Missing Mom

Man, how many times per year can they make an official day for me to miss my mother? She died of lung cancer in 2001, but it seems like just yesterday. As it turns out, I miss her every day. But holidays are especially difficult, particularly Mother’s Day. I feel robbed.

Wherever you are, Mom, thanks for everything. Loving you still.

Seven Years

I have too little and too much to say on this anniversary of my Mother’s passing. I’ve been thinking more lately about the chaos of when she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, nine days before my wedding, four short months before she died.

But to commemorate this anniversary, I will reprint a vignette I wrote last year. I hope to work into a full memoir someday — right now it is just a short scene that happened a few days before she died. It captures, I think, the sweetness of how she lived and how she died.

Four Days Left

Mom cooperates sweetly during her bedtime ritual, even trying to pee when she is uncomfortable and doesn’t really have to go. After she is clean and tucked-in, we gather around the hospital bed Dad set up in the guest bedroom. Mom’s been unable to leave this room for the past week, since a stroke made it hard for her to move on her own. She can no longer speak in whole sentences, sometimes not finding a single word she needs. Even so, she says goodnight as best she can to each of us standing around her bed. We kiss her one by one, turn out the light, then adjourn to the kitchen, exhausted, for tea and quiet conversation about the day, her meds, what she managed to eat.

Mom calls to us a few minutes later. Margaret and Sarah go in to see what she wants. Dad and I enter the room a minute later, and see Mom desperately trying to communicate something to Margaret and Sarah. Mom looks relieved to see me, since I often can guess what she wants to say. I walk around the bed to her right side, her good side, take hold of her right hand in both of mine, and look into her eyes.

“What do you need, Mom?”

“All together.” She says slowly, emphatically, trying to lift her head as if to prove her point. “Here. All together.”

She’s been wanting to pray more lately, especially since the visiting minister from Central Lutheran Church brought her communion last week. I think she was surprised at how healing it was to make peace with a church that had disappointed her so much over the years. And I suspect she found more comfort than she anticipated in her old rituals.

I ask, “Do you want us all to say a prayer with you, Mom?”

“Yes!” She leans back into the pillows, closes her eyes, and breathes a heavy sigh of relief.

“Do you want me to sing?” She doesn’t answer, just smiles with her eyes still closed, exhausted.

I’ve been singing to her a lot lately, especially a version of the 23rd Psalm written by Bobbi McFerrin for his mother. I think Mom likes it because he uses the feminine pronoun to refer to God. I also think she likes the fact that I once recorded it on CD when I sang with a women’s a cappella ensemble years ago – she was so proud. It’s designed to be sung in seven-part harmony. I have simplified it to a single line of melody.

We form a circle holding hands, shoulders, arms, whatever we can reach over the hospital bed, some sitting, some standing. I begin.

The Lord is my shepherd, I have all I need.
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still water, She will lead.

Mom nods her head, smiling, between each line, saying, “Yes! Yes! That’s true!”

She sets a table before me in the presence of my foes.
She anoints my head with oil and my cup overflows.

“So true!”

She restores my soul, she writes my wrongs.
She leads me on a path of good things
And fills my heart with song.
Even though I walk through a dark and stormy night.
There is nothing that can shake me
She has said she will not forsake me I’m in her hands.

“Yes. Yes.”

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me
All the days of my life.
And I will dwell in her house forever, forever and ever.
Glory be to the Mother, and Daughter, and to the Holy of Holies.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be
World without end. Amen.

I am in terrible voice, but it doesn’t matter. Mom is beaming.

We kiss her good night once again. Dad, as always, gets the last lingering moment with her, nose to nose, whispering that their love is a star in heaven that will last forever. Satisfied, Mom sighs deeply and turns over on her side. Dad turns out the light.

We all sit quietly in the living room, slightly stunned. Mom’s childlike voice travels down the hall.

“Goodbye,” she says sweetly to the dark. “Goodbye.”

Spark has moved on

My husband, Jay sent this to our loved ones today:


Sorry to inform you that our cat Spark, 20 years old, has moved on to the spirit world.As many of you know, Spark was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his mouth a few months ago. The tumor had been active for some quite awhile so it was only going to be a matter of how long he could remain happy and avoid being in a significant amount of pain.

Over the past week, the signs that he was in more and more pain each day became obvious. We had a little chat with him and we all decided it was time for him to move on.

He spent last night sleeping with us and today we were able to spend a lot of quality time together before going to the vet this afternoon.

He was, of course, quite a good — and extremely friendly — companion to me for the past 10+ years and to Elizabeth for the past 20+ years. He will be greatly missed by us and all who knew him.


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