Mom Died

December 14, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments
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Well, my mother died. Early Sunday morning. She was ninety-three  and had needed to die for a long time. Some people still have good lives at ninety-three,  but Mom, who’d been in the nursing home in her retirement community for several years, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk, and was increasingly demented, which meant, in her case, that  she was frightened a lot, and could hardly recognize anybody. Last March one lung filled up with fluid and she was hospitalized; we thought it might kill her then and there, but it didn’t. What the week in the hospital did do is scare her almost to death, so that when she came back to her room at Riddle Village, she was hardly there. Nine and half months later, the rest of her has followed the part that left in March.  

It’s very different having someone die by inches than it is when they die quickly. My friend Claire McCormick, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur whom I’d known since high school, died a while back. She got a stress fracture, got pneumonia, and  then was gone, at (I think) 83. And I didn’t make it to the funeral. I suspect Claire had no interest in getting hyper-old and helpless. But once in a while it occurs to me to telephone her; part of me just doesn’t get it that she’s gone.

Mom (and Dad before her) died very slowly. And yet I’m always struck by how different a dead body is from a breathing one, even one as radically diminished as my mother’s was, with blood leaking from her deteriorating blood vessels and her body getting thinner and thinner. And Mom’s passing is the end of an entire generation, something that wasn’t true thirteen years ago when Daddy died. So I’m grieving for all of them: Dom and Poppie, (my grandparents), and Dede, my mother’s sister whom I adored. And I’m grieving for my brother Joseph and me, who are now the elders, whatever that means.

My mother’s life was very different from mine. She and Dad grew up during the Depression and suffered from it. Mom once told Emms, my brother’s oldest girl, that the saddest day of her life was the day she graduated from high school, because her education was over. And the working class world she lived her life in didn’t encourage her to change that, even years later when she might have. I sometimes think my thirteen years of graduate education was an attempt to make up for that deprivation, but of course, it didn’t.   It may have even have made that deprivation more apparent. 

The funeral is Tuesday morning, in Media. My husband, Keith, is a minister, so he’ll do the service. Mom will be buried in Chester Rural Cemetery, next to my father and her parents. Please remember us.



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  1. Dear Marian,

    You and your brother are in my thoughts and prayers. I’m grateful to read your expressions about your mother. They are wise, insightful, helpful–it is love that never dies–ours for them and theirs, I have faith, for us. When my son died in 1986 I had a vivid sense of sending love back and forth, a sense that is still with me.

    The Episcopal burial prayer has stayed with me: “Bless thy servant, (name), O Lord, with the love which thou bearest to thy people, and grant that (she) may go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service in thy heavenly kingdom.”



  2. Dear Marian, When my husband’s father died at the age of 93 after his wife passed away a few years earlier, Richard told me he felt like an orphan. Even though you and your brother are relieved that your Mom is no longer suffering, it’s still hard, and I will hold you and Joseph in prayer. Joy G.


  3. Marian,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about your mother.
    She was a strong woman and I’m sure she had many wonderful memories that gave her comfort and the strength to share with you, your brother and her friends.
    Grieving is hard and I hope as you travel this path that you can sense your family and friends are nearby to be with you.
    When you look in a mirror I hope you see your mother’s smile in your eyes.

    May blessings surround you,
    Roberta Brunner


  4. Thank you, Marian, for your message of your Mother. May she dwell in peace, where there is no fear, only Love; and may you and Joseph be consoled by the supportive love of friends. Beautiful that Keith presides for the funeral.

    My prayers for each of you,

    Fran Martin


  5. You will be in my thoughts this Advent.


  6. My thoughts and prayers are with you Marian.May songs of the Angels welcome your mother home.
    Mary Hughes


  7. Dear Marian and Keith,
    Sorry to hear about the passing of your mother/mother-in-law. Always a shock, ni matter how long it may have been expected.

    My dad died fifteen difficult weeks after my mom, who had been ill for many years – We were relieved that he didn’t suffer much longer, as he had lost his reason for living. My mom suffered from lung-related illness and a broken hip (inoperable). Both of my parents also had cancer, and life became less livable year by year. In such circumstances, death truly is a blessing and, I believe, a sign of God’s mercy and love.

    We will be thinking of you on Tuesday. God bless and peace be with you both.

    – Rick and Sandy Mitchell


  8. Dear Marian,
    Thank you for your sharing about your mothers death.
    It touched me and loving thoughts and prayers are also sent to you and your brother from Hermine Glaser


  9. My dear Marian….

    I, like you, having seen my mother so diminished, could easier see that her death was welcome in a certain way. It was surprising though, how much it affected me, and how alone I felt, even though she had not really been with me for quite some time. I guess we add this as another of the profound experiences we do not wish for but are grateful for, in an odd sort of way, nonetheless.

    Wishing I was there with you.

    Becky Hill


  10. Dear Marian and Joseph,

    You are in our prayers at this time of the loss of your Mother. Thanks be to the God, who loves us more than we can know, she is finally at peace. Something we all yearn for when that state of illness and age comes upon us.

    Your note about your Mother was very touching, how nice of you to share that with us. She was a strong woman, as you yourself are, and continue to grow. May you and Keith and Joseph also, be filled with
    with the love of God, warm and true, which will touch your grieving heart and heal it. I don’t think we can get to the funeral, but we will be with you in Spirit. Much love, Alexa & Joe Kane


  11. Dear Marian, Keith and Joseph,

    Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers at this time of your sorrow.

    Carol Nosko


    • Very wonderful remembrance or a loved one. Bodies are bodies. We are just borrowing dirt, air and water, and happy to see the thoughts of those spirits who feel this. Nice to see your comments as well, Carol!


  12. Marian,
    I guess a ‘graceful exit’ is something we can all ask for…seems
    modern medicine makes it a real crap shot. I felt like the passing
    of my dad put my face on the hood of the family car hurtling thru time like an old DeSoto ornament…’out front’. It really does matter how we intention our days and our lives, we are all LEADING this time of life that is ours…peace to you and Joseph…and all
    your loved ones. The mysteries of life join the mystery of our passing. Love and prayers, Pat Hill


  13. thinking of you this morning, marian


  14. Dear Marian,

    You and your brother are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Your comments are both true and beautiful (don’t both go together?). I would only add from my own experience that there is a feeling of being orphaned as well. I guess it doesn’t matter the age — it is never too late to want our moms!

    In peace and love,
    Jenny Ratigan


  15. Dear Marian,

    I arrived in Baltimore late last night and just got to my E-mail and discovered the message about your mom’s death and your refloection too.

    Thank you for sharing more about her and about your experience of her passing. Tomorrow I go with my brother and sister-in-law to the graves of my mother and father in Yeadon to lay wreathes. I have managed to get there very few times over the years but tomorrow I will carry you and your brother and family in my heart and pray for the love among you to continue and deepen. I wish I could have been
    in Media today. I will be in Baltimore and Phila. til Jan. 7th. I will be in touch.




  16. Dear Marian,
    It’s quite something to know about your mother as I was looking for your address on the internet… Just wanted to be in touch again after so many years… I do recognize you in the way you share this part of your story. So true! So inspiring!
    My sincere condolences to you and your family as you grieve the loss of your dear mother. I am with you in thought and prayer.
    Do keep in touch! You have my new e-mail. Hi to Keith!
    Lots of blessings in this Advent season!
    Kesta Occident, c.s.c.


  17. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May she rest in peace and may God’s loving arms surround you with comfort during this time.


  18. Hi, Marian! I just came across the announcement of your mom’s death. I am truly sorry. I wish I had seen it sooner–I would certainly have made the trip to Media for her funeral. I would love to have seen you, although not under the best of circumstances. As I have told you before, I often think of your mom and the picture of William Holden she kept on her kitchen cabinet. I agree with her–he was definitely a hottie!

    Know that I am praying for her and your dad, as well as you and Joseph in your loss. It sounds like you reconciled yourself to losing her a long time ago.

    Hope to see you at our no-frills reunion in June 2010. Take care.

    Donna Gear Schwartz


  19. Dear Marian: An email from our daughter Tracy led me to your blog. I had tears in my eyes reading of your mother’s death. No matter what our age when we lose our always brings with it a deep sense of loss..of not being ready to be the “elders”

    May our paths will cross one day soon. Peace, Maureen Fessenden


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