My Mom...My Best Friend - The Story of Ann B

Pat Hazen

Anna Rennie Burbank (11/11/21 - 6/8/97), loved reminiscing about her days working as a long lines operator before her retirement, loved going out with friends, loved BINGO & going to Atlantic City, loved all living things, especially her two pet dogs that died before her, loved watching and feeding the birds. Loved me, her daughter, more than I ever realized!

Mom had a fairly normal childhood, although I remember stories she told me of how her family was considered poor and things they used to do to make ends meet. I never knew my grandparents...they all passed on before I was born or when I was very young.

She met my dad when she was 16, they dated for a while then got married. Her first born, my brother, George Patrick was born 3/17/38. I was born 6/29/50.

When I was only a few years old, my mom was diagnosed with uterine/cervical cancer and had to undergo several major operations and radiation therapy (which in those days was still fairly new). She got radiation poisoning which left permanent complications she had to deal with for the rest of her life! But, at least she survived the cancer....that was her that she would be alive to raise her children.

I guess the illness, and other things took its toll on her relationship with my dad....they still loved each other but couldn't get along and so they separated. They were always in touch though and he helped her as much as he could. My dad was an alcoholic. To make ends meet, my mom got a job as a long lines (overseas) operator with a major phone company.

Soon my brother became old enough to join the Marines, meet the girl of his dreams and get married. The relationship with my sister-in-law seemed fine for a while, then she seemed to have a "personality" change after having the children. I remember at my nephew's christening, my mom was the only one that didn't get to hold her first born grandchild...that hurt my mom a lot! Try as we might, we could never understand her feelings toward us, and, my brother could offer no explanation. I knew the problems with my sister-in-law bothered my mom a lot, but, as long as we could maintain contact with my brother...she was content.

My mom and dad were still separated when in 1958 or 1959 he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed on one side. My mom took him back in to take care of him....we were a family again! In 1968, he suffered a major heart attack and was hospitalized. While in the hospital, he tried going to the bathroom by himself and fell fracturing his hip....the same side that was paralyzed....due to his weak condition they couldn't operate right away to set the hip....the circulation became poorer and gangrene set in. They finally had to operate by giving him sedation to relax him and "froze" the had to be amputated. He survived the surgery, told my mom he loved her, and was going to make up for all the time they missed. He said when he got home from the hospital, he was going to take her to Niagara Falls for the honeymoon they never had. 12 hours later we got a call from the hospital that he had died....a ruptured aortic aneurysm.

This was in December 1968, a few weeks before Christmas. It was hard for her, but, she made it through and concentrated her efforts on giving me the best she could. I got married in 1973 and decided to move to where my husband was from....a 4 hour trip away, but mom still lived in the city. In 1982 she decided to move up to the area where I live to be closer to me. Things with my sister-in-law still hadn't improved.

Sometime in April 1985, we visited my brother and he didn't look good. Mom asked him if he'd seen a doctor. He said it was just a bad cold he couldn't shake. My sister-in-law called about the beginning of May saying my brother was in the hospital for "weakness" and more tests were being done...that was all she would tell us. My mother went to be with him, a 4 hour trip away. My sister-in-law didn't even offer her a place to mom rented a motel room, and, that's where she spent the next 4 weeks. She was finally able to speak with my brother's doctor who said my brother had inoperable lung cancer, and, things did not look good. I tried to get down a few times to visit my brother and be with my mom. On May 26 mom called me and said I should come down right away which I did. I got to visit with him a few minutes before the nurses said he, and we, needed rest and that we should leave. The next morning as mom and I entered the hospital, we heard a "code blue" and I knew it was my brother. We got up to the floor and was told he was in ICU....they were working on him. 30 minutes later they called my sister-in-law, the kids, and her sister in while my mom and I were left sitting in the waiting room. They came back out, never said a word and left. I told the nurse who we were....she led me and mom back to my brother's body and we were able to spend some time with him. At the funeral, my sister-in-law acted like we weren't even there....we had no say in the arrangements, mom was completely devastated. My sister-in-law passed away about 5 years later from sudden cardiac arrest.

My mom died from bladder cancer on June 8,1997. She (we) had been fighting it for 5 years. Bladder washes, biopsies, chemotherapy, etc... but it was in a spot in the bladder that was hard to was growing out into the abdominal cavity. In February 1997, she started hemorrhaging and was admitted to the hospital. They had to do emergency surgery to stop the hemorrhage. They said they wanted to operate again to remove the bladder and do a urostomy. This was her only chance....she agreed because she didn't want to leave me yet! They did the surgery and urostomy, but said the bladder was "fixed" and they couldn't get it out...what they accomplished would buy her more time. She was in the hospital a month. I brought her home with me March 21, 1997. The surgeon didn't tell her right away....he knew then that she was dying and only had a short time, he did tell me. He said it wouldn't help her recuperate from the surgery to know then. Finally, her medical doctor told her so that we could get Hospice in to help. The doctor told her she had maybe 5 months to live....she died June 8, 1997.

I was with her when she took her last breath....holding her hand....telling her it was ok to give up the fight....that she deserved rest and peace. I remember the sound of her last breath....I remember the look on her face and in her eyes....I held her hand, laid my head next to her....and then it was over. My best mom was gone.

I love you mom and I miss you more than anyone will ever know!

Pat Hazen

You can send email to Pat at: No Mail Please
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anniversary date 06-05-97
date of post 04-29-98

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW