Walking My Mother Home*

April 28, 2023

About six weeks ago, my mom’s Hospice nurse called to let me know that they’d noticed a marked decline in my mom’s condition and that she had stopped eating. In end-of-life terminology, she was probably “transitioning.” After a day or two of phone calls and a flurry of actions to try to set up my life to function without me for an unknown period, I flew to California on a one-way ticket to spend what would be the last two weeks of her life with my mom.

She passed away April 8.

“It’s been a great ride”

When I first arrived, she knew who I was and could respond with a few words or a facial expression, and she could hold my hand. Every day I came to the nursing home where she was being cared for, spending most of the day by her side. This was one of the most emotionally grueling things I’ve ever done, but I wanted to pour into her some of the lifetime of love she’d given me. I had plenty of time to reflect on our relationship, cry, begin the grieving process, and try to say everything I needed to say before saying good-bye.

The staff found a comfortable rocker/recliner for me, and I positioned myself where I could look out a window. My mother-in-law always said it helped her during hard times to find a patch of blue sky to look at, and I found myself doing that often.

One of the nurses showed me how to find soothing music videos on YouTube, and every day I chose a new one. The music calmed me, and perhaps my mom, too.

I’d leave every day wondering if I’d see her again. By the end, I’d lost my mom in every way that mattered and all that remained was the shell of her body. Still, the finality of her death crushed me.  My heart still breaks at the idea of never being able to hug my mom again.

One of the last pictures I have of us together

My mother taught me to love books, to sew, and to put aside doing chores when you’re exhausted and need to recharge. She read me bedtime stories and took me horseback riding even though she was afraid of horses. She was proud of me and didn’t try to change me, even when she didn’t understand me. For so many years it was just the two of us (my parents divorced when I was three), and it wasn’t until I was a mother myself that I realized how challenging it must have been for my mom to support us financially and take care of me at the same time. My father didn’t live in the same town and it wasn’t until I was older that I was able to spend significant time with him.

When I moved to Florida, we didn’t get to see each other nearly as much as we wanted. I missed the everyday simple pleasures of being able to meet for a meal or go shopping together, and as she got older, I hated being across the country from her. She had troubles and challenges in life, but she’d tell you, as she told a nurse, “It’s been a great ride.”

One last loving act

I think my mom performed one last, loving act as a mother. My friend Kerri arrived on the afternoon of April 8 to spend her spring break with me, and no more than an hour later, my mom was gone. I don’t know how I would have coped if I’d been alone and I think my mom waited until my friend was with me.

As I went through some of her belongings, I found old date books filled with dinners out, church activities, and family visits, and literal drawers filled with cards and letters from loved ones. I found notebooks with lists of goals, art and craft supplies, and file folders with decorating ideas and places she wanted to go. (I do the same thing: fill notebooks with ideas and folders with cut out pictures and articles!) I found awards she’d won in 4-H, lists of books she read in high school, and a medal from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. My mom loved to dance, and I like to think of her dancing again now that she’s no longer in pain.

I have more family articles to sort through, and more memories to explore as I begin the task of living without my mom. I am slowly looking at a few of these at a time, to avoid being swamped by grief. Recent memories like playing cutthroat games of chicken foot dominoes, and older ones, like the day when I was a teenager that she came home driving a brand new, electric blue Camaro, a gift she'd given herself. 

I’m home again briefly before we return for a graveside service next month.  The last thing I can do for my mom is to fulfill her wish to be buried with my stepfather.

I miss my mom already. This Mother’s Day will be painful, since I’ve lost two of my three moms this year. Even when grief squeezes me like a giant hand, or my eyes well with tears at odd moments, I know that even though it hurts, I was lucky to have Judith Allen Weingarten as my mom.

*One of my friends used this phrase when I told her my mom was declining and I was going to be with her. I thought it perfectly described the situation.

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  1. Dearest Kathy I am so sorry about your mom. My mom left me two years ago and I miss her so. She too wrote journals and to do lists and kept sketchbooks. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I weep with you friend. Hugs! P.S. Your mom went home on what would have been my mom's 85th birthday!!

    1. Good moms definitely leave a hole in our hearts, Debbie. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers--and hugs!

  2. What a beautiful reflection on a tender time. It stirs up memories for me of my mom's last months. It sounds like you and your mom had much in common with my mom and I. Wishing you many happy memories to forever hold in your heart and comfort you in the days ahead.
    By the way the title of this post sounded familiar to me. I found comfort in the small book, "May I Walk You Home ?" by Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp. There was a gentleness in the metaphor of walking home that really resonated with me.

    1. Dear Claire--Thank you so much for your kind comments. I will have to look up that book. It probably won't surprise you to know that the title of this post came from a conversation with Laure.

  3. Dear Kathy, I am so very sorry for your loss. I’m very glad you were able to spend the last two weeks of her life with her. She sounds like she was a great mother and a wonderful person. I hope all of your good memories bring you comfort in the days and weeks ahead.