This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of my mother’s death.
It was June 1983. I had graduated from BYU less than two months before. We had moved back from Utah to Oregon and were living in a two-bedroom apartment. (And for the first time in 30 years, we are now living in an apartment again.) I was 25 years old then; my mother, 57.
For over 20 years, Mom suffered the effects of multiple sclerosis. I don’t ever distinctly remember seeing her walk or cook a meal. At the time of her death, she could barely move or talk or eat. It was a difficult time, especially for my father, who had the primary responsibility for her care (with the assistance of hired help). She still lived at home because my father refused to put her in a facility.
On Friday, June 3, 1983, she was eating her lunch (she had to be hand fed at that time) and aspirated some food. Before my father could get the help she needed, she suffered brain damage, and spent her remaining days in the hospital.
Then the phone call came from my dad, letting me know that my mother had died. It was an unforgettable Sunday evening.
Have you ever gotten a call like that? Those are hard phone calls to get.
The news of Mom’s death came as a great relief but it came with great grief as well—a secret grief I have carried in my heart for three decades.
As Macbeth says, life is a brief candle (Act 5, Scene 5). It is too often shorter than we hope.
My mother died at 57 in 1983. My father was 62 when he died in 1989. My brother died at age 56 in January 2012. I am 55. Only my sister and I remain. Their is no other living male in our family line except me. The family name, as it is traditionally carried forward, ends with me.
Mom is now buried next to my father in a little country cemetery near the ranch. I have not been to their grave in years but I hope to visit in August when we go to Oregon.
My mother was a saintly woman. I am not just saying that. It is not empty praise. She was a woman of great faith. I do not recall her ever complaining or speaking evil of another person. I only remember her swearing once (and that was a priceless moment). She had a wonderful sense of humor and, though bed-ridden, she made and kept many friends.
I often wonder about the meaning of life and the impact she had on mine. I miss her. I want to hear her laugh again. I want to see her walk.