Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy birthday, Mom... A Remembrance

And the years roll on.  I posted this last year--wrote it two years ago, and post it again this year for mom's birthday. 


Today is my mom's birthday.  Last year on her 83rd birthday, at the end of the evening, she had trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital.  Within a week she had suffered a heart attack and was resuscitated by the hospital staff...sort of, but never quite came back to us.  

The odyssey of ICU, breathing tubes, feeding tubes, kidney failure and dialysis, all followed by her being deemed unable to swallow and not tolerating the tube feedings, left us with a slow and quiet end at hospice.  

Two months before her heart attack, I'd lost my job of 22 years.   Since I felt compelled to not have her be alone at night during her final days, and didn't have to divide my time between hospice and work, I spent the nights with her.  

The nurses thought she might live for three more days. She lived for ten.

I wrote my way through the pain, typing quietly away on my laptop while I sat beside her bed.

Tonight, almost a year later, while I quietly wish her a happy birthday, I hope that there is an afterlife for her that includes my father.  Eighty-three years on this earth.  As I blink back tears, I remind myself of what I have said so many times to others...others who struggled to find the words to alleviate my grief.  "It' okay. She lived a good, long life.  And though it is heartbreaking to lose her, when the universe is working just right, we bury elderly parents."

Here, for her birthday, I post something I wrote last year while sitting at her side... in her waning  days on earth...

Mothers and Rainbows: A Remembrance 

This afternoon, after I finished my "night's" sleep, I walked into my living room and saw that the sun, shining in an azure sky, had slipped far enough south to shine on the prisms hanging in the windows;  the room was spangled with rainbows.  I set about tasks that had to be done, cleaning, dishes, and  catching up on things that the vigil I keep has allowed to fall behind.

The thoughts paraded through my mind, how peacefully mom slept last night, how gaunt her face has become, tears...then more tears, then thinking about what I had to do today-- I should bake cinnamon bread to take into the hospice unit.  

I looked at the rainbows dotting walls, ceiling, and floor as I worked, and recalled how excited a rainbows sighting made us when we were young.  We'd  dash outside after a rainstorm to look toward the east at an arc of colors, with our mom beside us looking on in wonder at the beauty of simple things, and with gratitude for an end to all storms.

Mom, unlike my dad, had no deep-seated religious conviction. And that made our earliest association with rainbows-- and the lore surrounding them to be much more rife with tales of leprechauns and pots of gold than about promises from a god about major floods. So, oft I stood wondering where in that forest of trees on the yonder hillside was that pot of gold found at every rainbow's end.

Back to my tasks at hand, mixing the bread dough, water, shortening and flour in the bowl, more water, sugar and the yeast in a separate bowl.  My mind drifts, I can hear her voice the day she taught me about yeast dough, "Dissolve the yeast in water, stir...like that, okay add some sugar because yeast needs something to eat so that it can grow."  And the tears come...

I held her hand last night as I talked to her...she slept,  I can only hope, dreaming dreams that my words influenced.  Maybe morphine dreams do not exist... maybe her mind is held in silence and darkness as the waning days of her life slip by... but I hope... I tell her that I will get the book published, and will dedicate it to my biggest fan...her. 

My thoughts wander to Christmases past and I tell her that I don't know how she did it, eight children and we had next to nothing, but Christmases were always good--. I can't recall one when I was disappointed. I then sat with a lump in my throat, I had to choose--silence or sobs...I chose silence... as I thought of Christmases forward.  All Christmases forward...

I note, without giving much thought, that the rainbows have crawled across the living room wall...the sun is heading west.  The first batch of bread is in pans to raise. As I mix a second, I don't know why but I keep thinking of going around the fence with mom.  

The house was in the "hollow" and the entire 25 acres of it were fenced in for cattle, with electric coursing through the barbed wire.  It was a big job that mom did while dad worked at the Catholic Seminary five miles away.  I can picture her; she has a five gallon metal bucket full of the tools and supplies... lashing wire, extra barbed wire, insulators and nails.  A claw hammer, wire cutters, and a pair of leather gloves complete the  items.  

And we started, up the lane by the gate, up over the hillside and into the big oak woods at the top of the hill across our small creek.  We pause at the hollow tree while mom peeks inside and then tells my younger sister and me that the elf who makes shoes lives in there.  I am five and my sister is four--everyone else is at school, and we are now both amazed and ill at ease at the thought of an "elf" living in a tree near the grazing cows.  

Down over the hill, across the bottom of the fields below the house and barn, then a broad sweep along the fence bordering an old "mending walls" stone fence leading us back up over the hill.  There, below the orchard, where there is a gate in the electric fence,  mom says, "Look at that."  My sister and I look at where she is pointing, and we have no idea what it is that is struggling--tangled in the wire.  She tells us that it is an "owl", and we watch her put on her leather gloves and begin trying to disentangle  the creature.   We stare at the strange eyes that look startled wide open.  It claws her leather gloves and then as the bird is freed from the wires, its curved beak bites down on the leather too.  She wraps it in a flannel shirt and we take it to the house so that her other 6 children can see an owl up close when they get home from school.  Then she checks it over for injury to be sure that it will be fine when she releases it later.

The memories come and go...so random in nature, and I grieve each one at the emotion of acknowledging--no more memories will be made.  I know...I know that the challenge is to find the joy in the memories, but today I cannot...not yet.

The second batch of bread is in pans and raising, and the rainbows are now fading in the light of the late day.  I picture my mom, standing on the east side of the house with a camera in her hand and she has photographed a rainbow.  She pulls the backing paper off of the Polaroid print after carefully watching her wristwatch for the allotted time.  She has her photo...

I have my picture too, in my mind...but my photo of the  rainbow includes my mom, looking toward the eastern sky, watching a fading rainbow.  The storm has ended, her family is all safe and sound, and maybe, just maybe, that really is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So, tonight as I read to her and sing quietly to her, I need also remind her about the rainbows...about a lifetime of rainbows...and that every storm ends-- a lesson that she shared with us.  And I will whisper quietly to her as I have been, while I struggle to keep my breath from coming in sobs, "It is okay mom, we are all okay...you can go... there is a rainbow waiting for you at the end of this storm..."

Happy birthday, mom...


  1. I came here because I knew you would write today. I miss her. Love you.

  2. I miss her too, Zigzee. And I love you so much... It is odd, looking back on a year ago...how it seemed as if time turned to a slow crawl as it all played out before us. This terrible dream from which we could not awaken. And then, it was over. But for that brief time, all the world stopped for us. With a singular focus, we shared her final days (nights) and wherever she is now, the essence of her that endures, she recalls that we sat by her side night after night... love put us at her bedside, and love made us return to keep our vigil. And love brings us to our memories today...

  3. Teresa.

    A very personal post and at first it felt a little bit 'intruderish' to comment on that. I could say all of the things that everybody always says, but I won't. I'll leave you with a thought.

    My mother died 3 years ago on the day before Christmas, at the age of 81. In her bedroom, on the nightstand, next to the old 'Blaupunkt' radio she kept a picture of her mom. Every night, before she went to sleep, she took the picture in her hands and kissed her mother goodnight. Always saying: "I'll see you in the morning, mom". Now she probably does.

  4. That is interesting, your observation that to comment felt "intruderish". Looking at the post now, it does appear that I was a having a conversation with myself. :-)

    What a beautiful remembrance of your mother... I hope that she does, too. :-)

  5. Your mom sound so like my Gran. She made magic happen in my life on daily basis until she passed, in my dad's arms, just over 9 years old. I can't see the keyboard for my tears and I hope that they have met in the afterlife, I'm sure they would have got on.
    I hope you are ok and know that she is smiling down on you, revelling in the beauty of your words.

  6. It's a beautiful remembrance. And you are absolutely right. As hard as it is to lose someone at ANY time, it is at least the way it was meant to be when we lose them at the end of a long full life. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. hi, regards from indonesia. have a nice day with yur mom.

  8. Teresa, this post made me cry. It is life-changing to lose our mother, whether we've had a nurturing relationship with our mom or a complicated one.

    Happy belated birthday to your mother. Hoping she and your dad are in Heaven smiling down at you.

    Have a beautiful week ahead.

  9. Dear Teresa, my friend. Had to be hard and heart-soothing at the same time to write that entry. Both my first husband and his mother (who became as dear to me as any mother could) have died, and sometimes I feel so alone in the world. There are only our memories of them to keep us going...and thank God for those! My grandmother had one thing written in her Bible, it said, "It's amazing what God can do with a broken heart when you give Him all the pieces."
    Sending much love and hugs,

  10. Dear friend, what you have written here is a profoundly moving tribute. I was moved by it to the extent that I explored it in my blog. I also lifted some quotes from the fans of your blog as it related to your subject. I hope I wasn't out of order there. I just want to give you my personal congratulations, here, and to thank you for your honesty and courage.

  11. By the way... This is Jay Squires. The only thing I could post my comment under was my Google mail account, which goes under my legal name "George".

  12. Kizzia, thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope they met too...that is sort of my hope of a reward beyond this life--that we all are blessed with the friendship of kindred spirits. Thanks for sharing about your father and your gran. I have heard the moment of death described as one of the "holiest" moments in a person's existence. I would want my children there with me, holding my hand, talking to me... All 8 of us surrounded my mom's bed for the last moments of her life. I hope she knows, I hope she carries that memory with her, some way, somehow...

  13. Hart, thank you for reading this, and your kind words. :-)

    We all should be so blessed with a long and full life...

  14. Janette, I think your words are very true...no matter the nature of the relationship between mother and child, it is life altering to lose a mother. Thanks for reading this, and for the birthday wishes for my mom. :-) I hope they are smiling and aware of the happy things here on earth. :-)

  15. Hi Deborah :-) Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I know it hurts to relive the pain of parting. I love your grandmother's quote...that Bible with the quote written in her hand is surely a cherished thing! But not near as cherished as your memories. When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to sit in her rocking chair and say, "I'm lonesome for the dead, Teresa." I can see how as we grow older, that becomes the case. Not to dismiss how we love and cherish those with us amongst the living, but after you lose so many wonderful people, it seems to change the perspective...when there are as many people dear to you beyond the veil of death as there are here in life...

    The moments when we are so alone do pass. One of the blessings of being part of humanity--we are part of something; we just have to find the will to extend our hands and our hearts and we will find what keeps us from a solitary existence...

    Thank you for visiting, my friend. Much love and a big hug coming back to you :-)

  16. What a lovely way to immortalize a lovely woman. Thinking of you.


  17. Thank you, Debbie :-) And thank you for taking the time to read it :-)

  18. Just read this touching tribute to your lovely mom. It made me cry....may she be blessed..
    and may God give you comfort.

  19. Teresa,

    I read this again and am still as moved by your words as I was the first time I read it and shared it on fb. It is one of my favorite postings of yours because I can see and feel your thoughts and emotions as you write. I am truly in awe of you my friend. (hugs)

  20. Marjaan, thanks for taking time to read it. And thank you for your kind words. Difficult week for me, but the caring "virtual" hands of friendship reaching out, makes it easier to get through the memories. :-) Thanks so much... Blessed be...

  21. Marsy :-)) Sweet, sweet, friend. Your words move me...they give me a nudge to keep going...keep making fingertips meet the keys. Thank you :-)

    Will you be home for Christmas--any chance of it?

    Hugs across the deep and wide ocean :-)

  22. My lovely country bumpkin friend...we had originally planned to come home for the holidays until he became "persona non-gratis" so unless something drastic happens it looks like Christmas in India. I met a wonderful woman and actress last weekend. The lady who played Ben Kingsley's wife in the movie "Ghandi". We were invited to her home to collaborate on a project she is doing. I need to google how to spell her Indian name. If I tried I would just butcher it. :)~ I went to Lucknow with Dan again for several days but I had intestinal issues so went to the "private hospital" of his boss and had a consult with the Dr. and got several presripts at the hospital pharmacy all for FREE! Now, India medical care is cheap but cannot get any cheaper than that. I was the only patient at the time. If I had not improved by the next day he was going to admit me...I think they just want something to do! Anyway, I did avail myself of the spa again and got a facial, a head massage which also included my feet, arms, shoulders and back. Then a deep conditioning hair treatment and shampoo. I will miss these services above all, especially the fact they are FREE also. India is such a world of extremes. I hate it and love it. Our house boarder had the gall to fire my maid while we were gone. I told hubby he has to deal with that issue. Too hot for my temperment. I will keep nudging you as long as you keep promising to write on. If you slack off I will dam sure push you girl! We country girls are tough! No thanking me sweetie, thank you for making me laugh and cry! love you and hugs back across the pond!

  23. Marsy :-) I am sorry that Christmas is across the pond. And I sure will be thinking of you come this Thursday...I don't know if you can even get an "American-ish" sort of Thanksgiving meal over there?? Wow, your life is so different, and so tough, yet so amazing right now. Go for the gusto! I have never seen Ghandi. I guess I was busy with little kids when it was released, but I did just look up the actress who played Ben Kingsley's wife, Rohini Hattangadi, and did some background reading on Kasturba Ghandi's life. I will have to watch the movie... I will send you an email, not sure if you will see this or not :-) And thanks for the encouragement, my friend. I miss you--and I miss seeing your posts on facebook! I am not posting much there right now, but do stop in daily to read the posts of others. A big hug to you!

  24. Hi Teresa, I stop by here almost every day to see if you added anything but you can always get me at my regular email addy if you need or want. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. No Turkey day here and we went out to eat in Lucknow where I was again staying but unfortunately whatever I had eaten did not agree with me the next day. Must have been all the Indian spice is my standard excuse these days for my intestinal issues! I do not even want to think of the other reasons or I may never eat again. Gag a maggot! I hope you get a chance to watch Ghandi. It was a good movie and I believe it earned some awards if I am not mistaken. That is the actresses name, thank you for taking the time and effort to do some reading on Ghandi. Not sure how much more of this "different" life I can take. Hanging on by the skin of my teeth. (where ever did that saying originate?) Will update you more and later on regular email. Miss your posts and pics in fb but hopefully I will be back on before too long. (((hugs)))

  25. Happy Birthday Teresa's mom! You gave us an extraordinary person in Teresa. You would be so proud. I know I am! Love that country bumpkin gal of mine! <3