and Happy Mother’s Day!

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  2. Pingback: For Tina. | A Tale Unfolds

  3. My thoughts are with you. I am not good at finding words at such occasions. Thoughts and feelings come to my mind, from times when I lost people who where colse to me. The following lines are taken from a piece I wrote when my mother was very ill.

    Touch turns into
    memory of touch.

    Glance turns into
    memory of glance.

    Voice turns into
    memory of voice.

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    • I’m not good at finding words on these occasions either. I’m notoriously bad at it.

      Thanks for your poem, which is quite true. When I cleaned out mom’s room, I had to sort through the photos in a big hurry and I quickly realized that these were not the things I’d remember about her anyways. I kept some photos, but I soon turned my attention to the things from my childhood that I actually remember (rather than pictures of me as a child doing things that have no significance for me anymore). When I found out that it would be cheaper to rent a car and drive back rather than fly, I decided to grab this somewhat ugly lamp that has various monks depicted on it in strange scenes. I remember that lamp more than the photos. I remember sitting on the couch staring at this lamp, trying to figure out what they were doing. It’s been a fixture for as long as I can remember. I took home the mantle clock I made in the 8th grade because I’m still amazed that I made that thing. I only wish I could have found the technical drawing I made of it. I remember making that lamp and anticipating the shock on my parents faces when I told them I made it. I gave that to my mom on mother’s day. (And I did get that look of shock, which very much pleased me because my mom was hard to impress.) I also took my grandmother’s painting because that has special significance for me too. Perhaps I’ll write a post about these things.

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  4. Tina, I was sad to read this: my condolences on your loss. However, as you seem to be aware, the organising that needs to get done at this time also serves as a strange kind of a balm, a kind buffer in a way. I’m sending prayers from a part of the world close to your mother’s roots.

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    • Thanks you! Yes, I do know about that organizing…it’s a strange buffer as you say. I’m in the midst of it now and it’s keeping me pretty busy. There’s a peculiar mix of fluctuating emotion when you’re the one in charge. It’s sudden crushing sadness at one moment, then, like a light switch, it turns off at the realization that you are the one responsible for things and you have to get your act together. I learned from when my father died that I had better be prepared for this. It’s quite turbulent and it’s important to have everything written out so you don’t lose your mind!

      Thanks for commenting and for your prayers from the orient.

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        • She already has. She’s a completely different person (almost a polar opposite) but my experiences in memory care are all in there. Same with the feelings of guilt and horror, although I had to translate these to male emotion, which I’m not sure I was able to do. I looked to Tolstoy for help on that one (there’s a scene in Anna Karenina where Kitty takes charge of comforting Levin’s dying brother while Levin stands there with his mouth hanging open, not knowing how to deal). I think there’s a great deal of truth to that male-female difference in dealing with sick people. Not saying that women are always better at it (I react more in the Levin style…run away and cry privately and make myself generally useless), but I tried to use that as a guideline.

          The memory care chapter is one I’m most proud of, but I’m afraid it’s still on the cutting board.

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          • I totally agree. It might stay in and I might just work around it. I really do like the chapter, so there might be some themes I just need to tighten up.

            I’ve actually been working on a blog post about the funeral, which I’ve turned into fiction. I’m finding myself reluctant to share. It’s so personal and I don’t know who’s reading my blog. Maybe I’ll fictionalize it more to distance myself from it.

            Any tips on writing from experience for private people who don’t want to share?

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  5. Still thinking about you as you carry on along your road of grieving. I hope you are able to talk out your emotions with people around you. I found that especially during the first year after my mother passed away, memories and emotions were triggered frequently, unexpectedly, by random sights or words, and not always where appropriate to simply burst into tears. Your blog tribute to you mom is beautiful. Praying you are finding comfort, strength and peace during these days.

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    • Thanks so much! Yes, it can be pretty lonely. And there are triggers everywhere. My father passed away a few years ago and I know what you mean about that first year. I kept having creepy dreams in which he wouldn’t say anything to me, and I’d wake up crying. Thankfully, those are gone and I haven’t had any of my mother for some reason.

      I think the worst part was selling the house I grew up in, cleaning it out, finding all my report cards and drawings and such that my father had saved. I still can’t drive by that street when I go back to Oklahoma.

      I’ve been working on a short story about my mom’s funeral and some events afterwards as a way of sorting things out. It’s been hard, sometimes therapeutic, sometimes not. I’ve decided to just stop working on that, but I think I needed to get that out.

      Thanks again for your kind words! I really appreciate it.

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