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Lying to my Mother

I told my mom she could go.  I said it was okay.  I told her I would be fine.  I was trying to do the right thing, but I also felt I was being honest.  Well, apparently I lied.

My husband sympathetically summed it up for me:  Sounds like now you want a Do Over. Yes, that is right, I do.  I take it all back.  Every word.  What was I thinking?  Maybe I was so busy reassuring her that I forgot to think of me.  But that’s all I’m left with now – me.  Not her.  And I miss her so much. How in the world could I have announced to her that I would be fine?

As it turns out, I told her this not right before she died – but several months prior – when she suddenly took a turn that really scared me.  She had a couple of very poor days, then 2 of days of barely eating and not getting out of bed (and if you knew my mom, you would know how shocking that was in and of itself).

From her bedside, I called my husband who could tell from my voice I was concerned.  He came over and she didn’t even lift her head from her pillow.   Not even an acknowledgment that he was there in the room.  I called the doctor – but there wasn’t really anything they could suggest other than an emergency room visit (and I knew that wasn’t right for her).  I got the nurse at her retirement home to take her blood pressure and it was normal; no, this was something else.

I called and left a message for her (our) minister – we needed help but I wasn’t sure for whom — her or me?  I called my brother-in-law who is also a member of the clergy and surprised myself by begging him to say a prayer for her over the phone.  That afternoon I thought my mother was dying and I was freaking out.

I spent hours sitting there in her room researching Signs of Dying in the Elderly on the internet.  Hospice provides lots of great materials; one checklist in particular felt right on in terms of things we were dealing with – but it isn’t as simple as this is what is happening and this is how long this process takes.  It’s all vague and loose – could be weeks, months, years….which when you’re 90 is pretty much how life goes anyway!

I left to run an errand; naturally that was when the minister came by.  I’m not exactly sure what he said or did, but it must have been some pretty powerful stuff – a few hours later she got up out of bed and sat in her favorite chair and even ate a little something.  What a transformation — I was amazed.

Sitting there, it was as if none of this stuff over the past few days had happened.  Yet my head was still swirling.  Do I go back to our normal conversation or do I try and open the box marked “Uncomfortable things you don’t usually want to talk about” and give it a go?  After all, I had thought she was in the midst of dying – and as such, a lot of questions came up for me.  So I tried discussing dying in general and her beliefs in the hereafter a little bit. “It’s all right,” she told me with her dry sense of humor, referring to the priest’s visit “I can die now – I’ve been blessed.”

And that’s when I felt compelled to tell her it was all right if she “needed to go.”  (A Hospice tip is that sometimes a loved one needs permission to die.)  If she was waiting around for that, just in case, well I wanted her to know it was fine.  “I’ll be okay.” I told her, trying to be brave and keep my voice steady.  Then much to my chagrin, I burst into tears.

My mother leaned over and patted me soothingly on my knee.  It was the first time she had comforted ME in a long time.  “Oh, honey,” she said, putting on her mom’s hat once again.  “You know, I really have lived a good life.

There it was – the gift.  I had always assumed that – but hearing her actually tell me that was a very special moment.  I thought I was giving her permission to go, but really she was giving me permission to be okay with it all. She had lived a long time – she had enjoyed a good life – I mean, really, what more can one want?

Looking back, this Zen Mama Wannabe is so thankful for that day – for the conversation we had – for the way she patted my knee and acknowledged my feelings.  You would think it would make the loss not quite as great, or the sorrow not quite as much.  But it doesn’t.

I want to scream up at the sky, “I take it back!  I’m not fine.  Mama, I don’t want you gone – I want you here with me.  It doesn’t feel right without you!”  But as I tell my kids from time to time, sometimes in life you don’t get a Do Over.  And no, I guess I don’t really want one.  I felt it was important to say to her and I’m glad I did.  But, for the record, I lied.

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4 Responses to “Lying to my Mother”

  1. callieandbatido Says:
    August 28th, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Beautiful post.

  2. Margot Says:
    August 28th, 2010 at 6:20 am

    A powerful message. I am walking your path with my father-in-law and dread it when I’m taking it with my mom…

  3. LK Says:
    August 28th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    That one really spoke to me… I felt/feel the same way. Thank you.

  4. LarkLady Says:
    August 28th, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    We — as a society — don’t handle death very well. So your reactions aren’t surprising, aren’t unnatural in the slightest. And having lost my mother recently, I have to admit that I haven’t been able to fully say goodbye to her yet. When my father died, I talked to him on a fairly regular basis for about 5 years, but it’s different somehow with my mother. I can’t articulate it (and maybe working on that would help me in dealing with it all), but it’s different. Maybe because now I am the oldest female in the family (I still can’t wrap my head around that one!). Maybe because we have only 2 aunts left in the extended family… which means most of my cousins have already been through what I’m facing now: the loss of that Voice of the Elders, the realization that that role is devolving to my older brother and to me — and none of us are ready for that!

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