Jun 23, 2014

I Talk: The Unspoken

"Do you have anything you want to say to your mother? She can hear you."

Really hospice lady?  You told me that the hearing is the last to go. My mom was pretty deaf.   Could she still hear me?  And did she really want to hear what I was thinking? 

Is that the way to end? With questions that were unanswerable when she was alive, never mind at her last breath. So I shook my head. No, I said. I said everything I needed to say before.

A lie.

In some ways, watching my mom die with a lie on my lips made sense. All families dance a dance of lies. Some truths are hard and necessary to tell. Others are hard and best unsaid.

Among the unspoken truths was I could not believe my Mom was dying.  I kept asking how long it would take, thinking it was months away. It was minutes away. You are never prepared for your mother's death regardless of the circumstances. 

I did her life good.  I was there in a way that most aren't, and it took a toll.   Maybe that is why I was terrible at death. I wanted her to die. She was miserable. I was miserable. We were both worn out from it all.  I worried that she would wake up and we'd go back to being miserable. 

I dreaded her death and yearned for more time.  Go back and sew another curtain please. I want to hear the hum of the Necchi long into the night.  Knit another sweater with red angora hearts.  Wallpaper another wall.  Hit another bingo number.  Watch another football game. 

It's been about a year and half since my Mom died.  Hey, this is easy.  I tamped down the guilt at feeling relieved.  Slowly, though, she's crept back into my head.  I dream of her.  I remember her.  I miss her.  I grieve in short bursts of pain.  It feels like a normal thing to do and is a relief to have the words mom and normal in the same sentence, because it is pretty much the first time that's ever happened... .  

Maybe I did say everything I needed to say before she died. I said it when we renovated the house for her. When I sat in the ER with her, handling it, over forty times (a number I find myself saying with satisfaction, as if I earned the Caretaker Girl Scout Badge).  I said it when I spent hours arranging for emergency oxygen during a power outage.  I said it every day, sometimes shouting, crying and pleading.  Until the last day, when I finally shut up. 

I like to think my mom didn't hear the exchange with the hospice lady and if she did, understood what I meant when I said I had said it all before.  I'll never know for sure, but I think she heard my unspoken words.   

19 comments:

  1. That was awesome...it's been decades since I lost my Mom; and I was only 23. SOOOOO many things were left unsaid, because my Daddy wouldn't let us act like she was dying. I wish so many times I could do it over and tell her how much she meant to me, and how much I loved her. She left when I still needed her, to help me raise my children; for recipes, for advice. I had so much left to learn! I think we all wish for another chance to tell those that matter how much we love them. Thank you for the very thoughtful piece.

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    1. Diane, so hard to read your story. We all think back to those lost moments. I am so sorry you lost your Mom at such a young age.

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    2. Thank you so much. I feel "hugged", reading your post. And I needed a hug! Bless you!

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  2. Joan, even if you said words 'out loud', there will still be words that you would have thought of later you wish you would have spoken. you can't keep going back and kicking yourself. you gave and gave and gave and loved and loved and loved and she knew it, dear friend. she knew it.

    thank you for always writing from your heart. your love for her is so very evident. and hers for you is just as clear. sending you big hugs. so glad you had such a special relationship with your mother. I didn't/don't with mine. and it's nice to see that something this precious really does exist. cherish those memories. they are what make you such an amazing mom to your son.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I'm sorry the relationship with your mom is not as special as you would like. Mine was rocky at times, neurotic most of the time, and fun others. It's an adventure.

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  3. I love when you share stories about your Mom, and caring for her the way you did. I am living this same story myself right now. After a hospital stay for a week at the beginning of the year, then a month in a rehab I brought her back home. I have had my share of long waits in the ER, having to handle all the forms and doctors because she suffers from "slight" dementia and gets too easily confused. I can see that I have many more of these events ahead of me. And while there are times when I want it "done" as well; she is still my Mom, and I still want her around as long as possible as long as she is not in any pain, even if I have the full time job of managing her life on top of my own. But I know when the time comes that I am sitting next to her hospital bed, I probably won't have anything to say either. It will all have been said in the days, weeks and years that I have lived with her and cared for her and kept her in her own home as long as possible.

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    1. My best wishes for as little drama as possible as you and your mom face these years together. Thanks for taking the time to share in this conversation. I think it is an important one. Others shared their stories on facebook.

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  4. Joan, thank you for your honest sharing and for the comfort you bring to so many through that honesty. May you be richly blessed as you are a blessing to others.

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  5. Beautiful words as usual Joan. My two precious daughters tell me frequently how much I mean to them. Sometimes, I'm kinda embarrassed by it, especially sinceI was raised by grand-parents (great) and an aunt & uncle, (weird), then pretty much ran away from home at 17 and got married. I was truly blessed to have had the good sense to rear the two of them. It wasn't always perfect...don't get me wrong, but in the end, or are we in the middle (I'm 65), it has been so worthwhile. So, I just tell them that I may be a good mother, but thankfully, they were truly easy to work with. We're saying it all now and if I go slowly, I just want them to hold my hand and stroke my brow. It will be enough for us all.

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  6. Hugs. I would agree with you and think that your Mum was very much aware of all that you did and gave for her as you cared for her. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and honest story. I'm hoping it will help me be more understanding to my Mum with her journey with grief for her mother and how it catches her by surprise. With Nana's dementia, it felt we said good bye a long time before she passed but also that we couldn't say our good byes. Our actions do show our heart and our love. And I know you loved your mum.
    Love to you.

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  7. everyone's responses bring tears to my eyes. Thanks

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  8. Thank you for writing this so honestly, bravely, and poignantly. My mom died 9 years ago, and I still have regrets on words not spoken and actions not taken. My relationship with my daughter is much closer, and for that I have peace. Blessings to you.

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  9. I hear you Joan - and your mother knew. It all happened just as it should - she had a loving daughter caring for her. And I believe, where she is now, she is beyond all of our earthly feelings of pain and distress - and she is at peace.

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  10. We communicate through our actions often even more than through our words. The dedication, care and sacrifice you gave to your mother is what you communicated to her. You are brave and honest to speak about the way that love gets muddied with other feelings but I believe, she felt the love. I hope that knowing that you loved and cared for her, helps you to be at peace.I don't think it is possible to not have some regrets when we lose a parent or loved one; that is the part of us that is still holding on to them, wishing they were still here.

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  11. After following you for several years, I'd say you earned that Caretaker Girl Scout Badge in spades.

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  12. I always appreciate your honesty and humor in your posts. You definitely earned that Caretaker's Badge....

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  13. I hear you and I'm sure you mom does too (even now). When my mom passed, I remember reading a quote that said "you will never get over it, but you will get through it". I always thought that was a good way to put it:) Big hugs to you, Joan!

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  14. I've read your blog for quite a while, and find your posts about your mom the most riveting. I'm living a similar situation now with an 89-yr-old mother living in our house, and a hubby frequently out of town with his job. I'm still in my 40's, and feel guilty to admit that I'm feeling imprisoned at a time when we should be enjoying life - one kid married, the other getting married next month. As an only child, I am my mother's life, and it is suffocating. Your honest words about your struggles with being a caregiver make me realize that there are lots of others in similar situations. Thanks for your transparency in sharing your experience. Mary

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    1. I'm sorry. It is tough and yes, there are many many silent caregivers out there. It will get better. Hugs

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