I came down here to Florida to visit with my Mom.

cross and man

I wish I could show you many photos of my Mom, but even the pictures wouldn’t say it all, so I won’t post any right now.  Maybe later.  

Just picture a blonde, curly-haired little toddler with a happy, perky face.   She was described as a happy, loving, very kind child,  giving help or giving things to people to try to make them happy.  She’s frequently shown with puppies or kittens or her beloved big sister nearby.

I haven’t seen photos of her as a young girl or in high school, because she was the victim of a broken home.  Very broken up.  Not because of immorality,  but because of diseases and disabilites that were not understood in those days.   My Mom has been described by the people of her hometown as “neglected”  and “abandoned,”  and “malnourished.”   She used to tell me about the mornings in the Far Far North when she and her sister would wake up with their toes dark blue from the cold, and they would hurry to light a fire in the coal stove to warm up.    I’ve never heard any words of malice come out of my Mom’s mouth about these terrible years.

But that life  came to an end.

Now she becomes a young woman.   Picture my Mom as one of those glamorous Hollywood types, only with a softer, kinder gentler face.  Happy and good, like Deanna Durbin,  but without the singing ability.  Or perhaps a young and lovely Donna Reed.  My Mom understood acting, and she had a short modeling career in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Then she moved on to Chicago to study art at the Chicago Art Institute.

Then that life, too,  came to an end.
My father came into the picture then.   He was a young Marine at the end of World War II and he was from her hometown.    I had forgotten, until my sister reminded me,  that he had been compared to a young and very handsome Frank Sinatra. 

Picture a cold, dark winter night in Downer’s Grove, Illinois.  My Dad in a tuxedo and a fashionable white wool scarf, changing a flat tire, in a snowstorm,  while my Mom and the two mothers and the minister wondered how much longer they should wait for “the groom” to arrive.  And then the minister went home.   Two hours later they had to get him up again to administer the wedding vows — only to find out that the marriage license had been signed in Cook County, not in DuPage County where they were.   A quick drive over to a very sleepy judge in Cook County — and I guess my Mom and Dad were legally married.

But that’s over now, and World War II ended,  and a couple years later I came into the world with a blast –   literally.    My 20 year old parents had a wild ride to the hospital where I was born.    The horn  on their old car got stuck and blared the entire 45 miles to the hospital.  I can’t imagine what was going through my Mom’s mind during that car ride.
I remember my Mom as a pretty, young professional “career woman,”  and arriving home at night, dressed in her beautiful city clothes, usually a pretty feminine blouse and soft swishy skirt,  or a lovely dress, high heels, and standing at the kitchen stove,  hurrying to make dinner for her family, and  then later – the best time of the day  — standing by me as I ate my “midnight snack” before going to bed.

She was a loving, kind, and gentle Mom to me.   Never an unkind word about anyone.    I never heard a judgment or a criticism.   She hit me once, though,  on the shoulder,  and I soooooo much deserved it.  I had talked back to her and you just never, ever talk back to your mother.     (Not even if your immature brain thinks it’s justified.)    Even that “hit”  was a firm and loving instruction from her.  She really, really did love me.

Now that phase of her life came to an end.   We moved from Chicago to the wilderness in the Far Far North.

She became a mother of two more daughters,  but just two short years later I left home,  and she became the person who answered my letters or   who talked on the phone with me. 

She (and my Dad)  raised their second family, lived in a few states, and ended up in Florida.  Mom is working for a small university,  but she is still wife and mother.    Working.   Knitting.  Quilting.  Reading.   Getting used to Florida.  Making friends.   Going to church.    And then my two “baby sisters”  had grown up and left home. 

That phase of her life came to an end.     And even my beautiful young parents eventually began growing old.

As it was happening,  their declining years seemed to be lasting a long time… a couple decades?   But the illnesses started, and the treatments —  the treatments that convinced me never to go to doctors.    Almost never.    I watched their health being managed downward into an irreversible spiral.  

The years of independent adulthood were over for my Mom.  Eventually, due to one treatment commonly given to women,  her brain was impaired, her thinking disrupted.

Her husband died and her life as a wife came to an end.

All these phases of my Mom’s life,  all those parts of her life were actually and really over and done with,  locked into an almost dormant memory.
The doctors called me recently and told me my Mom was sick, and it was “urgent”  that I come to Florida to see her. 

I didn’t know what to expect.   One nurse called and kindly “warned” me to expect a tiny, frail woman lying in bed.  Another called and said she was doing so much better on the new medicine.  Another phone call told me there is nothing more medical science can do.

I found her sitting up in a wheelchair, IV tubes,  oxygen tubes.   That’s all right;  I’d become used to seeing people like that in the years I worked in a hospital, in the years I saw Hubbie “attached” to things like that.  They are still the same person they are.   Mom was still Mom.

What I treasure the most, is that when Mom finally recognized me, her face lit up with a mother’s joy.  She was not only alert,  she was interested,  engaged in our conversation.  We talked about old times, and she laughed – she even giggled at one point.  She asked questions – or tried to, and then seemed to gather patience, resigning herself to just hearing me chatter on.   But she still made “comments”!

For two and a half hours we conversed. 

Then this last conversation, too, came to an end.   She became “sore” from sitting in one place so long.  Her throat hurt from the dry, cold oxygen running into her nose.    We laughed together and decided it was way past her bedtime.  

We looked forward to talking more the next morning, and seeing the old photographs I had brought with me.    The nurse came in . . . .

The next morning my sister and I met and made our plans to see Mom . . .  and while we were talking the phone rang.

Mom had passed away a few minutes ago.

No.    No.     No.     No. . . . .


This last, elderly, physically debilitated phase of her life came to an end.

My sister and I talked — non-stop — for the next 15 1/2 hours.   Keeping Mom here, I guess.  Keeping her anchored in our lives.   Finding all the places in us where she had formed us    We know she lives on because of her faith in Jesus, and she is in the hands of the King.   But my sister and I live on here, hoping to find all the things Mom gave us;   hoping to stay true to all the things Mom made us to be.
What she was and the lives she had lived have all come to an end, and all we have in this present time are precious memories of it, in this present time.  The present is all any of us really have.

You know?   Until this present time comes to an end.




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2 Comments on “AT LIFE’S ENDINGS”

    One of Life’s Miracles that you had that one last visit !

    I have many pix of her, cannot find many…I even have the picture I took when you made it possible to Skype with you & her !

    God be with you….

  2. Oh, that skyping was wonderful. I still want to think she knew what was going on and she knew it was you. She had loved technology, and computers, . . . so many things.

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