Still Here

I suppose for once I have a legitimate excuse for abandoning this blog.

I was watching my mother die.

About a week before my last blog entry my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was unclear at the time just what kind it was because they could not identify the source. I went to stay with my parents for a week and attended innumerable hospital and doctor visits, until finally we were told it was pancreatic cancer and she had 2-3 months to live.

Someday I will write about it. I will tell you about my mother-her strength and kindnesses, her stubbornness and guilt, her anger and love. I’ll let you know how she grew into her role as a 75 year-old woman with grace and humor, finally letting go of most of things that were haunting her and choking her spirit–healed by gardening, swimming twice a week, lunching with “The Red Hat Ladies”, separating from her children, QVC, and a realized dream of seeing the Sistine Chapel.

I will also tell you how the cancer weakened her beyond recognition,  aged her body 20 years in 6 weeks. How she lost so much weight that the skin was just flapping around her bones, the muscles gone. How her face was the only part of her that was still her. And though at times she looked so sick it was astonishing, other times her face was almost angelic. I will talk about my father, how he held her hand, asked her if she wanted to fool around, told her how beautiful she is, stroked her cheek, called her a pain in the ass. How he completely fell apart, questioning his God, his religion. Raising his fists to the heavens, tearing at his hair, whispering over and over, “Bring her back to me.”

I might even tell you what it was like for me, to live with my parents again for weeks at a time, saying all the right things, folding sheets, washing the bathroom floor, rummaging for paperwork they never signed and getting them to finally sign it, eating food I never eat at home just to make them happy, talking to hospice nurses and relatives I haven’t seen since I was 10, making funeral arrangements, sorting through 50 pounds of Avon products, washing dishes, helping my brothers cope.

I will tell you about the final days–giving her morphine that my father wouldn’t give her because it wouldn’t make her better, changing her soiled clothes and bedding, cutting her underwear off her because I could barely move her by myself when my father threw his back out, dabbing her lips with water when she couldn’t swallow, holding her hand and saying she was a great mother and grandmother, because dying simplifies relationships. Telling her she could go when she was choking on her final breaths, her eyes glazed over and staring off into the unknown, my father begging her to stay while I told her she could go, we would be ok, there was nothing to worry about anymore.

I loved my mother dearly, fiercely, irrationally. Someday I will tell you all about it. For now, I’ll just say that I’m back, I am writing, and when the numbness wears off I will be wailing and crying and shaking my fists to the heavens for a damn long time.



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12 responses to “Still Here

  1. marybeth

    Wow…did this make me cry. I’m so sorry for your loss. I watched (and helped) my partner go through this with his mother a few years ago. There aren’t enough words, but I’m thinking of you and sending hugs.

  2. kathrynkaKathryn

    Oh, Marie. There are no words.

    This is heartbreaking. And yet–though this is probably the last thing on your mind right now–beautifully and bravely and truthfully written.

    My heart goes out to you and your family. If there is anything I can help with–from babysitting or errand-running to a cup of tea and a nonjudgmental place to rant and moan against life’s unfairness–please call.

  3. Ellen

    Marie, you have brought tears to my eyes. I am so very sorry for your loss. Your account made me think of my own mom, who I lost over two years ago and still miss every single day. It is certainly nice to see your words here again, and I echo Kathryn’s sentiment about the beauty and bravery of your writing.

    I hope to see you soon.


  4. Sue Kenney

    Marie, you are a loving and dutiful daughter and I am sure your Mom was proud of the caring capable human being you became. The fact that you can write about your experience is a gift to all of us who understand the complicated bonds of mother daughter relationships but lack the words to convey our conflict and love. I imagined myself in the room with you on those last days and know you kept moving. I am here for you, to cry, to scream, to laugh and sit silently. I hope you know how much I love you and will always call you friend.

  5. Jennifer

    So incredibly moving and real. So beautifully rendered.

  6. Pingback: For You, Mom « ifyoucantwriteblog

  7. “dying simplifies relationships” – few truer words have ever been written. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. I admire your strength. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it must have been for you to bear such a loss but the only thing I can think of is that you’re lucky to have had a chance to say goodbye, a chance to demonstrate your love to her by being by her side in her final. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. Thank u for sharing this part of your life so others can read. My mother passed away from cancer in 2008. I moved back to Washington state from Arizona to be with my mother for the last couple months of her life. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with especially caring for her 24\7 Right till the end my mother showed me her strength and courage. She wasn’t afraid to die because she knew she be with the Lord.

  10. I lost my beautiful mom many years ago. I loved her so much and still miss her every day of my life. My daughter is terminally ill and I wish my mom was here to help me get through this nightmare. Your love for your parents comes through strongly. Well written!

  11. I just came across this… And i am in utter tears. I too, held my father as he died from cancer. Back in 2006. There are times when i am reminded that no matter how long it has been, the tears are always there. Its easier to deal with, but i don’t miss him any less. They live forever in our hearts, and who knows… Maybe they are up there, sharing a glass of wine or something.

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