08 December 2020


Today marks one year since she was taken from me.  The grieving no longer dominates my time and thoughts as it did at first, but it is still there, and still comes back to me very strongly at some times.  It's part of the capacity to remember and feel, without which we would be less than human.

She took care of me when I was a baby, of course, although I don't remember very much of that.  For most of my life she was more of a friend than anything else.  We usually lived pretty close together and I was able to visit fairly often.  Then for her last nine years, after her stroke, the roles were reversed.  She recovered a good deal of lucidity for several years, but couldn't drive or live independently any more, and my life became increasingly focused on taking care of her needs.  Even towards the end when it became more than I could handle and she had to go to a nursing home, I kept on visiting her every day, making sure she was getting proper care, interceding with the management when anything felt awry.

Perhaps it was that long period of role reversal that made her death hit me so hard -- harder, I think, than the loss of a parent does with most people.  Perhaps it was more like losing a child.

I saw the slow horror of the aging process up close, year by year toward the end.  Her short-term memory failed, she became prey to delusions, lost her ability to think coherently.  For the last couple of weeks she couldn't speak intelligibly and hardly seemed to understand what was going on around her.  But she always recognized me.  I think I was still making things a little better, by being there.

At the very end, something went wrong with blood oxygenation and there was nothing but gasping and fear.  When the nurses asked me, I told them to focus on minimizing suffering rather than prolonging existence.  It's a kind of decision no one should ever have to make, but by then it would have been madness to say anything else.

The next morning it was over.

Those nine years changed me.  For a long time afterwards, I was haunted by feelings that she was still there somehow, in some realm beyond this life, and still needing my help in some way.  I no longer have such episodes now.  I guess my brain has finally grasped that she is gone.

All those years of visiting her every day, keeping her safe, shopping for her, taking care of her apartment, advocating for her, managing her medications, dealing with crises large and small as they arose -- as hard as it sometimes was, it was worth it, more worth it than anything else I've ever done.  And at least I know that whatever other shortcomings I may have, when it came to the most important and most difficult challenge life ever presented to me -- I did not fail her.

If I am wrong about the nature of existence and there is a kind of life after this one, or if it is one day possible for lives ended biologically to be restored in some way -- then what I would wish for the most is that we occasionally be able to meet and chat over afternoon tea again, as we did in the good old days.


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hugs to you today, dear Infidel.

08 December, 2020 05:57  
Blogger Mary said...

This post hit home for me for several reasons.
First I can feel your anguish. It’s a sweet sorrow, as they say.

My mother has been gone 30 years now and I love her dearly and think of her everyday and miss her. I actually envy that you had such an opportunity to care for your mother and be so close with her. My Dad had died 3 years before her and I was newly married and she was not disabled in any way, so the need was not there, like with you. Then she got cancer and died in a hospital with myself and my brother there. But there wasn’t the time and need to care for her like you had. In a way I wish there had been, but wouldn’t want her to suffer anymore than she did.
I’m all for the right for us to chose when we are done with life and ready to go. No keeping me on tubes and machines.

Someone asked me if I could see anyone for a day, who would it be. Of course, it was my mother. I am a widow, but my marriage was good but not great, so definitely Mom.

Being an agnostic leaning towards atheism, I don’t believe in an afterlife....but no one knows for sure, really.

And I’m reading a book you might like. I may have even seen it on your blog. It’s called A Brief Eternity. It’s a satire of a man being raptured up to heaven. I’m only about half way through, but it’s clever and funny.

It must be a wonderful feeling knowing your life served a real and meaningful purpose.
Take care

08 December, 2020 06:52  
Anonymous darms said...

My mother (92) died last July but she 'left us' sometime in 2014 I think (dementia). Her last few months were really rough, when I saw her in late May/early June her words to me were "Let me die". I did. That hurt. But it was the right thing to do...

08 December, 2020 10:17  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Sending you love and light.


08 December, 2020 11:06  
Blogger CAS said...

My condolences to you Infidel. My mother died 18 years ago and I thought I'd never be as happy as I had been before her death. I was wrong. She is present in my life in more ways than I can count. Like you, I hope that at some point in the future, our essences will re-emerge and we can catch up and chat about old times. My father was her primary care-taker. He lived another 16 years by himself. So, I became the person he relied on to take care of his affairs. Eventually, he ended up in assisted living where he died at the age of 91. Like you, I was a devoted child so I have no regrets about how things ended. At the same time, especially in my father's case, I wish that I could have done more. It sounds like your relationship with your mom was extremely close. She's left you with an invaluable gift. Her love and devotion can't be erased.

08 December, 2020 11:32  
Blogger CAS said...

Reading a post about John Lennon's death, 40 years ago today, I was reminded of his brilliance and this famous lyric: “Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.”

08 December, 2020 12:05  
Blogger Palolololo said...

I am going through that now with my mother. She will be 92 next month. Physically,she's great. Mentally,she's lost. Luckily she's in an assisted-living facility 4 miles from me. She still doesn't understand Covid,although she has her tv on full-blast all day and subscribes to 25 magazines! Every day is "Groundhog's Day". No memories being formed. Occasionally,she'll have a brief moment of clarity,but they are fewer and farther apart. It's heartbreaking to watch.

08 December, 2020 12:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: Thanks. There are times when I could use them.

Mary: Thanks. Obviously I was glad to discover I had what it took to do the right thing all those years. For the first few years after the stroke, most of the time it wasn't too bad -- she was still pretty lucid. She just needed a lot of practical help. But when memory and thinking break down, delusion and paranoia set in.

And it did give me a sense of purpose, so much so that I felt kind of adrift for a while after she died. I'm not really the nurturing kind of person, though. I did it for her because it was her. Now I'm having to learn to live for myself again.

It's partly because of seeing what happened to her that I've taken what some people would consider extreme measures to minimize the risk of a stroke or heart attack. I don't want to end up like that, and there's nobody to take care of me like I did for her.

Darms: I know the feeling. Sometimes the mind can deteriorate so much it hardly seems like the same person any more. But at least with my mother, there were always flashes of the old personality.

Sixpence: Thanks for the good wishes.

CAS: It's true, the beloved dead never truly leave us. I have the memories, and I still keep messages she sent me and things like that. And she would have wanted me to be happy. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Palolololo: The deterioration of aging is a horrifying thing to watch. That's exactly what happens -- the old memories remain pretty well, but they can't form new ones. Nature is hideous.

09 December, 2020 03:39  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

This was heartbreaking to read, as I could feel the longing and loss through your words.

For the last 2 1/2 years, I've been in a wonderful relationship with an London-born gentleman who also lost his mother in December in the early 2000s. He told me that for a dozen years, at this time of year, he felt agitated, unease, and other unhappy, uncomfortable feelings. Through therapy, he discovered he was re-experiencing the emotions from the loss of his mother each year at this time.

Although he and his mother were separated by an ocean, he managed to visit her often and have her come to the states where he traveled extensively with her to many beautiful and historic places. She was in her late 80s when she passed away, and the day before that happened, Prince Charles happened to visit the facility where she was living. My gentleman friend has a photo of Prince Charles having tea with her. It was one of her happiest moments.

I admire your devotion and caring, as I understand a bit about what that takes. My husband died of Alzheimer's disease 4 years ago.

Keep her memory close and know what a good and loving son you were.

09 December, 2020 08:48  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Well ... you still have your memories to cherish ... which is a good thing, in my view. My mom died young, and we lived 100s of miles apart, so my experience was different in a way. When my mom finally passed, she was laying in her coffin, I slipped the attendant at the funeral home after everyone left, to let me stay after they closed, alone with my mom ... I had a fifth of 100 proof Southern Comfort liquor/ whisky with me, I sat at her side in the coffin into the wee night, and drank about half the bottle straight talking to her, even though she was dead. You may also have dreams from time to time, of your mom being with you, and not necessarily an event that y'all experienced together, which seems odd to me. Example, I had a dream last night, and many other nights, with various people that passed, where you are just sitting around or going somewhere together. Last night I distinctly remember two old friends I was hanging out with and just doing some small things and chat, had nothing to do with any memory conversation or the same scenario, it was created in my mind ... that we were just together like old times and doing similar things. The trick is, a I have experienced for long ... is to wake up, and immediately picture what you just seen/ experienced in your dream, and it makes it more vivid when you're awake. If you wait too long, the dream disappears from you, and you only vaguely can remember what it was about. For me it's alot of fun when that happens, because you can still almost feel the scenario and presence, if that makes any sense. Oddly, because of how the mind works, it can make you almost sense, that they are still with you in some sense.

Aging and memory, etc ... something we all experience ... but like you, I'm confident that folks will eventually beat aging as we do currently, and avoid natural death for much much longer. A few years back, we/ family were out at a restaurant (about 20 of us, and reserved an entire section) ... I was telling a couple of my youngest grandkids, that they will experience some fascinating things, and they may live for a very long time, because of science ... the kids were so fascinated, you could see it in their eyes and their atencion ... yet a couple of the older folks kind of rolled their eyes, I guess thinking I live in a fantasy world, after all, I probably sound nutty to some.

When it comes to memory loss. My memory seems to be excellent, however, selective too, when it comes to memory of past. However, I have noticed increasingly, perhaps my short term memory is weakening or something, because I find myself on small things forgetting stuff. Example ... walking out the door in a hurry and forgetting my phone or car keys ... walking into the kitchen to get something, and having to think a couple seconds what I came in there for. Yet I'm only 64 (be 65 next month), everything else though seems to work fine for me, so far.

09 December, 2020 08:55  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know that taking care of someone is hard. Even with help from the hospice people it was hard to take care of Ken but I'm glad I was there for him just as I'm sure you are glad you were there for your mom. My mom passed away 10 years ago but I still miss her.

09 December, 2020 11:57  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

I always envy people that have loving stories to tell about their mothers ..I have those kind of stories about my daddy. But my mother lacked all qualities of a good mother. I mourn the loss of your mother with you. And for the mother I wished I had.

09 December, 2020 14:49  
Anonymous Rocky D said...

We share a common experience, that of watching the slow and cruel deterioration of a once vibrant parent. I do believe it was the worst part of losing my mother. Rationally, I knew we'd done all that we could to ease her way, but the memory of the process, and especially those moments when she was clear...when she recognized reality. That was the worst and the ache took forever to ease. Grief is demanding and not satisfied until it deems itself complete. One of life's biggest lessons so far. Peace to you Infidel.

09 December, 2020 14:56  
Blogger Jimmy T said...

Sounds like you and your Mom had a decent relationship. I'm a little envious, but have accepted the fact that as an adult my Mom and my father were estranged from myself. She left the world in September this year. She was 97. My father's been gone for 21 years...

In their younger years my parents were quite the partiers, but as time went by they became more conservative and religious, and finally became full on fundamentalists. Family gatherings were uncomfortable for me, my wife, and my two kids, and eventually we found ourselves staying away...

We have (still) a pretty good chosen family that we used to socialize with before the Trump Virus ran amok, and hope to resume the relationship once it's gone. But still, my friends parents are all gone now, but when they were alive, they seemed like good decent people, and I enjoyed their company. I guess I'm saying you can't choose your genetic family, but you can choose to live a life surrounded by people who care about you, and you care about them...

09 December, 2020 17:10  
Blogger Ami said...

How wonderful that you two had so much love between you. So many lose that as time goes on, sometimes they never had it to begin with.

She was fortunate that you were able to be with her/take care of her for such a long time.

This was a very touching post and I thank you for sharing it.

09 December, 2020 18:36  
Blogger Mike said...

My dad and I used to like to watch PBS shows about trains. When I saw a train show on PBS I would get on the phone and call him. After he died it took me two years to stop heading for the phone when I saw a train show on PBS.

09 December, 2020 18:43  
Anonymous darms said...

godfuckkingdammit, there was this picture my late (2014) younger brother (2yrs2mos22days) painted when he was doing the fingerpaint shit, loud oranges & blacks. Mom (who liked him best) treasured that picture, but when they moved her to 'memory care', they left the "picture" behind. I broke the Q & snagged said picture, brought it to my mother's room that night - she was dead @ 2:20 AM the next AM - darms

09 December, 2020 23:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Thank you. I do still feel that longing and loss and probably always will.

Therapy can be extremely helpful. I have a professional counselor I've been seeing since my mother had her stroke more than ten years ago now. She helped me understand a lot of what was going on emotionally. I don't know if I would have made it through all that without her.

During those years I was often told "you're being such a good son to her". That's what makes it bearable now, knowing I did everything I could.

Ranch: It's harder for many people in the US, I think, because many people live so far apart. I know it sometimes weighed on my mother that she was so far away from her family in England.

I can almost never remember my dreams. Based on the ones I can remember, that's probably a good thing.

There are a lot of grounds for optimism about the eventual conquest of aging. Certainly it would be the greatest possible blessing for the world.

Mary K: Yes, it's hard work and can drive you crazy sometimes. But I'm very glad now I never gave up.

JackieSue: That's very sad. My mother had a similar situation with her mother, and a much better relationship as a child with her father. Unfortunately he died young, due to World War II.

Rocky: The deterioration is the worst. Some people stay mentally sharp right up to the end, and that's the best way to go, if you have to go at all. Decaying while you're still alive is a horror.

10 December, 2020 00:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jimmy: It's terrible how religion divides people. I never had that problem within the family, thank goodness. It just wasn't an issue. Your parents destroyed a real relationship for something imaginary. Those who manage to create a new circle of people they can trust are lucky. My experience of life has pretty much taught me not to trust anybody.

Ami: Thank you. I do feel a need to write about it from time to time. And I treasure the fact that the most important relationship in my life was such a good one.

Mike: I know the feeling. Whenever I hear an interesting new piece of music, my first thought is often that I need to play it for her and see what she thinks.

Darms: I hope you don't feel bad about that. She probably appreciated seeing the picture again, if it was so important before.

10 December, 2020 00:20  
Blogger dellgirl said...

What a thoughtful and loving tribute to your mother, it's very heart-warming even in the midst of such heartbreak. Thank you for sharing your journey with your mom. Sending warm thoughts and good vibes your way. Take care and Stay Safe, my friend!

11 December, 2020 18:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Dellgirl: Thank you. Stay safe.

12 December, 2020 01:41  
Blogger Martha said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother. This really touched my heart. Sending you lots of hugs.

15 December, 2020 08:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thank you, Martha, I appreciate the kind words.

16 December, 2020 13:46  
Blogger RO said...

I know it's rough, but what a wonderful way to honor your mom, who knows you loved her. I feel your hurt. It's been 40 years since I lost my mom, but some days it seems like it was yesterday. I'm reaching over to give you air hugs of comfort and support. Thanks so much for sharing. RO

18 December, 2020 02:51  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thank you. I suppose those feelings of loss will always be there, but I know she did feel loved and it helps me to know I did everything I could.

18 December, 2020 06:13  
Anonymous Tengrain said...

Infidel -

Someday, you’ll hear some music or sniff a scent on the breeze and she will come back to you. A color, the way light comes through a window, a mood can bring it all back. Those are always the best moments when you realize that she is a part of you and will always be with you.

Here’s the thing I know for sure with enough distance after losing my parents: the good memories are the ones that last. I don’t recall the arguments, I remember the laughter.



19 December, 2020 14:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks. It already happens fairly often that something like that brings the memories back. Glad to know the good memories are the ones that last. They're certainly the ones I want to keep.

19 December, 2020 20:34  
Blogger Esmeralda Cloud said...

I've read this post a few times and will without doubt come back one day to read again. It's beautiful and makes me cry, as it should, for the loss, all of it, that we lose ourselves, that which others watch us lose, who we were and who we become, in some respects without any choice at all, however, the love that shines out of all this writing is such a strong beacon it shines the bond you had right across the universe, and that, is quite wonderful.

I am presently on a journey akin to this in my own sphere and daren't imagine the end of the road, but it will happen and like you, I shall be able bear it. Hopefully. Thank you. x

- Esme Cloud

24 January, 2021 18:03  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Esme: Thank you for this comment -- it means a great deal.

That journey may prove longer and more complex than expected. I hope you at least will have someone to offer support, when the time comes.

26 January, 2021 04:04  

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