Losing one’s mom is a hard death to reconcile, for me at least.
My mom died on Aug. 1, 2017, in Medina, Ohio. She lived just slightly over a week longer than six months following my dad’s death. One of my columns a couple of months ago mentioned my parents were married 67 years and together for nearly 72 years. They courted during my dad’s service in World War II and after the war while he finished college prior to their marriage.
Is it any wonder mom was actually looking forward to her death? She dearly missed my dad, and, who wouldn’t after three quarters of a century being together.
Plus, she was in constant pain and decrepit from bad knees and hips. She was in kidney failure, so couldn’t use any pain meds stronger than Tylenol. Still, she rejected any non-familial help at home and refused to use a walker until she surprised us recently with her willingness to use one — but only from her car (yes, she was still driving) to her front door and back to the car again. She lived independently until a day prior to her death.
Now that I have experienced it, losing one’s mom is a hard death to reconcile, for me at least. Losing dad six months ago was hard. But mom’s loss has been harder.
Probably because of the four “B’s.” She bred us, bore us, breast-fed us, and bathed us. We were closer to our mom than anyone else until we were teens and even then we were with her — and she with us — more than anyone else until we were about 18 years old and “flew the coop” to make our own way as adults.
And then, too, losing a mom more clearly defines our own mortality doesn’t it?
Mom raised four kids, giving up most of her own goals and aspirations for ours, becoming a laundress — and a short order cook — instead. She changed, washed, and line-dried around 12,000 of our cloth diapers the way I figure it (assuming six per day times the year and a half (about 520 days) that we were in diapers times four kids equals 12,000 diapers, give or take a few).
If she prepared only one meal a day for five days a week for her family of six for 18 years, she made over 30,000 meals at home. Doubling that number wouldn’t be too far off.
She read to us and checked our homework. She soothed our physical and emotional hurts and berated us when we needed it and pushed us and loved us and forgave us and raised us to be good, educated, hard-working, caring, productive, and hardy people. We walked miles to the local shopping center as young kids, rode bikes without helmets, and roller-skated on metal-wheeled skates on concrete streets without knee and elbow pads — and had the “war wounds” to show for it. But she took it all in stride, hardly blinking an eye at all the blood, bruises, and tears over the years.
Refusing to give up and succumb to what she saw as less freedom, she demanded that she be permitted to live the life she wanted, regardless of how we might have felt about her “need” for some household help, right up until the end. She did it her way.
And in doing so she gave us a great example of persistence and resilience and stick-to-itiveness that will serve us well as we, too, inevitably will age to some incapacities like she did.
Mom was, like us all, beautiful when she was young but, even better, she ripened into a “tough old broad” (I use this term with the greatest respect, admiration, and endearment) in her old age, a seasoning that served her well until the day she died.
We were blessed to be with her on that morning she died only because we had gathered in Ohio, my siblings and I, to celebrate her 89th birthday. Less than three days later, she was dead.
In the hospital, surrounded by her children holding her hands, she bolted upright in bed and exclaimed, “I’m going to dance my way out of this joint!” Though pain med induced and her dancing days far behind her, if that wasn’t mom, nothing was. She had always danced to her own tune. We all wished she could have danced her way — just as she always had — this time too.
Her last words were, “I need to get off this planet. I need to go home!” We whispered in her ears as we cradled her in our arms and laid her head back to her pillow, “You are going home mom.”
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.