The Passing of My Mother

Rick Turner

First, I want to thank you all for sharing your stories about your losses.

My Mother died from a combination of renal disease and two heart attacks.

If it is true that all negative situations have a silver lining, then my impending divorce forced (perhaps a bad term) me to live with Mom. She had been doing home dialysis for nearly eight years and frequently wavered between being bedridden and seemingly healthy and vibrant. In her life she had suffered numerous physical and emotional setbacks. She lost her husband to cancer at age 29, had a stillborn son, had throat cancer, an attempted rape and many other maladies. I grew up in an orphanage and for the most part was not in touch with her during my formative years. Later, she moved to Arizona while I remained in Pennsylvania and lost further contact.

After my separation and moving in with her, I got a much better education as to her quality of life. She lived a life of quiet desperation. One hospital visit after another. Through it all, I did what I could to improve that quality of life. I introduced her to football, cooking with wine, and telling creditors to stuff it among others.

With renal disease there comes a loss of circulation. She apparently had broken something in her foot which she did not notice. When it became obvious she went into the hospital for tests. There she became incoherent. Seemingly nonsensical comments and observations which made no sense. I still cannot fathom what she was talking about. My Sister did not believe me when I told her that I got the distinct impression that Mom had "given up" somehow. It was a feeling I will never forget. A punch between the eyes could not have been more direct.

About a week later we were informed she had stabilized and perhaps would be coming home. When I went to see her I saw no difference, especially when she fell out of bed. In lifting her up I noticed her thigh was no bigger than my wrist, yet I held on to the belief she was indeed recovering.

The next day she suffered a massive heart attack and I went to see her in the wing for the terminally ill. In trying to steel myself I asked an attending nurse for a prognosis and timetable. She told me it could be hours, weeks or months.

At this time my Sister was in a highly emotional state and could not bring herself to visit. I am certain this is normal, but I felt the need to hold my own emotions in check and be strong for her. This I was able to do with surprising ease. I went in to see Mom and gave her a much-rehearsed speech about how life had been good, how it was fortunate we gotten to know each other better. Most of all, I gave her permission to let go. This was easily the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.

After an hour or so I told Mom I had to go attend to her daughter and told her how sorry I was. Suddenly, her whispering became louder. I leaned closer and asked her to repeat what she said, which was "not as sorry as I am". Those were the last words I heard her speak. She died a few short hours later.

While this letter has been somewhat therapeutic, I have not had much support from my immediate family. I would very much appreciate your helping me know how I can cope. I am going through emotions never experienced before. I truly am a ship lost at sea. I just don't know how to grieve......... While I gave Mom permission to let go I cannot do the same for myself.

Most sincerely,

Rick Turner

You can send email to Rick at: [email protected]
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anniversary date 5-12-99
date of post 6-11-99

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW