My Golden Mama and Her Slow Good-bye

My Golden Mama and Her Slow Good-bye May 11, 2013

Let me tell you about my mother. 

She is 87 and she gets confused.

She gets confused a lot.

For a couple of years there, every day was a challenge just to keep her alive. We rushed her to the hospital several times so they could drag her back from the edge. Now, her physical health has stabilized, but her mental health is going downhill, a little bit at a time.

She reminds me quite often that I took her car away from her. She’s lost that sense of time that lets the rest of us grieve a loss and then move on, leaving it in our past. When she remembers that she doesn’t have a car, the indignation is as fresh for her as the day it happened. The day I took that car was a sad day for me, too. When she tells me, as she does at least once every day, that I “took” it from her, it re-opens the pain in me, as well.

Other than the car memories, my mother is as sweet as a small child. She accepts whatever I suggest as the best thing and she trusts me the same way my children did when they were little. Like them, she talks almost non-stop, prating along about things that happened, or didn’t happen but that she thinks happened, 60, 70 or even 80 years ago.

For my part, I’ve fallen into the same u-huh, u-huh, answers that I gave my babies when they chattered to me as they “helped” me wash dishes or plant flowers or whatever. I do a lot of the same things with her that I did with them. We sat in the backyard yesterday and counted the blue-jays and the robins to determine which are the most numerous.

The differences are that when I told them something, they remembered it later that day. Mama doesn’t. That, and the fact that my babies were moving forward toward independent life, while Mama is moving inexorably away from independent life and then on to the next life on the other side of this one.

Forgetfulness is a blessing of sorts. At the beginning of this journey, she knew when she forgot and it upset her. Now, she no longer remembers that she doesn’t remember. She’s much happier this way.

I never remind her that she’s asked me that same question several times. I just answer her again. I don’t chide her about calling me 10 times in 15 minutes when I’m at work. I just talk to her each time as if it was the first call; because for her, it is.

I love my mother. I always have. But in some ways, she’s more precious to me now than she ever was before. She is so sweet, and so good. The pretensions we hide our real selves behind are gone from her. Her personality is stripped down to the unself-conscious realness of its bare self. What that is in my mother is a person who is all love, all generosity, trusting and deeply, profoundly innocent.

Caring for her during these years of her slow good-bye has given me the chance to see my mother as she really is without any cover. What I’ve seen is that she is a wonderful person, all the way through.

This is precious time, these years with her. I would not trade them for anything. There are moments, every once in a while, when I miss who she used to be. I would love to just sit down and have a talk with Mama as she was. But that can’t be and I know it, so I run my mental fingers over the weave of the thought and then fold it up, put it away and go back to the reality of the sweet baby Mama I still have.

Old age is not a tragedy. It most certainly is not a waste or a burden to those who aren’t there yet. It is a gift and a treasure; a phase of life like any other. My mother is going through a slow and beautiful passage from this life to the next one. It make take her years yet. Her family is a very long-lived tribe. Or, it may end suddenly, at any time.

Whichever way that happens, I know that she and her ultimate future are in God’s loving hands. I only thank Him for giving me this present time to love and cherish her now. It is, like she is, golden.

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8 responses to “My Golden Mama and Her Slow Good-bye”

  1. Such a beautiful article, Rebecca! You are a gifted writer, as well as a loving daughter. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    God bless both of you.

  2. Rebecca, my mother and father lived in a different state as they aged and it fell to my younger sister to “watch over them”, which she did willingly. Both had the Slow good-bye you’re experiencing. My sister handled the day to day, while working and having 2 children and husband. My parents didn’t live with her, but had (for my mother) caregivers in home, until she died, at home. Dad was in a facility after mom died.and he died 2 years later. He never really never understood why mom didn’t get better and it took him a long time to realize she had died. My sister had to keep up with all that involved and handle the financial end of things for both parents too. When I visited, as often as I could, there was the instant forgetting of what was just said etc. My husband has moderate dementia, and his memory will not improve, though he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. He does know he has a problem, and things that used to be simple—dressing, finding things, etc. are harder for him now. Think I will be having the long good-bye with him also. I know you are taking it in stride and I wish you the best. Your mother is in good hands with you as a daughter.

  3. I too have been there and have several t-shirts. I believe God gives the children of such parents a special grace to administer to their parents during these seasons. May the Lord richly bless you during this season. It will not last forever.

  4. It fell to my dad — and it always has said that it was his special privilege– to be the “24/7/365” for my mom’s slow goodbye due to diabetes complication. After 12 years, he was nearly worn to the nub. For a guy who never had patience with his sons and daughters, I still am absolutely in awe of his devotion to and cheerleading of my mom, his wife. My prayer is always that I can do the same for him if need be.

    I pray for you every day, Rebecca, because I treasure your blog here. Thank you for this new personal insight so that I can better give you prayerful support.

  5. Rebecca, thank you. I think this will help me slow down when I’m with my 94-year old mother in law and begin to lose my patience.