What we later learn

It always amazes me when I see something, learn something, understand something, only much later after the fact.

It’s like the postcard from Peru I got this week from our new daughter-in-law. “Enjoying everything this beautiful country has to offer,” Cori wrote. “Can’t wait to share our travel stories.” Well, we already knew all that; heard the stories; saw the photos. Matthew and Cori went to Peru over three months ago in August. I don’t know where this little postcard has traveled since then—maybe it’s been riding along in the bottom of a mail carrier’s bag all this time.

This morning I had a revelation about my mother. My mind was catching phrases from the television playing in the background. I was listening for the road conditions as we were in the middle of a predicted winter storm. It must have been some kind of a commercial about health professionals. They were listing things they were there for, or the things that people told them. The phrase that caught my attention was “When someone finds a lump. . .”

I’ve written about the last good day I had with my mom when I put up her little Christmas tree last year. What I may not have fully explained was that in the preceding days and even weeks, she and I had a somewhat adversarial relationship. She was determined to continue to care for Dad as she always had, but her strength and health were continuing to decline. I was trying to convince her to make some changes —add more home health aide coverage, get Dad an indwelling catheter so she wouldn’t have to do this tiring task three times a day, let Dad stay in his bed more, use the lift—because I was worried about both her and my dad.

The last week of November I changed my approach. I threw in the towel. I told her I wasn’t going to try to solve her problems, but told her that when she was ready to make a change all she had to do was tell me and I would help her make it happen. So when she seemed different, more at peace, calmer, on that last Friday in November, I attributed it to my stepping back. In fact, I have remembered that day fondly—my mom sitting in her chair watching me decorate her house, being agreeable about it all, which frankly surprised me at the time.

Last year when my sister called me a few days later, on the morning of that first Sunday in December, to say Mom was ready to get medical help and she wanted to go to the hospital, and I returned to their house, before we called 911 and started the sequence of events that led to her diagnosis of cancer, Mom told me something that came back to me this morning like a punch in the stomach. She had gotten cold feet about going to the hospital by the time I got there a half hour after the phone call. I was trying to convince her it was the right thing to do. I think she was afraid they would want to do tests and she wouldn’t want to be away from Dad that long. I think she was afraid she might find out something really bad was wrong with her. She was lying on the sofa and I was sitting on the edge beside her. I gave her the phone and was trying to convince her to dial 911. I was trying to reassure her by telling her it was probably nothing critical and that maybe she would finally be able to get some medicine that worked better than her pantry full of over-the-counter remedies she had been ingesting.

Mom responded to my assurances by saying, “But, you don’t know everything.”

“What don’t I know?”

“A couple of days ago, I found some lumps here in my stomach,” she said as she touched her hand to her belly.

That sealed her fate, as far as I was concerned. There was no way I was not going to take her to a doctor somehow with that knowledge. She had wanted to go to the hospital. She had wanted to go in an ambulance because she wanted them to help her get there and get in. I called 911.

What I realized this morning when I heard the words, “When someone finds a lump,” was that Mom had found a lump “a couple of days” before Sunday. She probably had already found those lumps when I was there on Friday playing Christmas music and putting up her Christmas tree. I think she knew. And I think she wanted to have a good day. No, even more, even harder to bear, is that I think she wanted me to have a good day.

So I had a moment this morning. And I’m having another one as I try to relay this to you.

Some days I really miss my mother.

I love you all for the support and kind words you always have to share. Have you ever found something out or understood something long after the fact?

26 thoughts on “What we later learn”

  1. Boy, Christine, are we on the same wavelength or what? Well, I mean we both wrote something different but it’s about mothers and daughters and relationships and lessons learned and questions unanswered. I think your mother gave you a gift that Friday, a gift to treasure always. ❤

  2. Sometimes the best thing we can do is step back to allow someone to step forward. Perhaps it is simply the act of them feeling in control of the decision or perhaps they must resolve issues before taking action. I can only imagine how much you miss your mother. Hugs to you today, Christine.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I’m amazed at the little things that pop into my head out of the blue. It would be fascinating if it weren’t so unsettling at times.

  3. It never fails to amaze me how strong your Mother was, Christine. You must miss her so much. And she misses you, her beautiful and kind daughter.
    Find a place for these memories and decorate it up with love and happiness.
    *caring hugs*

    1. You know, I never really saw it so clearly while she was here. Or maybe I didn’t fully appreciate my mother’s strength. I sure do see it now. I like to think that actually she doesn’t miss me wherever she may be, and that she is reunited with Annie and waiting.

  4. Oh yes, Christine, in fact I sometimes beat myself up and bit when I have one of these realizations. It’s so easy to assume we know everything, in the moment. And can be eye opening to realize we weren’t the one ‘in the know’ or ‘in charge’. Thank you for sharing this. You explained it so well, so openly. Your mom obviously saw you wanted to make things easier for her (and no doubt loved you for it), but she knew what she was doing, and I think you’re right about her wanting you to have a good, peaceful day with her to remember. Just lovely. (((hugs)))

  5. We are definitely on the same wave length with this, Christine. I’ve had moments where I find out something long after the fact that leaves me with a different way of looking at what’s happened. And missing a parent… it’ll never go away.

  6. I believe that things play out in our lives as God has planned them. Things happen the way they do for a reason. When we put our trust in God he reveals those reasons when we need to know. He feels our pain & knows our hearts. I know how hard anniversaries are after a very close loved one dies. It’s ok to mourn. It’s ok to honor them in a way that helps you cope. I saw a post on one of your earlier blogs from some one that said they don’t even acknowledge any anniversaries of their deceased loved one. I instantly thought “how sad for them & their loved one.” Remembering & grieving is a part of healing. The loss never goes away, but the memories are what keep us sane. I’m praying for you Christine because I see through your blog how close you were to your parents & how appreciative you are for the life they gave you. Things are fresh & the pain of losing them is fresh. You will slowly heal and the pain lessen, but never truly go away. The memories are what you hold dear. Know that you were a wonderful daughter to a wonderful mother…that’s all you need. Your mother is still with you…probably even more so know than before. When my Dad died I got this instant assurance that he was with me…every minute of every second of every day. After 27 years that he has been gone I still have that feeling. It keeps me going & allows me to fondly remember him. I wish the same for you.

    1. Thanks Cindy. I do wonder and perhaps even worry at times about what happens beyond our life on this planet. I am always encouraged by others’ confidence that their loved one is with them still. I do feel that about my parents from time to time as well. I want to keep them with me as I go through this life.

      I also agree with you that grieving is a part of healing. I’m starting to feel that some people are impatient for me to move on. I don’t really let that rush me. I intend to do this at my own pace and as thoroughly as I am able. I am getting better every day, it’s just the looming anniversaries, and the holidays are something of a double whammy.

      1. You will move on when you are ready. Obviously, you are piecing together the puzzle of a lifetime, enjoy those moments when you find another piece that fits. Big hugs!

  7. Hi Christine – I can hear you and feel your relationship with your mother at what was such a challenging time in your life – but this little gem of a day will now always be with you …

    I think it’s after we’ve lost loved ones that these sorts of realisations come back to remind us of their love for us .. I have many more remembrances and hear my mother and my uncle so often – but you’ve given me another thought .. I must see if this works for my father, who died years ago … we learn as we go along …

    I do hope the coming couple of months will be enlightening for you as you remember back – you did your best at the time and that quite honestly is as much as you could possibly do .. and now you can move forward with thanks …

    With thoughts – Hilary

    1. Oh Hilary. You are always so gentle and wise. I love your comments. I hope it does work for your father and you are able to reclaim some memory of or closeness to him. I do rest in the knowledge, which I have thoroughly questioned and examined by now, that I did my best at the time. I am turning towards gratitude for having had such dependable, loving parents.

  8. Oh, dear Christine. I know this has got to be a painful time of year for you, but this is a huge insight. It’s interesting how we’re able to see things in hindsight.

    By the way, we have a poor mail system here. Well, maybe not exactly poor, but it wouldn’t surprise me for mail from here to take 3 months to arrive at its destination–if ever. We have no home delivery, for example.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I was expecting it to be a painful time of year. so it has not been as bad as I had imagined, at least so far. My thinking right now is that my kids and husband had a bad Christmas last year because of everything I was going through—we took my mom to the hospital on Christmas evening. I’m trying to give them a good Christmas this year. And for some reason, the song I keep hearing, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” is really speaking to me from above.

  9. May this Christmas bring forth happy memories of your mom. And here’s praying that love and joy will embrace you and your family during this holiday season.

  10. Some days I really miss my mother, too. I know all about replaying those kind of scenes. I do it, but not so often now. I’m learning, I think, to forgive myself (for not catching certain things, for not doing more, for not being there the moment she died), and as odd as this sounds, to forgive my mother (for smoking, for not seeing a doctor, for dying) because (this is first time I’ve said or wrote it out loud) I was angry with her, with death, with life. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of realizing that we all did the best we could — your mother, my mother, you, me, everyone. Wishing you peace, Christine.

    1. Thanks for sharing your heart, Robin. I’m not consciously aware of needing to forgive myself, but maybe that’s just a step in the process that I haven’t quite gotten to yet. I do question if I might have done something differently from time to time and reassure myself I did the best I could. It does not sound at all odd that you had to forgive your mother for all those things. I understand completely. I even told Mom, as I was struggling with her to try to convince her to go to the doctor for literally months, that if something happened to her I was going to be mad at her. So I have that to forgive myself for too, although I did talk to her about that after her diagnosis and told her I wasn’t mad at her. Gosh this is all so hard. The only good thing about it is that now it is behind us. Most people will have to go through this at one point or another. And we’re done.

  11. Sending hugs your way Christine. I’m so sorry that I missed you sharing your mom’s passing or perhaps I knew and forgot….my life has been a crazy, changing, and emotional. And I feel lately that as if I’m always trying to catch up.

    I miss my mom too and wish many prayers to you and your family this holiday season.

    Your sister in the Alz fight!


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