notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Searching

This is my first Mother’s Day without Mom.

I’m 71. I’ve had seventy Mother’s Days with her, so I am ahead of the game, I guess.

And I don’t even particularly like Mother’s Day. There are too many women (and men) excluded from the celebration. Those whose mothers have died, or mothers whose children have died. Those who had hurtful relationships with their mothers. Those who wanted children but have been left out of motherhood.

I am in the last group. But now I am also in the first group.

So I don’t like Mother’s Day.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my mother’s death.

Only I didn’t, really. I wrote a bit about her life. I wanted to remember her life, not her death.

But today, I find the need to write about her death.

I was with her.

It was unintended. We knew that Mom’s time was drawing to a close, and we were spending more time by her side. But this day was not different from any of the other days of the previous weeks. It was just my fortune (both good and terrible) to be the one who was there.

I was almost not there. I intended to leave to attend my book club. It was my turn to lead the discussion, and the book was one of my favorites. I was very much looking forward to it. If I left by 2:00, I’d have plenty of time for the drive to the library.

One of my sisters was coming to take my place, but 2 o’clock came and she had not arrived. I thought it would be okay to leave anyway – my sister would arrive shortly.

So I got up to go, and as I leaned over to give Mom a kiss, I realized that she had changed. She had been sleeping, but now she was awake. But she was not looking at me. Her eyes were darting around the room, looking but not seeing. Looking for something not there.

So I stayed. I took her hand. I watched her shallow breathing and the way her eyes continued to search everywhere but not find me.

I said, invoking her children who were not there – “Christine loves you. Claudia loves you. Tommy loves you. I love you.”

I repeated that three times.

She died.

I had not called for a nurse. What would a nurse have done? Not save her. She didn’t need saving.

Maybe I needed saving. So it would not have been my fault.

But I know it was not.

I am haunted, though, by her distant searching. Who was she looking for?

I am comforted by knowing I was there for her. I am comforted knowing that her death seemed gentle.

But I am haunted by the thought that I was not who she wanted in those last moments. Was she seeking, wishing for someone else? Did she want a different child holding her hand?

Oh, I was a good daughter. I know that.

But what if I had called a nurse? Could the nurse have given Mom ten more minutes, so my sister could have arrived in time? Would Mom have stopped searching then? Could a nurse have given her another few hours so we all could have been there?

The truth is, I didn’t want anyone to save her.

I wanted her to decide. And she did.

I hope what she was searching for was her freedom.

I am searching for mine.

21 Comments

  1. Nancy, I think our moms died close to the same time (3/7/22), and I, like you, was also the one with her. Out of 11 children, I had that honor. I work for hospice, and there are no two deaths alike. Everyone has their own. She was in between. but she knew you were there. Perhaps she was seeing those waiting for her to arrive rather than looking for those she was leaving. I can’t even imagine how overwhelming that must be. I take comfort and feel lucky and blest, out of 11 kids, to have been the one with her as she made the transition. I hope you can, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy, I think our moms died close to the same time (3/7/22), and I, like you, was also the one with her. Out of 11 children, I had that honor. I work for hospice, and there are no two deaths alike. Everyone has their own. She was in between. but she knew you were there. Perhaps she was seeing those waiting for her to arrive rather than looking for those she was leaving. I can’t even imagine how overwhelming that must be. I take comfort and feel lucky and blest, out of 11 kids, to have been the one with her as she made the transition. I hope you can, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kaye Hamilton-Smith

    I was a hospice volunteer. Dying people often see and even talk to dead people in the end so your mom was scanning a group of friends, her husband, etc. She was not searching for someone on this side of the Pearly Gates…Kaye

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Deborah Zotian

    I was also with my mom when she passed, but she hadn’t been conscious for a few days. The nurses called me to tell me to get to the hospital quickly. I was already on my way when they called – for my third visit of the day. I sat with her, held her hand and reminisced about our trips to Disney World (the only place she would go), funny things that happened around the house (we had deer!), catching her up on what others were doing. I don’t know if she heard a word, but the nurses told me she probably did. Then I had to call my brother to tell him. And I had to deal with a doctor I never spoke with before telling me the decisions that had been made over the past 6 weeks were ‘stupid and shouldn’t have been done’ – as I was standing there in tears. I had to deal with the priest from ‘our church’ who had to rush away because one of the major benefactors was sick.
    I worry I didn’t do what she wanted. She always said not to let her linger, not to do anything extra. Did I let them do too much? Not enough? It’s 14 years and I still wonder.

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  5. Paula

    We ALL wonder–it’s been 20 years this year for me–if we did the right things (or not). I think I mostly did, but I’ll never be entirely sure. The human condition (sigh)!

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  6. Sorry to hear about your loss.

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  7. Pat

    Beautifully written. My mom passed in 1999. To this day, I wonder if I’ve made the right decisions. It’s just human nature, I guess. Once parents are gone, it’s never the same but we adjust because we have to.

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  8. Doris Kennedy

    You have known me Nancy from childhood. My mom lived in the house on Foley St, around the corner from your family, from the age of 2 years old. We as a family lived in the 2 family house with my memere & pepere Bourret all our lives. It’s what families did in those days, as you lived with your gramma too. In January of 1962 my memere passed, my uncles had taken pepere home and just my mom and her sisters where present when she took her last breathe. Mom told me years later it was the most beautiful experience seeing a glow and a huge smile on her moms face., Her mom passing and being surrounded by her daughters. Fast forward 39 years…mom was in a coma for 3 days at Bristol hospital. Dad had never left her side. That night all the family was present. As all the grandkids left, Roland (my only brother,) took dad home to clean up and change clothes. The nurse came in and said mom was beginning to pass. She gave her an injection so she wouldn’t struggle. Deja Vu…, mom, surrounded by her 3 daughters took her last breathe. Such a glow and smile lit up her face (I am convinced she was seeing the face of God) I and my sisters were witnesses, just as mom said when memere passed. Since moving in 2011 to Myrtle Beach I have volunteered for Hospice. I chose to be part of the 11th hour service, being and doing for family members while they experience the passing of a loved one…and many times I was witness to that glow and smile of others leaving this world. I will be forever honored to have been able to help ease my mom into her eternal freedom from this world into her new mansion in heaven with God whom she loved and worshiped all her life. It was an honor for you to have been able to do the same with Steffie.

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  9. I, too, was with my Mom when she passed….9 days before Mother’s Day, 1995. A few hours before her death, she called out by name to her three (deceased) brothers and said: “Don’t leave. Please don’t leave.” I know they had come to meet her, but she wasn’t quite ready. Mom tried to say something to me in the minutes before she passed. I don’t know what it was, but I like to think it was just “I love you”.

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  10. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}} to you and those who commented. Every crossing is different. All of you seem to have handled them with grace and aplomb and love.

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  11. You are so right about how Mother’s Day leaves some women out. This is my second without mum and I miss her so very much

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  12. Barbara Lindsey

    I think you handled your mum’s passing wonderfully. I was in another country when mine passed more than 20 years ago. I think of Mother’s Day as being for all mothers everywhere but it isn’t a day that I enjoy. Both my sons called me yesterday and I loved chatting with them. They can call me anytime! I think your mums eyes were darting about seeing people who had gone before her, that’s what I like to think anyway.💚

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  13. I had 48 Mother’s Days with my mom. She died in an ER, with only medical staff, trying to save her, with her. Dad was waiting in their lobby, holding her purse. I think she probably died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. All of that haunts me. But I WAS with my mother-in-law when she died. That was heartbreaking in another way. So I understand some of your angst. I agree with many people commenting here that your mom was probably seeing family and friends who had gone before as they welcomed her home. And I believe that she could hear you as you told her you and her children loved her. I think it’s a wonderful thing that you were able to be with her, though I’m sure your siblings wish they could have been there as well. It all works out the way it’s supposed to in the end. I’m sorry she’s not here for you this Mother’s Day. Losing her so recently makes this one tough. Sending hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It sounds like you did exactly what you needed to do – for her and for you. I, too, was with my mother when she died (as were my younger brother and oldest sister; oldest brother had only just left the hospital; older sister lived some distance away and was scheduled to visit the next day). Mom had suffered a small stroke (at home) and been in hospital for two weeks; we all (and the doctor) expected to her pass “at any moment”. Yet she hung in there, at one time regaining consciousness and asking for something to eat (at which point they moved her from a private “waiting” room into a ward). She then suffered several more small strokes and lost her ability to speak, eat, and function at all on her own. On the second Sunday, when we were all gathered together (fairly certain “this was the day”) she “came to” at one point, looked me straight in the eye and raised her eyebrows as if to say (in a very “Mom look”) “Why am I still here?” I shrugged my shoulders and gave her a hug. Three hours later she was gone. It wasn’t an “easy” death – she was restless and clearly in pain (despite a little morphine) at the end, but I think she was okay with it because her family was near. She had told me just a few weeks earlier that she’d lived a long and wonderful life (she was two weeks from her 94th birthday) and actually ready to join my Dad (who’d died in 2008). I’m glad I was with her (and that I stayed for quite some time with her after everyone else left), even though it was hard at the time. I hope I have the same privilege when it’s my time to go.

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  15. I am so sorry for your loss. Like the others that posted I feel your loss deeply as I lost my mother in 1996, Although I will never know if I did all the “right” things I do know that during the time I cared for her it was with love that grew deeper each day we shared.
    We never get over our losses (I lost my daughter in 2018) but by the grace of God we learn to live with the wonderful memories.
    Hugs,
    Susan

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  16. Oh, Nancy, I’m sorry! You’re so right in noting the mixed fortune of being there…in my experience being present at a death is a terrible blessing, an experience I felt fortunate to have, painful as it was.

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    • Felicity

      Cindy? Same.
      Hugs ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Felicity

    Dear, dear Nancy.
    Being with your Mum at that time is such a blessing and a privilege.
    I know. I’ve been there.

    You have a journey to work through. But you will. It is still fresh.
    Nancy? You will find your freedom. It just takes time.

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  18. This seems almost like a poem. The way you write makes me want to read more. I’m sorry about your mom. I can’t imagine loosing mine. I cannot have babies either. It’s sad, so I also feel excluded from mother’s day in that form. No one to wish me happy mother’s day because I am not a mom and maybe will never be. 11 Years trying and doctors says we may never have a biological child.

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  19. jameshowerton1963

    God bless you.

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