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Mother’s Last Gift

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This week I buried my mother. I’m grateful she’s no longer imprisoned by dementia, but sad our mother-daughter relationship was less than ideal. As her casket was lowered into the ground, I imagined she was standing in front of me. She was radiant in her red and gold silk dressing gown, and for the first time, she was whole, confident and happy.

“The world just reads lips,” mother said. “If we could learn to read hearts, it would take us a long way.”

The last few weeks have been difficult for mother. She lost all desire for food. Eventually she couldn’t swallow even the few drops of water I’d squeeze into her mouth with a paper towel. The morphine had ceased to take away her pain, and she was all bones, no flesh. Less than 60 pounds.

The day she died I walked into her room as the hospice chaplain was praying with her. He looked at me and said he didn’t think she had much time.

I leaned down and said, “Hi mom.” When I took her hand, her eyes opened. She brightened up and smiled.

“You look beautiful,” she said to me. “I love that color.”

“That’s why I wore it,” I said. “I know how much you like it.”

“You’ll always be my baby,” mother said. “I love you with all of my heart.”

I put my hand over her heart and felt only ribs. “I love you with all of my heart, mother. I’ll always be in your heart, just as you’ll be in mine. We’re part of one another.”

“The world just reads lips,” mother said. “If we could learn to read hearts, it would take us a long way.”

The chaplain and I looked at one another, amazed this fragile woman whose dementia prevented her from retaining information for five seconds, was philosophizing with such profundity on the eve of her death.

The chaplain left the room, and for the next two hours mother was cognizant and talkative. She followed our conversation and built on it. It was as though she’d stepped outside of her dementia. Until that moment, I’d never seen mother let her guard down. Ever. I’d never seen her face filled with such joy.

With clear eyes she looked at me and said, “How do we do this?” I knew what she meant.

Mother was a woman of faith. For two weeks I’d been telling her it was alright to let go and go with God. During one of those times, in all seriousness, mother said, “Do you suppose I could try it out for two or three days to see how I like it?” Now she was asking me how to die.

I pushed back the tears and said, “We ask God to take us by the hand and show us how.”

From somewhere deep inside, mother gathered the strength to raise her head and shoulders off the pillow. She looked past me, at something beyond the ceiling and in a loud clear voice said, “God, please take us by the hand and show us how.”

I learned a lot from mother in those precious moments. I’d underestimated her strength. I felt more than just the love between a mother and child, but the power of God and the power He gives us.

Something about her last few moments tells me she’s finally found her true self. I’m happy for you, mother. I love you with all my heart.

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45 thoughts on “Mother’s Last Gift”

  1. Brenda, thank you for sharing this very personal and powerful experience of the connection between you and your mother and God. It radiates love and is a beautiful gift to us all. I will carry her statement about reading hearts in mine.

  2. This was so touching and beautiful. It’s true that at the end, dementia patients often become super-lucid. How lucky you were to have her share those final words of wisdom. Yes, she is whole again and continuing her soul’s journey. I wish her godspeed and you peace. Much love.

  3. Achingly beautiful, my heart is at once happy and sad for this loss, my dear friend. Your mom was profound and bright, and the apple does not fall far from the tree. You and your mom are in my thoughts and prayers. We should all have as much grace as the two of you. xoxo

  4. Thank you for sharing. I’ve only recently been able to spend time and say goodbye to someone at the end. My grandmother last year. It was a profound thing to be able to tell her that she was one of the best good things in my life.

  5. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. My sympathy to you, we can never replace our mothers but we do carry them with us always. Since my mother has been gone I gave realized how much a part of me she is.

    • Michele, I feel the same way… how much a part of me mother really is; how often I think of her and miss her. Brenda

  6. What a tender moment. You are very generous to share this with others. Hopefully, it will help others have an easier path through a challenging life event. It was such a blessing that you could be there. My parents live a 16 hour drive one direction and a 10 hour drive in another. Right now they are OK, but I’m afraid they could pass before I could get to their bedside. All my best to you in the wake of your mother’s passing. Hugs and hugs.

  7. What a beautiful tribute, Brenda. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like she was a very special person.

  8. This brought tears to my eyes, Brenda. It brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. I do believe she has found peace and a blessed release from the physical pain as well as the pain of not being able to process her world due to the dementia. Praying for you as your journey changes now …. <3

  9. Oh, Brenda, I’m sorry for your loss, but so grateful for the blessed time you had with her that final day. What a blessing to know that she is now at peace, home with her Savior. ❤️

  10. Such a loving and powerful tribute Brenda. It brought tearas to my eyes. God bless you. You’ve been a wonderful, loving daughter to your Mom, who sounds like a special lady. Sending prayers! XXXX

  11. Brenda, as I related before when you wrote of your mother’s illness, this is all too eerily like my experience. When my mother’s body finally turned to skin and bones, and when she could no longer take food or drink, I, too, told her told her I loved her and encouraged her to let go. For the first time in literally years, her eyes became focused and clear, and she looked into my eyes and smiled. Then she closed her eyes and soon passed. Afterwards, the dementia-burdened image of my mother was gone, and my memories were only of the times when, although not always perfect, she was my childhood mother. I have sympathy and empathy for you, as your emotions may now go through a bit of turmoil. I’m sorry for your loss, and wish you strength and resolution.

  12. What a beautiful article and photo. I am sorry for your loss. My dad passed twenty-one years ago this month. The beauty of the article is that it is a blessing to be released from the body but difficult for the surviving loved ones. Loved ones forget that sometimes, I think.

    • Janice, I’m just so grateful mother’s no longer a prisoner of her body and mind. Thank you, so much! Brenda

  13. Dear Brenda, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Thank you for sharing those last hours of the journey, they are intimate and precious. Our moms teach us so much about life in their last hours. I hope I can remember to read hearts and not lips. Thinking of you and wishing you some gentle moments.

    • Terri, I love your note! Our mothers teach us from the time we’re born until they die. Before her death, I wouldn’t have thought I could have learned so much from her death. xoxox, Brenda

    • Dear Friend, I left you a post on your blog. Your beautiful heart and zest for life overwhelm me with joy. I love you so very much. Brenda

  14. I’m so sorry for your loss, Brenda. What a gift to have had those two lucid hours with your mother. She raised a beautiful daughter.

  15. What a beautiful way to go – surrounded by love and light. I’m sorry that she passed, Brenda. I know you didn’t want her to suffer anymore but the loss will be there. Sending you love and prayers across the miles. May your Mom’s soul rest in peace.

  16. All I can say is WOW what a beautifully brave and loving tribute that you have given to your mother and to yourself. I won’t lie and say this didn’t make me shed a few tears because it did. It’s hard the letting go, but when you deal with dementia and pain you realize you aren’t letting go as much as sharing a beautiful experience with the one person who knows you better than you know yourself. You were such a blessing to your mother. I hope I face that final day with as much grace as you’ve shown. I’m truly sorry for your loss Brenda.

    • Rena, Thank you for your sweet words, but I feel like it was my mother who was the one who showed such grace that day, not me. xoxox, Brenda

    • Hi Friend, I’m wondering if you’ll come to BAM next year? I understand why you’re not front and center, but I hope you’ll consider it. I have a good girlfriend whose daughter died in a car accident, graduation night. It’s been painful for her to see her daughter’s friends go on to college, get jobs, get married and have babies, but she’s rounded the corner, and is once again, embracing the things that were reminders of what will never be. I also cringe–and have some envy–when I read about couples who are moving through life together, something I don’t see myself doing with anyone since James died. However, we… the collective we of our group, have so much to learn from you and Grace and your giant hearts. I hope to see you there, again. XOXOX, Brenda

      • Brenda, you’re so sweet. I am not planning to attend since it’s the expense of cross country. If it were here again, I’d be there in a heartbeat. xo I appreciate your kind words.

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