My mother died, unexpectedly, last night.

And I didn’t make it in time to say goodbye.

Measure of grief? Inconsolable.

Measure of guilt? Incalculable.

She just turned 87 last week and joked many times in the past few years that she never expected to live “this long.”

I always quipped back, “I didn’t either.” The first time I said it she got mad. Every time after that she laughed.

My mother was a severely complicated, emotional, mentally broken woman.

She was also the strongest person I’ve ever known.

She survived the sudden death of her father when she was nine years old, leaving a crater in her heart that never healed. She barreled through the suicide of her oldest sister when life became too much for the woman, and the death of her own mother 29 years ago, a woman who admitted she neither loved nor liked her middle daughter. Just a few months ago she suffered the loss of her youngest sister.

She lived through a World War and three other wars that saw her lose childhood friends, the tale end of a depression, numerous stock market crashes and recoveries.

She survived a mentally abusive first marriage to my father, and the censure of the Catholic Church when they excommunicated her for leaving him. This was prior to Vatican II before things get a bit laxer. Mother Church refused her petition of an annulment and her second marriage was then “tainted” by her strict family who saw it as her basically living in sin with my stepfather, even though they were legally married.

My mother was the most devout woman I’ve ever known. She lived her life with her faith even though the practice of it was denied to her.

She never graduated from High School because she had to drop-out to help support her ailing mother and her younger sister. She never got her GED, either. And despite the lack of education, she had extremely important jobs in her lifetime.

She worked on Wall Street as a stock transfer manager in a time when there weren’t many women in the job. And she made 45 cents to every dollar the men in the same position made.

During the financial crisis of the 1980s she was let go ( women were fired first) and subsequently changed career paths. She cleaned houses for very wealthy people for a while to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. She babysat for several couples who absolutely adored the way she cared for their children. Then, at the age of 54, she became a licensed home health aide. She went into the homes of the people she’d cleaned for, now relegated to sick beds, and cared for them until the died.

During her 87 years, she suffered a miscarriage, two emotional breakdowns that left her anxious and paranoid, two broken hips and the subsequent surgeries to repair them, and broke with her husband’s family when they accused her of a crime she didn’t commit. They, like my grandmother’s family, felt she was living in sin with their brother and wanted her out of the family.

She was a gregarious person – right up until the end – and I can’t remember the number of times I asked her to stop speaking so I could tell her something important.

Today I wish I’d never tried to silence her.

It’s a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter, especially when the daughter has lived through the highs and despairs of the parent. My mother was not what anyone would call a book-smart woman, but she was the wisest person in my life, and no matter how many arguments we had, or tears we shed over fights, she always ALWAYS had my back.

I’ve written that I had to recently place her and my stepfather in a nursing care facility because they just couldn’t care for themselves anymore. This was – at the time – the most painful decision I’d ever made. My, mother, though, in typical fashion, told me to feel no guilt. She and her hubby had warm beds and a safe place to lay their heads down at night, 3 hot meals a day, and people to talk to. Although, I bet she was the one who did most of the talking.

I went to visit them on Thursday right before I went to visit my grandson for the weekend in New Jersey. She was alert, oriented, and chipper because the next day was St. Paddy’s day and they were being served corn beef and cabbage for dinner – her personal favorite. I kissed her goodbye when I left and her typical, “my love to the kids, Larry, and Maple,” rang in my ears.

Friday night she felt queasy in the nursing home, vomited, and then aspirated. She began having chest pain and shortness of breath. They transported her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. During her admission, they believe she also suffered a heart attack. I was called and updated and told they were going to keep her for a few days to give her IV antibiotics. She was alert, short of breath, but joking with staff – one who told me she was gregarious.


Saturday afternoon I received a call from the hospital doctor telling me they did a repeat chest x-ray and the pneumonia was progressing and they were upping her antibiotics.

Saturday at suppertime I was called again and told her condition had worsened from severe to grave. My daughter convinced me to let my son-in-law drive me back to Vermont since the doctor was fearful she wouldn’t survive the night. My husband went to be with my mother, and I had the nursing home bring my stepfather over. They made it in time to see her take her last breath on this earth.

I did not.

My one consolation is that my mother died surrounded by the man I love most in the world, and the one she did.

She didn’t die alone.

Today I have to do the one thing I have always dreaded: make parting arrangements. The one thing that is getting me through that horrible event is that she was very specific in what she wanted and what she didn’t.

And because I love her so much, I am obeying every wish she has.

It amazes me how, in just 24 hours, a single day, your life as you know it can change forever

As I grieve the loss of the woman who gave me life I am remembering the last time I saw her – barely 3 days ago. Her smile and her positive attitude are what I am carrying with me into the future, along with her absolute faith.

~ Peg



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26 responses to “#grieving

  1. Audrey Stewart

    I am sorry to read about your mom. I lost my mom 20 years ago and it always hurts. Take care of yourself while you go through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      Audrey, I’m sorry for your loss, as well. 20 years or twenty minutes – it’s devastating regardless. Thankyou fo reaching out.


  2. It sounds like your mother was an incredible woman! I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m crying as I read your post. I lost my mother when I was 11, so I understand the grief of having your entire world change in a day. Keep those wonderful memories of your mom! They will help you in the days ahead. Many hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      Tricia – I am sorry for you, as well. 11 is the time a girl needs her mom more than ever. It must have been a devastating time. Thank you, though, for the kind words of support.


  3. I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s death. I lost my mother ten years ago, and I can still recall the sense of loss and devastation I felt when I got the phone call. Hold on to those wonderful memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sue Kowalczyk

    Oh Peggy, I am so sorry. You are an amazing , dedicated, talented, kind, caring person today because of your Mother. You should feel no guilt, you have spent so much time and energy caring for your mother and step dad and they were so grateful. Our lives are in God’s hands, He will help you through this difficult time, surrounding you with the love of family and friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so sorry, Peggy. You wrote a beautiful tribute to her. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Keep your wonderful memories of your mom close to your heart. Maria

    Liked by 1 person

  6. amabaie

    So sorry to hear about your loss. When it happens suddenly, unexpectedly, there is no way to be prepared. May you find peace.

    Perhaps some solace is that she died suddenly, unexpectedly. The alternative would be a long, slow decline, which usually means a lot of suffereing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. amabaie

    My mom is turning 91. I hope she goes suddenly, unexpectedly, for her sake. I am trying now to prepare for that, but I doubt there is a way to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      I thought I was prepared for it to happen eventually, but I was so wrong. I doubt we can ever know the feeling until it’s foist upon us…thank you for you kind words


  8. My sincerest sympathy for your loss. (My mother passed two weeks ago.) Your mother clearly knew you loved her. Please let go of any sense of guilt for not being there at the end. It was no reflection on the love you shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss, Peg. I lost my dad just before Christmas, so I understand to some degree what you’re feeling. Sending you love and hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So very sorry to hear about your mom! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. debbiejpruss

    I am so sorry for your loss. My Mom went into the arms of Jesus on January 16. I am an only child. God bless you.


  12. I am so sorry, Peggy. I send my deepest condolences your way. What a beautifully expressed sentiment about your mother. I hope you find peace with her passing.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m very sorry for your loss. Reading your words, I wonder if women like your grandmother might have experienced postpartum depression and attributed those feelings to “not liking” the child they’ve just given birth to. It’s a cruel thing to say to someone.
    As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize it isn’t that my mother dislikes me, but when I was born a day after Valentine’s day in 1965, she felt it marked the end of any opportunity she might have to accomplish something personally meaningful.
    My mother is 83 years old now. While her health isn’t terrible for someone of that age, her cognition seems to be slipping a bit.
    I wish you and your family peace. Please don’t blame yourself for not being there with your mother. I do understand your feelings. I wasn’t there when my father passed. Sometimes it makes me feel a bit guilty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      I would agree with you on the postpartum thing if not for one thing: she said it often until the day she died. They were oil and vinegar those two. Thank you for your kind words of support and good luck with your mom. Cherish the days.


  14. Donna Confer

    So very sorry for your loss, Peggy. I know it’s hard to say goodbye whether you’re by her side or not. Sending hugs for comfort and prayers for acceptance with no regrets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      Donna – thank you. It’s so hard. I just keep telling myself she appreciated everything I did for her and always told me she loved me. That’s getting me thru. Thanks for the support and kind words.


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