A mother’s bond…

ECG_heartShe asked me to be “the one”.  It was up to me to decide, whether to “pull the plug”.   When your mom has the sex talk with you when you’re a pre-teen, its devastatingly embarrassing.  When she has the death talk with you in your 20’s its just devastating.

“Please Denial”, I thought to myself  “protect me from the awful truth. And please God, know that I fear I do not have the courage to face this”.  She made clear to me a life on machines was no life at all.  Heartbeats and breaths do not make a life.  I agreed.  I held her hand and reassured her I understood.  And I did.  But I made myself comfortable by convincing myself that I’d never actually be in a situation to make that call.  And that made it easier for me to convince her that I had the internal grit to do it.

About a year before she died, she started talking to me about where she’d like her “things” to go.  She didn’t want us kids fighting over trivial material things after she died. I told her I couldn’t talk about it and I was having a hard time with “it”- I couldn’t even name death.  Denial.  “You’re having a hard time with it?” she asked. “How do you think I feel?  I have to wake up in this body everyday!” And like a glass of cold water tossed in my face, I woke up.  I was feeling so bad for myself; I hadn’t once considered her sadness. I felt ashamed.

My mom had been dying for at least 5 years.  Regular emergency room scares, followed by monitored hospital stays.  They would stabilize her, and then send her home.  As a family we would struggle to regain our footing, recalibrate and resume our lives.  We kept busy and distracted, while my mother fought to keep living.  She bravely masked an illness that dampened her bright & beautiful spirit and confined it in a body that was falling apart from the inside out.

My Dad retired early, trading a big chunk of his hard earned, and already thin retirement, for as many days as my mom had left.  He took care of her day and night.

My brother, sister and I never discussed that she was dying.  In silence, we all suffered that truth. We lived in parallels, traveling on the same path, but never intersecting or connecting.  Collectively, we suffered alone.

Her last trip to the ER she was put on a ventilator.  Connected to tubes and beeping apparatus, she couldn’t talk.  She mimed with her hand the motion of writing, like asking for the check.  She was asking for a pen.  I handed her a black sharpie and stack of yellow post-its I had in my bag.  She scribbled “no life” and looked me in square in the eyes, reminding me of the promises I made.  It was both a plea and command.  With love I nodded and understood.  A day and a half later, she was unconscious.  It was time.  I called my family.  We all stood ’round her bed, holding hands, shedding our tears.  In that moment, I realized she that had asked us all to be “the one”, and by doing so, our paths finally merged.  Together we set her spirit free and put the machines to rest.

This post was written for “Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember” on The Daily Post.  The prompt was to record the pain, the anger, the shame, the terror, and the hurt of your worst memory.


Published by Beth Lahr York

I am a proficient cat herder by trade (Emmy Award Winning VIdeo Producer/Director). I am a fitness enthusiast, competitive skydiver, and I believe gummy worms should be part of the food pyramid.

8 thoughts on “A mother’s bond…

  1. This is a very powerful story, and must have been painful to write. Thank you for sharing it. I recognized in your story my own family’s inability to discuss our mother’s impending death with one another. We each soldiered on alone until there was no choice but to gather at her bedside. You’ve brought tears to my eyes.

    1. It was a tough one. It was good to be vulnerable in my writing. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Time allows me to take different lessons from the experience. Sorry you experienced similar… We need to cherish the blessings.

  2. Collectively we suffered alone – so true.
    I can relate to this powerful, heartbreaking story. The breakdown and repair of feelings every time I visited ER with my ailing father and the vacuum he left for each one of us to feel.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much… It was good to let the writing to express and release the hurts. It happened in 2001, so i revisited some dark and blue days…and this is the first I’ve really let it hang out there.

  3. A “plea and command” … such a hard place to be, Beth. But you and your family loved her so much you could hear her “plea and command”. Wonderfully expressed, hard to read. Must have been torturous to write. Good for you.
    Janet White

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