Monday, August 31, 2009

Top 5 Toughest

3 years ago, our mother's best childhood friend, Hermelinda, passed away from ovarian cancer. During her final days, Mom could not discern the difference between "is dying" and "has died." She would call us sobbing that her friend had passed away, only for us to find out (embarrassingly, I might add, after sending condolences) that her friend was still alive. Informing Mom that Hermelinda had not yet passed brought forth such joy and celebration that we realized we were just setting her up to repeatedly experience her friend's death. What to do, with a fragile mind? Finally, when there were only hours left, we did not tell Mom that she was still here.

Teri and I have worried, over the past couple of years, and more so in the past few months, telling Mom about Teri's prognosis. Teri has prodded her slightly, explaining matter-of-factly that she would one day die of cancer, but that it was not to be focused on now. We have discussed and contemplated what and when to say. I have made myself sick, lately, with the prospect of being handed this particular responsibility.

I have been surprised to realize, in the last few weeks then, that Mom knows. Her conversation, agitation, and line of questioning have made it quite clear that she knows. She is talking about death constantly. Her father died. Her husband died, she still misses him.

Since the last time we visited Teri, she begins talking about her as if we have already been talking about her for hours. The conversations go as such:
"Hi, Mom."

"She loves feeding the squirrels. She bought peanuts for them. I love her so much."

"I love her too. It's ok to cry."
I brought her to the house yesterday, to hang out while I prepared food for a small cookout for Brian and a few friends & family. Mom approached me with an obvious question at her lips, but didn't say anything. I pushed a little: "You looked like you were going to say something." She finally blurted out, "I was going to say something! I want to KNOW something. I want to know: Is Teri going to be all right?"

And I looked into my mother's eyes, and I told her "No."

I can count the toughest days of my life on one hand. Arriving in the emergency room to find my then-5-year-old son strapped to a backboard after falling 2 stories out of the waterslide. Walking out of a courtroom with custody of my best friend's daughter. Picking out my father's casket. Sending my kid to war.

And now, informing a woman that she is about to lose a child.

This shaking will stop, someday, I know.


  1. I know.

    I know.

    You know, as hard as the past few years have been for us, we always tell each other, 'well, at least the boys are o.k." And then I would think of my mother and realize that she didn't have that fleeting comfort of thinking that at least all her babies were o.k.

    It's so wrong.

    I'm with you.

  2. I keep coming back to check on this post. Somehow, we continue to pick up our cross daily and move forward partially because SOMEBODY has to do it. Trust me when I say that it is better to inspire someone than to be inspired and you seem to do that well.

  3. My ex-father-in-law suffered from Alzheimers and was eventually due to both physical and mental impairments, placed in an extended care facility. When his wife died, my previous (got tired of all the ex's) sister-in-law told me they consulted with the Alzheimer's Association about how and if to tell him.

    It was the toughest decision the kids had made, but out of mercy they chose not to because they didn't want him to suffer every time he remembered it as if it were the first time. Kind of like "The Notebook" I guess.

    He passed a few months later and they felt good about their decision.

    You knew what was appropriate and when.

    Just imagine lots of little invisible hands holding you up when you think you can't go on - because we are all there in spirit giving you strength, or at least trying.

  4. Of course she has known. Every decent mother has intuition regarding their children. Instinctively, a mother will notice her child is fading away. No words required.

  5. I just read your last two posts...and I'm speechless...and I'm sorry...and I'm praying...and I love you. That's all I can get out between my tears.

  6. While I was in the hospital in 2000, I was pretty sick... but pulled through, and regained my health. While in the hospital, a man a little older than me, with the same name died- and was in the obits... I squelched more rumors than you could believe! Best friend's got cancer right now, and we don't know what will happen.. I could list numerous sad happenings in my life that all all around me... You get to an age where the percentage of bad news simply goes up by the odds when growing older.
    Best of luck in all that!

  7. don't forget to remember the Top 5 Most Terrific, too. I know you do. Don't forget to remember them with Teri and with your mom. I love you.

  8. You're a great daughter to her, Lori...

  9. I'm so sorry, Lori. Just got caught up in Reader.

    All that springs to mind are empty words so I'll just say that I'm always here if you need anything and even if you don't need a thing.


  10. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Sending you and your family love and hugs
    My Dad died a few months ago of cancer
    after a 13 year battle.
    It just sucks.
    No way around it.
    I'm sending you prayers for strength and love.

  11. I know we don't really know each other, but I am right here in town and honestly if there is any way at all that I can help out please let me know.

    Life is not fair, and life is not easy. All we can do is hang in there and lean on each other.

  12. I can't say it enough. God bless you guys.


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