Death of a Mother part 3

{This is part 3 of the series - for part 2 go here}

The word “restored” was originally in the title of this post until I realized that that word did not portray what really happened with my mother and I.

The concept behind restoration is that of repair…to bring something back. There was NO repairing the brokenness from a lifetime of damage. And, nothing to come back from or to.

Something far bigger and miraculous had to occur… Redemption!

Redemption is the action of saving or delivering from something. That word describes what really happened at the end.

My God delivered my mother and I’s relationship from ‘nothingness.’ He created something from nothing… life where there was none.

Our relationship may have been beyond repair, but by the grace of God it was NOT beyond redemption!

But, it would take my mother being on her death bed for this miracle to occur.

My mom had been diagnosed a few years prior with a rare but treatable blood cancer. For a season she was able to get by with medication to manage her condition but in time this gave way to the need for blood transfusions. Eventually those failed and she was faced with a choice... keep fighting or stop fighting and accept death.

She chose the latter.

My sister would tell me later that she could have had a transplant and been completely healed.

Mom decided to begin hospice, in her apartment, with a bed set up in her living room. At the time, my sister, who lived in the same town, had no idea the extent of what all that would entail; none of us did.

My sister agreed to take time off from work as did one of my brothers to stay in the apartment, with mom, and care for her until she passed. They had a nurse and a volunteer that provided some support.

I lived a couple of hours away and my other brother lived a couple of states away. He was able to come and see her several days before she died. I made as many trips as I could to help, but my sister and brother carried the weight of her care, a sacrifice I am truly grateful for!

The hospice nurse came every few days to check in on mom and give an update. Normally she could predict how long a person would be on hospice based on her many years of experience, but mom was a different story. The type of cancer she had was a first for the nurse and she struggled to give us a definitive or clear answer to the question of how long she would live.

It was two weeks.

This season with mom were some of the best times we experienced together. The conversations were pleasant and often funny. She was appreciative and cooperative; both a rare demonstration from her.

Having spent so many strained visits with her this felt really good!

I was beginning to like her. I had seen pockets of this person that made me want to get to know her and spend time with her, but it had been very long time. I had given up hope by this point, so the enjoyment I was experiencing with my mom was a surprise to me... a welcome one!

What I would realize later was her defense ego mechanisms were beginning to fall off one by one. The massive and impenetrable walls that she had erected to keep herself safe were beginning to crumble.

She wasn’t as bitter.

She wasn’t as defensive.

She wasn’t as sensitive.

She wasn't rejecting.

She was more brave.

She was more open.

She was more vulnerable.

She was about us.

She was allowing those who loved her to care for her. It was transforming her and us.

The weekend before her passing my brother from out of state and his family were able to come down and see mom. She was fairly coherent despite the steady stream of opioid medications.

My brother and his family were only able to manage a short stay before having to head back home. It was nice for my mom to have all four of her children there. My brother said his goodbyes.

I too had to get back home as I had work the next day. I didn’t know if this would be the last time I would see my mother. I knew I had to drive a couple of hours home but I lingered for as long as I could.

How does one say good-bye… forever?

I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t know if I should just hug her and say good-bye.

I didn’t know what this final good-bye should look like. And I had never been able to count on her to show me how to navigate the tough things in life.

I hesitated, I stalled, I contemplated, I wrestled…. I was frozen in fear.

A fear I had no words for. A fear I had never felt before. Or, more likely, one that I was unwilling to confront before!

I was afraid she would give one final rejection... I couldn’t bear that!

And I knew that I would know the moment I hugged her.

She couldn’t hide that from me, rejection was a feeling I knew my whole life.

Despite the softness I had been experiencing from her over the past week I didn’t know if I could trust it. She had never been good when emotions got too high or too heavy.

How would she say good-bye to me?

Would it be with that stiff defensiveness that kept me at arm’s length my whole life?

I can’t feel that again!

How it ends could not be how it began... with rejection.

Another thought... could I trust that when I went in for the last good-bye, the last contact with my mother, that it wouldn’t open a floodgate of emotion.

That the depths of pain and longing that I had stuffed for decades wouldn’t pour out all over her.

Would she find it too much?

I had always been too much for her.

This is it…. I have stalled long enough…. I have to do something….

At first it was a hug and then I couldn’t hold back anymore, I laid on her chest and sobbed.

The tears were coming from the depths.

They were cleansing and beyond my ability to stop.

To my relief she embraced me.... Fully.

It wasn’t too much for her. I wasn’t too much for her. She pulled me in and told me, “I love you Heather.”

She had told me that countless times before but this was the FIRST time I believed it. And, I got the sense that this was the FIRST time she was able to truly mean it.

There were so many thoughts…feelings… revelations… washing over me one after another. It was as if a lifetime of questions and answers were being sorted through in an instant.

Something completely unexpected flooded my soul… a sense of belonging. A belonging I desperately wanted. I hadn’t realized until that moment the toll that losing an entire side of my family tree had had on me. I was back in the family and I felt it.

There was a maternal softness in her that melted my heart… she wasn’t the only one who was a fortress.

I was being held by my mother - something I never recall experiencing before - and it felt amazing! I didn’t want to let that moment go.

Eventually it had to end. I rose and said my good-byes.

It absolutely crushed me that I was leaving her while she was still alive.

I prayed as I drove home that I would somehow be able to get back to be there in the last moments.

God heard my prayer...

(head here for the final chapter)

~ Heather

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Who made heaven and earth,

The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever.

Psalm 146:6