It's still not real. I don't know when I'll be able to wrap my brain around the fact that my Mom is really gone. I must have sobbed and yelled at the sky a thousand times now, “NOOO MOM! NOT YET!!!” We all really thought we'd have more time. There's so much I wish I'd said, but I didn't want to get too mushy on her, because I didn't want her to think that I thought she didn't have long. We wanted to keep giving her hope that she'd have a few more months or years. And look at her in that picture! That's how she looked right before she died, except for the hair, she didn't look like a cancer patient on her deathbed, she wasn't frail and sick looking, and most wouldn't even guess that she was almost 80!
It happened in an instant, it must have been a blood clot, which is what took her back to the hospital on Saturday morning. We were in Chicago for the weekend with the kids and I was a mess when my sister called to tell me she'd been taken in by ambulance, because I was SO worried that Mom might die without me there.
I desperately wanted to be with her when that day came, like I was with my Dad in his last moments…
They got her on blood thinners and she ended up doing fine all weekend so they were sending her home. Meanwhile, we got home from Chicago Monday morning, and a little after noon my sister called to give me an update on how Mom was and what appointments I'd be taking her to later that week. Terri had stepped out of the room to call me while the nurse got Mom up for the first time to use the bathroom before she was discharged. Only five minutes or less after we hung up she was calling back and I remember thinking, “That's weird, we just hung up and I thought we were done.” She was distraught and told me Mom died while we were talking on the phone! Later I found out that after we hung up that first time, my sister had turned the corner and saw TONS of doctors and nurses racing down the hall and then she realized, “They're all running to my Mom's room!!!” An aide who was with her said that she was in the bathroom and apparently just dropped. Before that Mom had been talking like normal, eating well, and didn't even have any pain right then.
None of it was real, and it still isn't!
We are happy for Mom that her suffering is over (she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at the beginning of summer and it's been rough at times) and that her death was quick, but wow, what a road of healing we have ahead of us. I remember some of this pain from when my Dad died, but there's something even more painful when it's Mom (and she was the type of Mom who was there for us for any and everything), and how it happened so quickly and unexpectedly, and now both our parents are gone. It's weird how the hurt is so strong that it feels like a true physical pain. Sometimes all I can do is let out long pathetic groans with lots of tears and just ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me as the bible says He will in Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
We all know that our time here on earth could be over in an instant, and we don't know the day or the hour, but when someone you love dies so suddenly, this fact hits you like a brick wall. It also makes you appreciate Jesus and heaven more than ever, knowing that this life isn't IT, and that if we love Him, we will be together again. (Read more about all of that at my other blog.)
Here are a few random thoughts from this crazy week…
- Your comments on Tuesday (my assistant Jill posted that day for me, asking for your prayers) and all of your emails have blessed me more than I can express to you, thank you for lifting me up my dear reader friends, I love you all and pray often for YOUR prayer requests. One reader sent a Scripture that was so comforting, it was the first one I thought of when Mom's pastor asked which readings we wanted at the funeral: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. (Look it up!) Thank you Patti O. 🙂
- Our friends have been amazing, praying for us constantly, bringing us food, helping with the kids, and just being there. Both Jill and Nancy let me wail into the phone soon after I found out, and I'll never forget Mary Jo praying with me when I was on the way to the hospital to see Mom after she passed. I was an inconsolable mess and her prayer really calmed me and gave me strength for what was ahead.
- Mom's pastor/friend Kathy was so good to us–she'd been with Mom several times throughout her illness, including just an hour or two before Mom died, and then she came right back up to be there and pray with us after Mom passed too.
- The friends, WOW. Not just Mom's huge army of friends who have been so good to her these last couple of months, but our friends and my siblings‘ friends, too, they were everywhere we turned at the visitation and at the funeral, we have never felt so blessed. You just can't believe all the people that showed up, and my brother and I were talking about how it makes you want to do better at blessing others in the same way by being there when their loved one passes.
- Mom's church was packed for the funeral–they had to seat people up in the choir area and chairs were in every single spare spot they could put them. Mom would've loved all the hubbub! She also would've loved that we got the picture she wanted with both her and Carl's grandkids together (Mom married Carl a few years after Dad died), she truly loved each of them so much. As I walked over to where the grand kids were all gathering, I looked up and said, “Are you seeing this Mom? We're finally doing it!“
- Look at this beautiful stone Kent's brother and sister-in-law gave us (Susie always finds the most thoughtful gifts):
- You know what kinds of things hurt the most? The little things… Like seeing her purse right after she died. Her bathrobe hanging in her closet and her slippers still under the bed. The pill we kept at her bedside in case she was nauseous in the night or the insulin syringes that she won't need anymore. Her endless lists. (I'm like her in many ways, but especially in that way!) Her diary that she kept for her whole life I think, that she'll never write in again. Joy dish soap, her favorite. Thinking of the day we'll say goodbye to our house full of growing-up memories and so much love, always with Mom helping us or loving on us in some way or other, often it was her hosting all of us for swimming and delicious family dinners. I guess the worst isn't the little things, though, it's seeing her grandkids say their last goodbyes before the casket closes–she was that Grandma, so close to every single one…
- Here's one of my favorite pictures of Mom, with our youngest just after he was born (oh how she loved babies and I loved having her there for the birth of all four of our kids):
- A very good friend of ours, David, sang at the funeral and made it especially beautiful. His first song was Mom's request: How Great Thou Art, and then two more: On Eagles Wings, and the song in the video below, Give Me Jesus. The version here is by Jeremy Camp, but I liked David's version better and wish it had been recorded.
- This next video is one of my favorite songs by Matt Maher. I played it over and over as I drove to the hospital Monday after she passed, I wanted to remember that as much as it hurt, God really has defeated death through His Son Jesus, and because of that, I will see my Mom again. (If that lingo is foreign to you, don't worry, you're not alone, read these Christianity FAQ's over at my other blog.)
- At the graveside a few of us were sitting in chairs and everyone else was gathered all around in a big circle, I felt surrounded by so much love and it got me wondering… Do you think when we get to heaven we're surrounded by loved ones in a huge circle, or do you think they come one by one in a long line to get a big hug? I'd love to know what Mom saw as she crossed from this world to the next.
- I'm adding this part later, it's something I've thought of often. When Mom died she was only a couple of months or so into her cancer journey. It had already been tough because she was either nauseous a lot or she had no energy to buzz around her house like normal and get things done or cook for us, etc., and at times she was in a lot of pain too. She had recently told my sister that she wasn't ready to go yet though. Terri said, “Don't you want to see Dad and all of our babies we lost?” Mom said, “Yes, but I'm not ready to leave my babies here.” So the day Mom died she had gotten up to use the bathroom before being discharged. That was when Terri stepped out to call me. The aide had given Mom privacy and said to hit the call button when she was done. (Mom may have tried getting up alone and we assume that's when a fatal blood clot dislodged…) I have an image I believe the Lord gave me… I picture Mom right after she fell on that cold hospital bathroom floor, and then Jesus, holding out His hand and asking in the most gentle, calm, peaceful, loving voice, “Do you want to just come now?” In that moment with the unfathomable love of our Lord surrounding her and beckoning, she joyfully took His hand and went off with Him. I'm so happy for her that she did, but ohhhhhh how difficult it has been to not have that chance to say goodbye to her!
- Another story I'm adding later… As I said, not being able to be there to say goodbye was the worst part of my grieving process. Part of me knew that she knew how much I loved her and how grateful I am for SO many sacrifices she made for us kids. I'd told her that stuff at various times in our lives, but just wished I had been able to tell her again before she left us, or that we'd had chats about dying, how she felt about it, etc. My sister Gail and I were the same–we both just didn't want her to think that she didn't have long, so we didn't “go there” yet in our conversations with her. We thought we'd have plenty of time! You always read in the obituaries how those with cancer died “surrounded by their loved ones”. Surely that's how it would be when our Mom died too, or so we thought. Fast forward a few months after she died. As I was crawling into bed the night before my birthday in September I was feeling sad, just thinking about ALL the ways Mom would always make our birthdays special each year. Even as adults, she and Dad would sometimes make the drive over to bring my favorite foods for lunch and a little gift on my birthday. And as a kid she'd make our favorite cakes, throw us parties, she did ALL the Mom things and you don't realize at the time how blessed you are. So that night she actually came to visit me in my dream! Here's what I wrote when I woke up: “I feel so grateful. I can't quit crying and can't see to write because the tears keep coming, but I have to write every detail before I forget anything!! I just woke up from this dream with Mom, it's like I got this moment with her that I've wanted desperately, it was so short, but so powerful! She was behind the glass front door at home standing there smiling in her white robe and slippers and I remember thinking as I started to hug her, “Tell her what you never got to, don't waste time hugging her, tell her now!” So I got real close to her face and she was smiling this happy smile and I said kind of fast, because I was so thankful to have my chance, ‘Mom I'm never got to tell you how much I love you and I'm so sorry for all I put you through when I was such a bratty teenager, and and thank you so much for all you did for me, I miss you so much, thank you so much Mom for always being there for us kids, for taking such good care of Dad when he was sick, thank you thank you Mom!!!!' And then I woke up with a sudden jerk and started sobbing and crying out, ‘Was that really you Mom?! Did you hear all of that?!' It was so real, ‘Jesus was that Mom?, please tell her all of that if not!!!' Oh my gosh I just remembered it's my birthday!!!!!!! It's like she was still trying to make it special for me!!!!!” Talk about a birthday gift. After that dream I had such peace in my heart, I just knew that was her and that she knew what I wanted to tell her.
- Following is the eulogy I wrote for Mom. A family friend, Mr. Shepard, read it out loud so I didn't have to, and he shared some neat stories of his own, too. Also at the funeral a good friend of Mom's shared her eulogy and a few more friends got up to share some memories too, how brave they all were! I had planned to finish this and read it to her before she passed. Hopefully she could still hear it from heaven…
None of us can believe we’re here right now. You probably wonder why we’re so shocked, when we knew Mom had advanced cancer, but we didn’t expect it to be so fast or for her to die suddenly the way she did. However, we all know that it was a gift from God so Mom didn’t have to suffer anymore. No more needle pokes, no more knee or back and hip pain, no more nausea and vomiting, no more worry about what’s to come. Now there is just peace and joy and love and reunions with family and friends.
We can’t imagine life without her, though. To think that it's been 16 years since Dad passed, years that we've all moved on with our lives, it's so hard to think of how it will be the same as time passes with Mom gone. Life can be pretty awesome here on earth sometimes, but it can also be pretty heart-wrenching, to say the least. While death is a part of life, and we are very very sad today, we are not in despair… Sadness and despair are two VERY different things. To be in despair is to be without hope, but we DO have hope and assurance that THIS isn’t all there is. We know we’ll see Mom again because she believed in Jesus and what He did for us. Mom loved God and her giving spirit came from Him. She would take me to church right here as a little girl, and she helped plant the seed of faith in my heart from when I was young by her example of daily sacrifice, and how she loved and gave so generously to others in her life.
Now we ask for your prayers for us, and for Carl. He has been a gift in her life for the past 12 years — we all love him and his giving spirit, and know he will feel lost without her. Mom loved how well our families blended and was very proud to tell people that she had 20 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. They were her greatest joy and she especially loved going to their sporting events.
It’s sad that she didn’t have the chance to do the one thing she really wanted to get to before she died, which was to sort through & organize her files! However she did do the more important thing, the thing she valued more than anything on earth, which was spending time with her family and friends.
Mom was blessed with an army of good friends, all of you blessed her so much throughout her life but especially in the last couple of months since her diagnosis. The cards, phone calls, visits, and food meant a lot to all of us. We know that you would say how much she has done the same for you throughout the years. She was the best example of how to love others and serve God with your life, by the way she filled her days with helping and giving and loving others with her time and especially with her great cooking and baking. One day early on we needed to get the CD with Mom’s PET scan to her oncologist. We already had Carl off on another errand and the rest of us were either out of town or working. When they asked if we had someone who could pick it up in Mt. Pleasant and bring it to Alma I said, “Yeah, I can come up with about 25 people we could call.” Eva ended up getting out of work early to grab it, but just knowing we had the support of SO many of you meant the world to us. As time went on and the cards and calls and visitors came in a constant stream, everyone said, “Call if you need anything”. We knew you all really meant it, and realized that number was closer to 50 or more. But this is what happens when a life is spent giving to others, it always comes back a hundred-fold. Whether it's unending meals for our sweet 99-year-old friend Eva, or sitting with her dying friend, just days before her own diagnosis when she already wasn’t feeling well, or taking care of our Dad before he died, and before that, both our Grandmas, or being there when any of us kids needed her throughout difficult pregnancies and raising our kids, she was a true blessing to so many. That’s why it has been an absolute gift to be able to care for HER in her last days. We truly learned from the best.”
More you might like:
- Here's the post about her diagnosis if you missed it.
- My Mom just died of breast cancer, and yes, I do still have the same politically incorrect thoughts about breast cancer.
- Are the pink ribbons a big scam?
- 3 years later — read what happened when the kids and I went to Mass on her birthday!
Julie VP says
I lost my mom to lung cancer this past July. She too was loved by so many people!! I can totally understand everything you said about your mom!! I also know my mom is with Jesus!! I am so thankful for that!
Julie, so sorry about your Mom. 🙁
But yes, knowing we’ll see them again makes ALL the difference in the world when it comes to how we grieve!
Cheryl Swails says
Been missing my baby brother so bad today. He has been gone 3 years; (
TammyJo N Mark Kerney says
Mary Branham says
It is hard , so hard !
Todd Schuler says
Happy Birthday to my Aunt Mona Lou!!!
Barbara Bonanni Harris says
My prayers and condolences are with you and your family Kelly!
Susan Hutchinson says
Said goodbye to my mom two years ago. Cervical cancer.
Mary Kent says
Think of your Mom often, miss her….especially when we need to know something that happened in the neighborhood Your Mom had such a generous heart, she was always thinking of others. Hugs to you Kelly, the relationship with mother and daughter is special, leaves a void in your heart when they’re gone.
Kathy Pattison Garriott says
LaDonna Kettell Bonham says
I am in awe ! Was reading your story and got to the song by Jeremy Camp. Today is my sons birthday and his name is Jeremy ! Sending you good vibes and many hugs ! <3
Deena Grigsby-Boman says
❤️ your story!! Thank you for sharing. Losing a mother is one of the hardest losses ever (no matter the age or situation)….I am sorry for your loss. The book & support of Motherless Daughters has helped me thru the years. One thing that stands out to me is that if anyone EVER tells you to appreciate what you DO have- (selfishly meaning they can replace your mom) kindly replace them with distance. They haven’t been there and unlikely understand your loss…..they cannot help your grief, but there are others that can. May the winds of change & waters of peace be with you during your journey and please know you are not alone. ❤️
Beth Harding Granai says
Cristoforo Sartor says
I feel ya. I know the loss. I just lost the love of my life less than a month ago. We never forget them.
Nancy Norton says
Coming up November 8, my Mom will be gone 16 years. Never a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I want to pass this on with your permission as I know someone who has just recently lost her Mom.
Veronica Anne says
I cried when reading this.
Veronica Anne says
Never. Nothing like a mom. I anxious thinking of my family.
Kim Bakker says
My mom passed July 3rd and Mom also liked “How Great Thou art” Hugs to you and those who are remembering their loved ones passed
Kelly, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes, remembering my grief when I lost my sweet daddy to cancer. I know that time does begin to soften the terrible daily pain… I so appreciate the many wonderful reminders that you posted in this article, of our “hope” and what is to come…I am so grateful that Jesus made a way for us to never be parted again. My dearest thoughts and prayers to all of you… Hang in there on your homeschooling…it has proven to be a great blessing to our family as all of ours are in college now and not burned out like most of the other students…(huge perk, if you ask me!) As my sweet daddy would say, “I love you; God bless you.” Evelyn
Margaret Merkel says
Oh Kelly I felt so sad when I heard your news. My very healthy 78 Mom was diagnosed with Lymphoma last year late July. They gave her a 75% chance of survival with chemo. She developed an infection after two chemo treatments – couldn’t have treatments until the infection cleared. She ended up dying from an internal bleed less than 3 months after her diagnosis. I think what was the hardest was the suddenness of it all – having to let go of hope in her survival – and the shock that a woman who always ate well, exercised daily, and prayed, attended mass daily could get sick and go so fast. It’s now over 6 months and it’s getting a little bit easier. I have dreams about her as do my 7 siblings and we find comfort in that. And yes stay open to the holy spirit. I will keep praying for you.
Oh wow, very similar situation, huh? Except my Mom didn’t eat well or exercise. 🙁
But yes, the suddenness sure ROCKS you…
Love to you and your family Kelly. Take care of yourself and take it easy for a while.
Thanks Soli, I was just praying for you in Mass yesterday, knowing how you went through all of this not that long ago.
Dr. Adam Kipp says
I’m so sorry for your loss, Kelly, thank you for sharing your story. I lost my mother when I was 17 to a long fight with colon cancer. It was a very difficult moment in my life but I survived! Remember the great times you spent with your mother and appreciate the values that she helped instill in you. You have so many people thinking of you and your family in this difficult time, keep smiling!
Tamar Souza says
I´m in tears, Jesus bless you all.
Tienne McKenzie says
I’m so sorry to hear this news, Kelly. You and your family are in my prayers. *hug*
Victoria Bloch says
Oh, Kel, my heart is with you. What a shock for your family. Don’t try to figure out how to say goodbye. You’re at the start of a journey, and there’s no way to plan, no right way to do it, no wrong way to do it, just follow the path. You have so many dear friends, such a close family, such a loving husband and children – and so many of us out here in your extended family, too – who love you and bless you. I’m sending you much love and many hugs. God bless you, your mother, and all your mother’s family and friends and loved ones!
Sonja @ practical-stewardship.com says
When I heard the news last week, my heart just went out to you. I kept thinking about you praying for you and comfort and will continue to do so. My mom died of breast cancer 16 years ago. They gave her 6 months to live and she made it 4. She ALWAYS carried her purse with her, so when you mentioned your mom’s purse it made me think of when I had to go through my mom’s stuff in her room. My mom carried her purse EVERYWHERE-she guarded that thing with her life! Seeing that purse without my mom meant she was gone. May you be strengthened with the kind of comfort only God can give.
Bridget Rojas says
I’m so sorry, Kelly. I can’t imagine how hard this time is for you and yours – it makes my heart ache to see the sorrow you have right now, and your loss. God bless and keep you and yours.
Prayers for your peace and healing, sweet friend. You look so much like your mom, I had no idea! Thank you for sharing this. My mom turns 88 this year and is in fairly good health, but she has started slowing down a lot. I know she won’t be with us forever, and hard as it is to think about, I would rather be emotionally prepared for saying goodbye to my mom than not. You have given me some wonderful things to think about before that time comes.
Cynthia Hill says
I am so sorry for your loss Kelly – your Mom sounds amazing. You are blessed to have her so many years. Peace & prayers!
This post moved me to tears. I have no idea how to express how truly sorry I am for you and your family. I leave you with peace and comfort.
So sorry for your loss. It is a shock to lose your mom, no matter how old you are, so I feel for your pain. I lost my mom to cancer as well, when she was 69 and I was 31. It was also quicker than expected. Doctors don’t really know how long someone will last with cancer. They’re just making educated guesses but people can die sooner, as did my mom and yours. Just be glad you got to spend time with your mom before she passed. I had seen my mom at Christmas but did not see her again before she passed in June, since she was not expected to die so quickly, and I live very far away (I’m in Colorado and she was in Michigan). It is a blessing that your mom went quickly and didn’t have to suffer long with the cancer, though it’s harder on the survivors when it’s so sudden.
Thanks everyone for all your kind words so far.
Margaret, my heart goes out to you, that must have been so hard being so far away. Just today I was counting my blessings that even though it didn’t seem like long enough, I am so thankful we did have 2 months with her after her diagnosis.
Thank you for sharing your loss with us, Kelly. It is a part of the journey we all experience and it always comes as a shock somehow. Your eulogy was beautiful. I love the photo of you and your mom, and especially the one of her holding your youngest child as a baby. You can just see the love and care in her hands and eyes.
Sending you much love and hugs. May you find comfort as you adjust to life without your mom. I am dreading this day myself, as my dear mom is in her 80s, as is my step-dad. I, too, believe death is not the end and you’ll see your mom and dad again.
Oh Kelly, I just can’t imagine the pain! My heart goes out to you. I will be thinking of you often and praying. Much love. May her memory be eternal.
Hallee Bridgeman says
Kelly: This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart this way. We have been praying for you.
Shannon S. says
Look at your beautiful mama! I lost mine a little over a year ago. It doesnt ease the hurt, but its never goodbye. It’s “I love you mom, see you soon.”
Jen D says
Your eulogy was so sweet and heart felt, it brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you have such great support during this hard time. I’m sure you have helped many by verbalizing your thoughts and feelings. My favorite verse is Numbers 6:24-25 and I’m praying it for you this week.
Oh, Kelly. I’m so sorry. I just heard about this Friday (I was in the hospital myself, but don’t worry I’m fine). Please let me know if I can do anything. I will continue to pray for you and your family.
Kelly Brown says
Kelly, I am so sorry for what you & your family are going through! Your eulogy was beautiful! The way she went was such a shock, but like you acknowledge, God is good & she went peacefully & without any more suffering. It is hard to die & to see it played out for months is so painful to watch. The Lord said, “Well done good & faithful servant…” & took her home. What a blessing for her! She sounds like a wonderful woman, who instilled her love of the Lord & values with all of you. What an amazing legacy to leave…that & an army of people who loved & will miss her! Isn’t that all any of us can hope for? I will pray for God’s peace for all of you during this sad, sad time…hugs!
Oh, Kelly, my heart just aches for you. Your words and love for your mom are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing with us – I was very, very ‘misty’-eyed reading your post. When my tears flow from losing loved ones I try to be thankful that I hurt so; to me it means that I truly loved and miss them. I’m so glad that you have so much support.
Of all the condolences that I got as a teenager when my brother died, the one that stands out the most and was actually the most helpful was from our dean of students at my high school… Instead of just telling me it would be okay and the pain would go away, she told me that the pain would never go away, but that it would get easier and that God would sustain me. She also gave me an English copy of The Way by Josemaria Escriva. Through all the years and losses her words have stayed with me.
I just put it in my Amazon cart, thank you Beth.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Kelly. The hole that your mother leaves in your life can truly only be healed by Jesus. What a blessing and comfort to know that this is not the end of the story, though, and that there will be a tremendous family reunion in heaven! Praying for you, dear.
I’m am so sorry, Kelly, I have tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this. Your faith is beautiful and your mom sounded like an amazing person. Many prayers to you and your family.
I am so sorry for your loss, Kelly. As a reader I also thought you would have more time with your mom and what a shock to learn this morning that she died so quickly. What a beautiful eulogy for your Mom. My heart goes out to you and your family during this time of tremendous grieve over the loss of a special lady who touched so many lives.