On Thursday night I heard my mother stir and I rose from my bed on the floor in the corner of her room and hurried to her side.
“What’s wrong?” she asked as she roused from the deep sleep she had been in all day.
“Nothing’s wrong, Mom.”
“Someone’s crying,” she said.
In my mom’s 78 years on this planet, I imagine she heard and answered a lot of someones crying. In the 1950s through the 1970s she was raising five children who had been born within six years, including my sister Annie who was extremely disabled. I suspect there were a lot of times someone was crying.
Even as we grew older we were sometimes crying: me coming home from college carrying a basket of laundry when a relationship ended; a long-distance phone call to speak of a loved one who died; a conversation about one thing or the other around the kitchen table. I know I did my fair share of crying on her shoulder. In fact after we were shocked by the revelation of her cancer in early December, I’d wake in the morning crying, and I’d think ‘I need to tell Mom about this terrible thing that is happening.’ Then I’d wake fully and realize that the terrible thing was happening to Mom.
Although I have only a few memories of my father crying before his illness, the Alzheimer’s had the unfortunate effect of causing him to become very tearful. For quite some time, every morning Mom would have to face his tears as she rose to get him up and out of bed because Dad started most days crying.
So, yes, there have been a lot of someones crying. And Mom wiped, or talked, away many, many tears.
The nurse practitioner at Hospice where Mom spent nearly two weeks in the last month said, “Your mother is a caregiver. Often caregivers have a hard time letting go. They need to know everyone is going to be okay.”
I told my siblings and we all reassured Mom in our own way that we, and Dad, were going to be all right. I don’t know if that gave her peace in the end, or if this fight was simply too big for the fighter.
On Thursday when Mom said, “Someone’s crying,” even though my heart was breaking, I answered, “No, Mom. No one’s crying. We’re all okay. Everybody is going to be okay.”
On Saturday morning, January 12th, at 11:45, my sister, husband, and I watched my mother take her last breath, six short weeks after her pancreatic cancer was discovered. I am grateful that we, along with Hospice of Dayton, were able to give her the loving care she not only deserved, but earned each and every day of her life.
She had a joyful spirit and a compassionate soul. I will miss her dearly.