Opening My Eyes

Today, I was thinking  about a beautiful spring day thirteen years ago when I was driving my mother home from an appointment with her oncologist.  At the time, she was battling three different types of cancer and she was at the end of her journey.   We had just been told that any further treatment would be futile.  She was losing this battle and she knew it.  We knew the time was drawing near to call in Hospice and I had been dreading that day.

The car ride home from that oncology appointment was one of the saddest times that I can recall in my life.  I remember I had a lump in my throat the entire way home as I listened to my mother, who was trying to be brave and stifle her sobs.

What do you say to your mother, who has just been told that she is dying, except to tell her that you are sorry?

My mother was looking out the passenger side window away from me and I was trying to be brave for her.  I was trying hard to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks and I was failing.  My biggest memory from that day is the large lump in my throat that accompanied me on the entire drive home and how powerless and helpless I felt in my struggle with not knowing what to say to my mother.

As we drove, she was the one who broke the awkward silence, and in a soft and low voice between sniffles, she said, “I’m so glad that God let me live long enough to see another spring…  This will be my last.”  The lump in my throat grew a little larger.  I looked over at her and noticed she was admiring the view out the car window.  It wasn’t until that very moment that I even realized that spring had indeed come.

I had been too busy to notice. 

God’s beauty and splendor was all around me and I had almost missed it.  I was the busy mom to two teenage sons and my mother was dying of cancer.  I had been busy taking her to oncology appointments, laboratory appointments, and to the hospital for various tests and scans.  I was busy taking her to the grocery store.  I was busy cleaning her house.  I was busy thinking about hospice care and how I was going to survive losing her.  I was busy thinking my boys would soon need to be fitted for suits to wear to her funeral.  I was busy with my own therapy appointments and trying to deal with my own anticipatory grief.  I was busy feeling guilty that I was missing a lot of my oldest son’s senior year in high school.  And I was busy trying to figure out how I could still be there for my mother, yet not neglect my husband.

No, I had not even noticed that spring had come that year.  I had not noticed the beautiful pink cherry trees blooming.  I had not noticed the blazing yellow pop of the forsythias.  I had not noticed the pink peonies in my own backyard.  I had even missed my mother’s favorite:  Daffodils.  And I had failed to notice the lightning bugs had appeared – always a favorite of mine.

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I learned a valuable lesson from my dying mother that day.  And I’ve never failed to notice the season of spring since.  I see, I feel, I smell, I hear.  I see the the blue skies with fluffy white clouds.  I feel the warm sunshine on my face.  I listen to the chorus of croaking frogs on a rainy night.  I gaze at newborn baby robins in a backyard bush, their mouths gaping wide.  I hear the mockingbird sing his magnificent tune.  I stop to admire all of God’s beauty.  I not only see the lovely irises blooming, but I stop to smell them too.  I notice the smell of the rain on warm asphalt and I delight in the feel of that rain on my skin.

A few nights ago, I stepped outside after dark and I watched all the lightning bugs as they lit up the backyard with their greenish-yellow flashes of light.  It was peaceful and quiet.

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I stood there a while and just soaked in all that beauty.  A beauty that I almost missed thirteen years ago.

Gail ♥  

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About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in God, Grief, Seasons, Spring and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Opening My Eyes

  1. enitsirk24 says:

    Gail, this was a beautiful post about how you cared for your mom. And the lesson learned about paying attention to the beauty around us.
    This brings back a recent memory for me of my mom telling me, after she sat in her stair-climber chair after she took a shower, her last one she would give herself. She told me that she was not long for this life. Although I could see her flame was dimming, at that moment I had no words of comfort for her or for myself. Then I asked her if she needed anything. She was so tired and weak, I don’t think she answered me. It was an awkward moment, but it was an obvious moment.
    I try to keep alive things she used to do. And I try to appreciate life from a new perspective without her.
    Thank you for the beautiful images that were imbedded in your post.

    • Gail says:

      Thank you for your sweet comment. I know you just recently lost your mom if I’m not mistaken so your grief is still raw and fresh. I’ve never felt such a loss for words as I did with my mom that day. It was a very helpless feeling and one I’ll never forget. It sounds like you experienced it too and understand. I’ve read several books on death and dying and many of them say that people can often tell when the end has come for them. My father knew it as did my mother. Our hospice nurses always told us to pay attention to that and to any predictions the patient makes about their death. I remember one night my mother looked at my sister and me and told us she was going to die at 9 pm that night! She was quite sure of it. My sister and I were both spending the night with her that night and I remember we fought over who was going to go in and check on her at 9 pm. Well, she didn’t die that night and went on to live a few more months. She had three near death calls but pulled through each one. The doctors and nurses told us she was fighting death with all her might.

      I am curious about the stair climber chair. My in-laws have been looking into getting one. They are 87 and almost 90 and my father-in-law just had a hip replacement. They already got one estimate and have another company coming out to give them a second estimate. Any advice????

      • enitsirk24 says:

        Yes, the passing of my mother is still fresh and raw. I did smile at the story you told of your sister and you fighting about who would check on her. That would be my sister and I, then my brother would step up and do it.

        I do not recommend Acorn for a chair lift company. Their reviews were very negative. I went with AmeriGlide. They send over a sheet that you fill in the measurements of the stairway and they figure out how long of a riding rail you need. We installed it ourselves and did not have an inspector come to give their final okay. My mom did not want to pay for installation or the inspector. She never had a problem. The only problem are the instructions are limited. We watched YouTube video to help us and that too was a bit of a mystery in some parts. Anyone mechanical can figure it out.

        All the best to your chair ride search.

      • Gail says:

        You all were brave to do the installation yourselves! I am impressed with that. Unfortunately, I am not mechanical at all! Glad it worked out for you and thanks for the info.!! I think they have made a decision and went to a medical supply store last week and actually tried out different chairs.

  2. I started to read this when you first posted it and had to stop. I’ve just finished it now. It’s so similar to what I went through with my mom in ’01. I stayed with her during the day and my sister, who lived next door, stayed with her at night. I think what you tell them is the truth in what you’re feeling: helpless with a desperation to fix or at least lessen the problem. That you’ll do everything in your power to help them. Because you know, they’re feeling absolutely helpless too.
    My mom had a rare form of lung cancer. Never smoked a day in her life. I got to spend almost a year with her before she left us. About 4 or 5 days before she passed, she wanted all of her kids at the house. About 3 days before, she told me that Jesus had visited her and told her she would be going with him soon. She lost all anxiety after that. I wish I’d have asked her more questions about that visit. But I don’t think God wanted me to. Several miraculous things happened in those 3 days. I’m lucky I got to spend time with her.

    • Gail says:

      I am glad you got to experience your mother’s peace at the end… that would be so comforting to me, hearing that your mother had seen Jesus. My sisters and I took turns taking care of my mom at the end and for several months we took turns spending the night with her. It was difficult because both my sisters were still working. So I had days and then we took turns at night. Towards the end, it took two of us spending the night with her and then we ended up putting her in a hospice residence when her care got beyond what we could give. Though I was often at a loss as to what to say to my mother, I did always try to assure her that we would take care of her. Unfortunately, my mother never did come to terms with her death. I guess what I’m trying to say, is she never found that peace. And that was the very hardest thing of all for my sisters and me to witness. She said to the very end that she just wasn’t ready to go. She fought death hard.

      • I’m so sorry for your family Gail. I know how hard it is. We had hospice come to the house a couple times a week and it helped, but it was more like a nurse visit. I had other sisters, but they barely did anything to help. They have no clue how hard it was. But I wouldn’t give up that time with my mom for anything.

      • Gail says:

        I think unfortunately, that is how it often goes, with the care usually falling to one person. At least that is what our hospice nurse told us his experience was. One day he told us we should be proud of how we were all three taking turns and helping with our mother’s care, the grocery shopping, and the house cleaning, , that he didn’t see that much at all. My oldest sister would sit down and make out a schedule of who was staying when. Most people have no clue how hard it is caring for a dying human being until they experience it themselves. I feel the same way and treasure the time I got to spend with my mother.

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