Saying Goodbye to Mom by
(244 Stories)

Prompted By Trauma

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The call from one of my brothers came on a rainy Sunday afternoon on April 19, 2015. Our mother had been experiencing GI symptoms for a couple of months, but the end came swiftly, close to what she had wanted. Before my father died, she shared that she hoped they would die simultaneously in their beloved condo. Unless she was planning a Thelma and Louise ending, I didn’t see that happening for her. Indeed, the end to their 68-year marriage followed a six-month stay for my father in a nursing home where she watched him die bit by bit. She wanted a faster ending for herself and, while she got her wish, her children were traumatized by the speed of her demise.

Last picture with Mom, taken March 14, 2015. Note she is wearing the necklace.

After my mother was pronounced dead, my sister-in-law handed me the diamond necklace Mom always wore.

My brothers still live in the Detroit area, but I live in a suburb of Chicago, which is a five-hour drive away. The rain added to the bleak atmosphere when one of my brothers called to tell me Mom was in the hospital in critical condition and I should come right away. I threw some clothes into a carry-on and booked the last seat on the last flight to Detroit, which I thought would be faster than driving there. As I boarded the plane in a state of shock, the flight attendant took my carry-on, claiming that all of the overhead bins were full. I cried when I explained my plight to no avail. The bag had to be checked, which I knew would add time I didn’t have for getting to the hospital. Then, the rain delayed the flight. Ironically, had we jumped into our car as soon as we received the call, we would have gotten there sooner.

What I remember about that flight was sitting in the last row near the bathroom and crying softly about what awaited me in Detroit. I knew logically that my mother, at age 91, had lived a full and wonderful life. But the child in me was not ready to let go. No one spoke to me so I kept my pain to myself.

After retrieving my carry-on from baggage claim, my sister-in-law picked me up for the trip from the airport to the hospital. At this point, the rain was relentless and she could barely see as she slowly drove through the storm. I arrived just before midnight and was ushered into a room in which Mom was on a ventilator with my brothers standing guard. I knew she was gone but I held her hand, kissed her, and choked out a few words: “I’m here, Mom. I love you.” One of my brothers claimed he saw a reaction but I knew this was not true. They had been keeping her “alive” so I could say goodbye.

At this point, just before midnight, the doctor took her off the ventilator and my mother officially died. I know this was close to the way my mother hoped her life would end after my father died. I’m pretty sure she was not conscious of anything or in pain after she arrested earlier that day. After 23 minutes of CPR, the doctors brought her back, but not really. I have always hoped that she was unaware of what was happening and not in pain after that. She had a DNR and my brothers likely overrode it in the hope she would hang on until I got there.

After my mother was pronounced dead, my sister-in-law handed me the diamond necklace Mom always wore. It had been her mother’s and she wanted me to have it. More tears and an ache I had never experienced before as I put it on. My husband drove in the next morning with funeral clothing for me and we entered into a blur of activities planning her funeral. Writing about it now still makes my heart ache. Losing my mother so suddenly was one of the great traumas of my life.

One of my daughters and two of my granddaughters consoling me, April 26, 2015. Note I am now wearing the necklace.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I cried as I read this, Laurie. Your pain is palpable. I grieve for you, even now. May you find peace, little by little and may her memory be a blessing.

  2. Laurie, Altho at 91 your mom led a long life, and you were so lucky to have had her all those years, losing a mother at any age is hard.

    My parents have been gone over 20 years but I dream about them very often, and have written many stories about them both for Retro. And corny as it sounds, as I write I feel they’re still here!

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    Sad, yet in a way, beautiful. I’m not sure that her reaction at the end was not real.

  4. pattyv says:

    Laurie, you’ve captured the ‘trauma’, the pain, the singular devastating goodbye to mom we all feel. Even afterwards, in times of joy, confusion, sickness, etc. we still call out to her, still want that cool hand on our forehead, that knowing wisdom from her lips, oh and that incredible soothing comfort of her arms. For your incomparable honesty I thank you.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I also choked up reading your story, and I understand how that incredible ache can linger. You loved her dearly, and she loved you and that picture is wonderful–the time you shared with her through the years was the most important. And she may have been aware of your presence at the end–you never know. Her memory is a blessing and that necklace is a precious reminder. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    The passing of our mothers does seem like one of life’s more surreal moments, no? Your story took me back to my own mother’s death, and you did a really good job describing the kind of emotions that event produced for you. Thankfully, my mom made it to see her 103rd birthday before passing quietly in her sleep. I hope I am as pleasant to be around as Mom was in her final years, and I know she was ready to go and see Dad, who passed away about six years before she did. Thanks for sharing the memory of your wonderful mom!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      No matter how long our parents live, and we were both blessed to have ours with us for so long, their death is truly one of life’s traumas. Like you, I hope my final years are filled with happy moments for my children to remember.

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