My Mother the Saint


Two weeks ago I lost my mother. Well, I didn't actually lose her; she died. And I am the one who is lost without her.

I remember the phone call that afternoon, feeling mildly irritated when I heard my sister's unintelligible gibberish on the line. She blubbered out something, and then asked for my husband, who wasn't home at the time. By now I knew something was wrong, and that she was crying, so I gently told her he was out at the store, and could I help her. You see, I thought something had gone wrong at her house, maybe a fight with her husband or a problem with the car. If only that had been the case. I remember her words so clearly, "I didn't want to have to tell you this. I wanted to tell Bill so he could tell you. I have some really bad news. Mom passed away last night.".

There was a split second when I knew what she was going to say, but I didn't want her to actually say it, because then it would be reality. I reacted by saying "Oh my god." rather calmly, then again with a little more emphasis, then again with the full force of the realization that had just hit me. "OH MY GOD!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!" was what kept bursting out of me with a voice I did not even recognize as my own. It was at that moment that my husband arrived home, and he knew from my cries what had happened. He ran downstairs and grabbed the phone from me, getting all the details and essential information while I continued to wail uncontrollably. My husband tells me I kept banging my foot on the coffee table the entire time, though I have no recollection of doing that. I sobbed and wailed until I felt physically ill. After that, everything is a blur.

I am the youngest of nine daughters, and I have one younger brother. I used to have another older brother, but he died when I was 4, and I don't even remember him. My mother was left alone to raise all of us when she was only 33 years old; that's two years younger than I am, and I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be on my own raising eleven children. Now you see why I call my mother a saint. That's actually how my friends react when they find out about my mother's incredible job as a single parent.

She did a great job of raising her brood of children. We all graduated from High School, most of us went on to some type of secondary schooling, and we are all able to support ourselves financially. (Many families with two parents in the home do not even have that kind of success with their children!) But my mom was not always a willing candidate for the job. When I was 3 years old, a couple of years after my parent's divorce, she wanted to walk away from all that responsibility, and suffered what they then called a nervous breakdown. Personally, I think she just wanted some time off. After one week, the doctors told her there was nothing wrong with her, and that she had to go home, but she wanted to stay in the hospital. Can you blame her?? But she did go home, and learned to reorder her priorities. Our house was not always the cleanest, and neither were we, and maybe some things just never got done, but she was there for us. She had to learn to be tough. She protected us from those who would try to take advantage of poor, fatherless children; and there were many of those kind of people. She made us all take firearms training so that we could take care of ourselves, if we absolutely had to. Thank God we never had to use that training! I thought she was the bravest person in the world because she never took any crap from anyone. I was scared all the time, but I knew Mom would make everything alright. She told us that all the time too, " Don't worry; everything is going to be alright.". And it usually was. She had such incredible faith. My mom raised us in a very unconventional way, allowing us to make our own choices, and, all too often, our own mistakes. She trusted us to do the right thing. She stood by us when we did the wrong things. She found creative ways to deal with the sheer multitude of tasks it took to single- handedly raise a family of 10 children. She assigned us into teams to do the housework and chores. She sewed a small thread of embroidery floss, a different color for each child, into our socks and underwear in order to prevent arguments over whose were whose. She cooked noodles and butter for dinner when we had nothing left to eat, and no money left for food. She made many of our clothes on her cheap little sewing machine. She was often scared and lonely, but kept it well hidden from us children. My mom was only 67 years old, and she died in her sleep. She was still working full time on an assembly line, doing factory work. She put in a full shift that last Friday night, spent Saturday doing her usual stuff, and visiting with some of my sisters, and then she quietly passed away in her sleep sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning. One of my sisters found her after Mom didn't show up for a family reunion she had planned to attend that day. She said Mom looked so peaceful that it helped her feel better about her dying. Apparently Mom had even told some of my sisters beforehand that she thought the Lord was coming to take her home soon, and that was OK with her.

She didn't tell me though. I talked to her just a few days before her death, and we made small talk, but she never mentioned to me that she thought her time on this earth was coming to a close. And that hurts. I never got to tell her goodbye. I didn't tell her I loved her when we talked by phone that last time. Instead, I said, "I'll talk to you soon.". How I wish I had gone with my first instincts and told her I loved her. It's so weird, but I am angry at her for leaving me out of the loop. She could have warned me too. She didn't even give me a hint, and yet she giving my older sisters instructions for her funeral arrangements. I can't tell you how much that bothers me. Didn't she trust me? Didn't she love me as much as she loved them? Didn't she think I was capable of handling her arrangements too? I feel so abandoned. I feel like a 35 year old orphan. My mom is gone, and I can't believe it. She was so strong and independent, I thought she would be around for years to come. I wonder if her life was such an uphill struggle that she just got tired, and lay down and went to sleep. I know she is at peace in Heaven, but I want her here with me. I'm not ready for this. I don't want this to be real. But it is real, and now I am a motherless child. And I am scared again.


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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW