Tag Archives: #grieving

1 month…

Today marks 4 weeks since my mother died.

People keep telling me the pain, the sorrow, the shock, will fade.


When will I wake up and immediately not remember she’s gone? When will I stop crying at the most inopportune times? When will I be able to feel like myself – whole – again?

No answers come back. I understand that. Grieving is different for every person.

I was thinking last night about the differences in how my mother and I were raised.

My mother was the middle child of three girls. The oldest was the shining star of both her parents. Smart, Dependable. Independent. Loyal.

The youngest was my grandmother’s favorite. Why? Only the old woman knew, but after my grandfather died, it was the youngest upon whom she bestowed her smothering love.

My mother, the middle, was her least favorite, something my grandmother told her – actually spoke words to her about – often after her husband passed on. I think I can answer this one with ease: Why did the old lady dislike her so much? Because my mother was my grandfather’s favorite and he made no secret about it. From everyone I ever talked to back then who knew them all – namely the old aunts and uncles in the family when they were all still alive – my mother was the apple of his eye.

She wasn’t smart like her older sister.

She wasn’t as pretty as the youngest.

What she was, was funny, outgoing, sang like an angel – just like him – and thought the man hung the moon.

Apparently, my grandmother was jealous.

I can’t conceive of how a wife would be jealous of a child, but the old lady was, and kept being so, until her dying day. Which, was when she was 86, exactly 53 years after he died. Yup, she was 33 years old when he had a major heart attack and died on his way to work.

Since my mother was raised with the knowledge she wasn’t loved by her own mother, and basically ignored, my mother raised me in the exact opposite way. My grandmother’s way certainly wasn’t healthy for a child’s psyche.

But my mother’s tendency toward her own version of smother love wasn’t either.

She went out of her way, every single day when I was under her roof, to – in her words – protect me from the world. That meant I wasn’t allowed to bring any friends I may have made home after school because she didn’t want other kids corrupting what she was trying to teach me.

Subsequently, I never invited anyone over to our house, even as a teen and then as an adult. I had no close friends, no boyfriend, never had a sleepover at my house and didn’t attend my very first one with a “friend” until I was a senior in high school.

She called the friend’s house three times the first night and then bright and early the next morning to find out when I was coming home.

As a seventeen-year-old, I was mortified, and believe me – a huge fight ensued once I’d gotten home about how embarrassed I was. My mother counter-attacked with the “I’m trying to keep you safe” argument. Like my friends were dope fiends, or thieves, or something equally as nefarious. Which they weren’t. They also weren’t my friends for very long because they thought my mother was crazy and their mothers thought she was rude.

With the advent of maturity and age, I can understand why she acted this way. I still don’t agree with it, but I get it now that I’ve had my own child.

And I bet if you ask my daughter, there were more than a few occasions where I performed my own version of smother love.

Truer words were never written than we are all products of our upbringings, whether good or bad, abusive, or apathetic.

I tried to break the cycle when I had my child. Apparently, it’s harder to break than I realized because there are still some days when I hear my mother’s voice and words blow between my lips – as my daughter is quick to point out. LOL.

Mothers and daughters. Thousands of years of evolution haven’t changed them much, has it?

I miss you, Mommy. Every hour of every day…



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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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