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This week Dominique Sachse’s precious mother, Audrey Toll, died five days after she suffered a major cardiac event and subsequently was placed in a medically-induced coma. Anyone who knows Dominique or watches her popular YouTube channel knows how much fun they had together and how much they loved one another. My heart breaks for Dominique because I know she is devastated. Audrey’s joyful personality should be a reminder to all of us to seize the good things in life and let go of the ones that aren’t serving us well.

“Eight weeks ago when I interviewed Dominique for my Ageless Style post, she said something that’s stayed with me. It was almost as if it were a portent of things to come.

“I have considered myself blessed,” Dominique told me. “She’s 87, and she’s still with me. She’s two blocks away, and I know that’s a gift and it’s fleeting, and I will appreciate it and tap into it while I have it.”

Click here for my Ageless Style Interview with Dominique.

Not all of us are blessed with the kind of relationship Dominique had with her mother. My relationship with my own mother was a difficult one for as long as I can remember. When I was 13, we role reversed: I became the mother and she became the daughter. At the time, I didn’t know I would be Mother’s “parent” for much of her life.

The day she died, Mother weighed less than 60 pounds. She’d lost all desire for food and had trouble swallowing the few drops of water I squeezed into her mouth with a paper towel. That last afternoon, when the hospice chaplain was praying with her, he’d looked at me and said he didn’t think she had much time.

When I was 22, I was maid of honor at Mother’s second marriage.

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

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

“That’s why I wore it. 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 had prevented her from retaining information for more than 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 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 all right to let go and go with God. During one of those times, in all seriousness, Mother had 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.”

God has already taken Audrey Toll by the hand. Now, I pray He takes Dominique Sachse’s hand as well and shows her how to enter the next chapter of her life without her beloved mother.

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53 thoughts on “WHEN OUR MOTHERS DIE”

  1. Oh Brenda, I feel for Dominique Sache. I agree with you. She and her mother seemed to have a great relationship and I’m sorry to hear this. I will say a prayer for her.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this with us…it is holy ground. Difficult or not, our mothers have a bond with us that’s deeper than deep. It goes to our souls. I love that you had your mama’s nails done and she was dressed in a beautiful caftan (?). And those unguarded moments toward the end….gifts from a loving God.

    • Hi Cynthia, Yes, Mother had several beautiful silk caftans she wore. In fact, she was buried in one because her body was kind of twisted and it was the only thing that would work. It was red and gold silk and I know she looked beautiful when she met God. xoxox, Brenda

  3. As at 69-year-old woman, whose 89-year-old mom and 90-year-old dad are still alive and kickin’, your post reminds me to focus forward and not backward. It’s not always easy. Nice post.

    • Thank you, Barbara. Your parents are nearby and I know you enjoy your time together. That’s so special. xoxox, Brenda

  4. I was so saddened to read when Dominique’s mother passed. She was an amazing lady as well as her daughter. There is never enough time. ❤️

    • You’re right Colleen. We’re always shocked when it happens, even if we think we’re prepared to lose someone we love. Thank you! Brenda

  5. Hi Brenda: What a beautiful post. I’ve always admired Dominique’s relationship with her Mom. I have very similar and not sure how I’ll handle it when it’s her time, but I know God will take our hands and lead us. Love your Mom’s words of wisdom.

    • Thank you, Melanie. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way to handle how we react to the death of a loved one. Hopefully with kindness to others, especially family members. That’s where things can get tricky. Brenda

  6. Like you I haven’t had an easy relationship with my mother and that’s made both of us sad. The mother daughter relationship is a complex one so it’s reaffirming to see one like Dominique had with her mom.

    • I feel the same way, Karen. It’s been therapy of sorts for me to see Dominique and her beautiful mother together and wish my own mother and I could have a “do over.” I’m sorry you know what I mean. xoxox, Brenda

  7. Brenda your post brought tears to my eyes. Yes our relationships can be bumpy but there’s a hike unlike any other when our mothers die. Thank you for this.

    • Bella Raye, What a beautiful name. I agree, the relationship with our mothers is unlike any other relationship we will ever have. Cynthia left an earlier comment that said it goes to our soul. I think so because our mother was the very foundation for who we are. xoxox, Brenda

  8. I was very touched by your post. My heartfelt condolences to Dominique on the passing of her beloved mom. I’m 63 and very fortunate to have my 90 year old mom still with me, although my dad just passed away several weeks ago at 92. I know to treasure the time we have left together.

    • Thank you, Pam. I’m glad this post resonated with you. You just lost your dad, so I hope you have more time with your mother. A dear friend of mine died yesterday. He was 91, and even though it was quick and I know he’s with God, I’ve been thinking of all the things I should have said and done, but didn’t. We don’t want to have regrets. xoxox, Brenda

  9. Brenda, I loved this post and am particularly struck by how people who are near death can sometimes become so lucid. It’s a phenomenon I’ve read about. It must have been a blessing to have her last moments with you be so engaging and in the moment.

    • Hi Lesley, Actually, I had the presence of mind to record our last conversation on my cellphone. It’s truly amazing. I didn’t have to talk much, I just listened to her and it was wonderful. xoxox, Brenda

  10. Thanks for sharing your intimate experience. I shared the most beautiful, intimate moments with my mother in the end of her life. Not everyone does.

    • I’m so happy to hear this because I know it meant a lot to her as well. No, everyone doesn’t get to do that for a variety of different reasons. Like an older friend of mine who had a stroke and was in a coma. We all talked to her as if she could hear us, but she couldn’t comment or look us in the face which was sad. xoxox, Brenda

  11. I was also saddened to read about Dominique’s Mom passing. She certainly was a vibrant women. It will be tough for Dominique while she grieves her passing.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with your own Mom at the end of her life. My Mom had dementia and died at the age of 92. I know this disease all two well. I’m dealing with my 2 older sisters that are both suffering from it now. I try very hard to enjoy every single day I have. Just had another birthday. Some of my friends dread these, I’m thankful I am still here and able to celebrate.

    • Jeannette, Absolutely! We must enjoy every day we’re blessed with. When I wake in the morning, I thank God I’m still here and thank him again at the end of the day. Dementia, like so many other terrible diseases, is cruel. If you’re like me, you may be wondering if you’ll have dementia as well. Hopefully we won’t. Blessings, Brenda

  12. What a beautifully written tribute. I am sure your friend is truly touched. My 87-year-old mother currently lives with dementia. Similarly, our relationship has been complicated and often difficult. And I have been reflecting a lot about it, since I am her “Person,” helping her navigate a heartbreaking illness. This post hits home in a couple of ways. My condolences

    • Susan, We have many similarities so I know what you and your mother are going through. For those of us who are their “person,” their answers and reactions to things often defy logic and don’t make sense or they’re hurtful. I hope you’re able to take a break from her dementia and do something that grounds you and gives you what you need. That’s so important. xoxox, Brenda

  13. Brenda,
    Something told me to read your post today. I normally skip over posts from my friends, but I’m glad that I read yours.
    This was a lovely post sharing two different relationships with mothers but both daughters experiencing grief from the loss of their mothers.
    I know you had a difficult relationship with your mother, but in the final hours together, she let you into her heart.
    I am blessed that my mother is still with me at 88. We have the same relationship that Dominque had with her mother.

    I know I will grieve for her long after she has left this world. I don’t take any minute with her for granted.

    Sending prayers and hugs to both of you.

    • I’m glad you stopped by, Robin. Thank you. You and your mother have something many of us will never know, so I’m not surprised that you don’t take it for granted. You’re such a precious wonderful woman, and I’m imagining you and your mother are a lot alike. Sending you love and blessings, Brenda

  14. I was 76 years old when my 99 1/2-year-old mother passed. She had lived with me for 18 years, for which I remain eternally grateful. I was privileged to hear stories from her perspective regarding different relatives, how she fell head over heels for my handsome father, how hard it was during the Great Depression, the anxiety she lived with while Dad was a pilot in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, plus many funny recollections of motherhood, etc. Until she lived with me, I never really understood some of her persistent anxiety and personality quirks but, her history of waking each day in fear through three wars made it perfectly understandable. Funny, I just needed to change my perspective and truly look at the past through her eyes. In Mom’s last few years, she suffered from dementia hence, we watched Game of Thrones three times through all 70 episodes because it was all new and exciting. I am so lucky.

    • Beautiful post Brenda. I was 39 when my 67 year old Mother died. She was my best friend and her death threw me into a grief I had never known. I am happy that you had the end that you did with your mom. I hope it have you some peace. I am so sad for Dominique. Sending love to all,

      • Kim, How blessed you both were to be able to say that about your relationship. It’s no wonder you were devastated, plus I consider 39 too young to experience that kind of loss. I had back-to-back loss when I was 37, so I know what an impact it can have on us. Your mother was and is so proud of the beautiful empathetic woman you’ve become. Love to you, Brenda

    • Hi Kona, I never realized that. You came to understand how she felt and how she acquired her quirks and anxiety. If only I could have done that with my mother. She didn’t talk about her childhood or much of anything except herself, at that moment, but I knew that something awful had happened to her. She did her best not to let anyone see that side of her and it must have been lonely and difficult for her to do that. Your mother was a riot. Loving and sweet. Game of Thrones through her eyes must have been a hoot. Love you my friend, B

  15. So beautifully expressed, Brenda. My mother passed at the age of 92 in 1997 and I have missed her every day of my life since then. . My heart goes out to all who have lost the one who gave us life. Love your way and thank you. Sandra

    • What a lovely note, Sandra. Thank you. It sounds as though you and your mother had a special relationship and it’s what I would wish for everyone. xoxox, Brenda

  16. Hi Brenda,
    Such sad news to hear that Dominique Sachse’s mother Audrey Toll passed away. What a horribly difficult time. The gift is they shared such an amazing close and loving relationship.
    Brenda, thank you for sharing your personal experience with your mother towards the end of her life. In the wedding picture you and your mother look very pretty.
    I understand roll reversible as a child. We share that same exact thing in common. You are a survivor because of it.
    My sister in-law has dementia, seeing her cognitive decline has been heart wrenching.
    She is 76 years of age.
    Our next door neighbor of 22 years passed away. It’s been a sad time for our community.
    On a personal note I was wondering how you are feeling after your hospital stay in Italy? I often wonder how you ever made it back home with the little reserves you had at that point.
    Brenda, with you I feel like I know the whole person.
    Wishing you a nice and relaxing weekend.
    Hugs to you.

    • Hello Sweet Katherine, Thank you for the beautiful note. I’m back to my old self after my Italy trip but it’s not been an easy road. Intuitively, you’ve zeroed in on one of the most difficult parts of that ordeal: getting home. It was a challenge, but thankfully, a travel agent I know made sure wheelchairs met me in Munich and Washington Dulles airport and got me through customs. We also decided I would spend the night in a hotel at the airport and continue the rest of the trip the next day. Good thing because I slept 11 hours in the hotel. I’m sorry to hear your sister-in-law has dementia. I think 76 is too young for that, so I imagine it’s been heartbreaking for everyone. You and your mother role reversed as well? Yes, it makes us resilient and independent, doesn’t it? Sending you love and hugs, Brenda

  17. What a touching experience you had w your mom! Certainly gives all of us hope for our own finales. My mom was in hospice and unable to travel to my sons wedding the weekend before she passed away. It was a real storm of emotions, celebrating sons wedding while missing my mom and dad being there, yet so grateful for the 83 years she lived and inspired me. Oh that I may have the same impact in my son’s lives!

    Beautiful post and so many thoughtful comments. Thank you Brenda.

    • Hi Carol, Just based on your note, I imagine you’ve already been a positive influence in your son’s life as your mother was in yours. You must have felt so many conflicting emotions that weekend. I hope the painful ones have receded to the background and you remember the joys. xoxox, Brenda

  18. Brenda, You’ve always been a great writer and you’ve used your experiences to give us such wise insight, but this post really made an impact on me. My mother is not long for this world and I only hope I can give her strength like you gave your mother. Sending my love and my best to you.

    • Thank you, Jane. I’m grateful that you take away good and helpful things from my posts. It’s why I continue to write them. The fact that you’re thinking about whether you’re there or not for your mother tells me you are. Looking back at my relationship with my mother, I wasn’t always there when she needed me, and she didn’t always receive my help in a positive way. But that last day was a beautiful one for both of us and I think it was healing as well. Strange, when and where the gifts in life appear.

  19. Brenda, I loved your interview with Dominique and was so sorry to hear of her mothers passing.
    The cycle of life is such that we will all in some ways parent our parents, either by caring for them or helping them in some way as they navigate the changes that come with old age. My mother is 78 and I hope that I have many more years with her. My mother-in law is 96 and she is coming to live with us in September as she has decided she hates the facility she lives in. I am happy to have her as long as she wants to stay, I believe that she deserves to be with family as she ages not in a home where she has no interaction and refuses to leave her room. I know it is going to be a challenge but I think I am up for it.

  20. Elizabeth, It’s easy to tell you’re a wise woman with an open heart. What a gift you’re giving your mother-in-law, and I believe it will come back to you in so many ways. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I always value what you have to say. xoxox, Brenda

  21. I am so sorry for Dominique and will say a prayer for her and her family.
    I’ve had 0 relationship with my mother for 20+ years now and before that, it was extremely toxic. People (some relatives ) have been asking me lately how I will feel when she passes, Will I go to services? The answer is I don’t know.
    I have a fairly close relationship with my stepmother of 48 years. We’ve become even closer since losing my father 8 years ago.

  22. I went through something similar with my own MOTHER!
    HOW DO WE DO THIS………….thats a dam good question!
    Again no one talks about this topic much and I think if we did it would help to prepare ourselves!
    HUGS to YOU and I am so sorry for your friends LOSS.

  23. So beautifully written and from the heart. You have such a gifting to touch the heart. Love you my friend!!

  24. A beautiful story to read Brenda. I am preparing to lose both of my parents sooner than later. They are 88 and 90, and dad has Alzheimers. I feel like I have already grieved them, though. Dad is in mid-stages of dementia and is constantly worried, agitated, trying to get home and generally scared to death and miserable. He will have to go to memory care soon, he is hard to control and wandering. Mom is generally miserable and taking it out on all of us. She blames us for her state of affairs and has become bitter. For most of our lives, she and I had a wonderful relationship. Now, when I’m with her, she can be downright cruel and I wonder, “Who are you and where’s my mom?”
    It’s such a hard time in life. You let your mom go with wonderful love and grace. xo

  25. I remember you telling me this story about your mom’s passing once before, Brenda. It’s so nice to read it, here. It’s a gorgeous story. Prayers for Dominique as she grieves her mother.

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