As my Mother Lay Dying

The best conversations with mothers always take place in silence when only the heart speaks  – Carrie Latet

My mother is dying of cancer in a nearby hospital.  She just turned 82 years old last month.  She’s been in decline for the past year.  Her five children thought the thrust of her diminution was early dementia.  Sadly, we were wrong.  Mom fell and broke her leg two days ago.  Upon further examination, doctors found cancer throughout her body including her brain. 

I went to visit her in the hospital last night.  The place was new, more like a subdued resort than a place where sick people go.  I stepped off the elevator and could sense the quietude, so at odds with the standard beeping machinations of modern medicine.

Only one hour remained in visiting hours.  There was no one around except for the nurses at their station, their mood so at odds with my lugubrious gait.

I walked in mom’s room where she lay sleeping.  She could have been a child but for the deep furrows that ran across her face like newly plowed fields in the spring. I felt a sense of displacement, a breaking off of a piece of my Self.

I sat down and studied her face.  How complicated our journey through this life with are parents is.  We can gather pieces of it in our hands from time to time.  We try to make sense of it, but most of its meaning is shrouded in mystery.  While we can’t explain it, we know it at another level.  It is at moments like this that we are provided an illumination, a momentary aperture, where light transcends much of what we thought we knew about this life and our mothers.

All that my mom is and ever was and everything that I am were alive in that room last night.  I began stroking her head, her thinning grey hair providing no resistance.  She awoke briefly to look into my eyes and we met in that moment. 

“You know I love you Mom”.

She gestured that she did and said, “I’m just so tired.” 

After she drifted back off, I told her that it was okay to leave, that she didn’t have to struggle anymore.

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9 thoughts on “As my Mother Lay Dying

  1. I, too, will be praying for all of your family, and that your mom will soon enjoy peace and be free from pain and suffering.

  2. May you, your mother and all her family find peace.
    Sometimes I think that the death of our parents is the final lesson in life that they teach us. Words fail to express the depth of that but, I think that we more fully understand that the love we share transcends this earthly existence. Faith can help us find positive thoughts to lift us through this experience and the support of others can reassure us that we certainly are not alone, we are all in it together. May your faith help you. I also will pray for you.

  3. We are so sorry about your Mom’s illness and hope that you may all find peace during this difficult time. Much love, F&Seana&O&L

  4. Dear,

    I wish I could bring the past thirty years back to you, so you could live again all the moments of your childhood, the bonding moments between you and your Mom. The moments in which your Mom nourished the beautiful soul that is revealed as you write.
    It would be really a gift of Gods, whatever religion or faith you may pursue.

    But we all know that this is not possible, so I will pray that faith will be generous and time kind enough for you to live a long, healthy, and happy life carrying the strength you have shown in your lines. The love also transcends your words as you wrote.

    Best Always, Be tall, your Mom is within you and she will always be.


  5. My 82 year old mother is dieing with cancer and im devestated. Ive lost my only child, my dad, my brother, and brother in law. My mom is my last one on this earth that loves me unconditionaly. She has never been one to complain or talk about her problems. My moms mental state has got to be scared. Should i just pretend im like my 2 sisters and brother and never talk about it. Pretending doesnt come easy for me. But i want to help her and set her mind at ease best i can. What do i do pretend or tell her how much i love her and get her to open up and tell me how she feels. Should i ask her or just let be and miss the last chance to help her and speak of her fears ?

    1. Thank’s for sharing Sheila. Like you, my siblings didn’t want to talk to our mom about dying. I felt very conflicted. My mom couldn’t talk the last month of her life because of her brain cancer. But she understood. I know that she was very afraid and wanted to talk. I would talk to your mom. I’m sure you’re a kind person and will only speak lovingly to her. This may give her permission to say alot of things she wants to say. One thing that might help is for you (you don’t have to include your siblings in this) is to speak to a priest, chaplin and/or hospice person about how to approach your mother before doing it. They may have some very good ideas. I can tell this is pressing down on you, especially after so many other losses. My mom was never one to complain or talk about her problems either. I would touch her. Hold her hand and wipe her brow with cool water. Touching is healing. Whatever you do so, it doesn’t have to be very complicated. I learned this from a book that I recommend you read, The Four Things That Matter Most and here is the link: I will keep you and your mom in my prayers. If you want, let me know how things go. Peace, Dan

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