A Death in the Family

A Soul’s Message

by Flora Massaro

My mother died recently, just one year and two days after she fell and broke her leg on the dance floor at my 60th birthday party. She spent the last year of her life moving from hospital to a re-hab nursing home to her home with a live-in caretaker, back in the hospital then into her final bed in a nursing home. She would’ve been 87 in a few months, and watching her slowly fade during the past year, I expected her death, we talked about it, we were prepared . . . Yet when it happened, her death came as a surprise and I was so unprepared in so many ways.

I was in Prescott at her house a few weeks ago, saw all her possessions price-tagged, ready to be sold at an estate sale. Looking around at it all, I thought, is this all that 86 years of life boils down to, just 25 cents each for books that shaped her ideas and expanded her mind . . .? Only $5 for the pretty pink dress she danced so happily in at her granddaughter’s wedding . . .? The Dutch oven was tagged at a few dollars–she got it as a wedding present, and for 68 years, cooked batches of beans in it to stretch over several meals for us, and hearty pot roasts for family dinners. I remembered the time she used it to create a special birthday dinner, coq au vin, and for a great presentation, she wanted to flambé it at the table . . . She poured wine or brandy over it, touched a match to it and fwhoosh! In my child eyes, the resulting flame looked like it leaped up to the light fixture. She had to run back into the kitchen to get the pot lid and dish towels to smother the fire and then we laughed because the entire chicken in that pot ended up as “dark” meat.

Now she was gone, her life her was reduced to just things, discounted,

and meaningless now to anyone who didn’t know her. I saw the material detritus of a well-used life,

I was there again last weekend, “camping out” on a blow-up mattress in her empty house. Sitting on the deck outside, I had only the mountains and stars to look at and the memories of my mom and our time together. In the last few years her memory failed and her speech and step faltered. I wished now that I’d shown her more patience, called her more often then. Of course I wish I’d spent more time with her, laughing, talking . . . If I had, I would’ve asked more, learned more, and enjoyed so much more of her.

photo credit: http://more.com

  • Kathryn Good

    Oh Flo…I know so well and it touches my heart…there was never enough time to be with ones wonderful mother and ask her all the questions…thank you for sharing…she will be with you always…kathy

  • Nikki G

    Beautiful Flora :) You are brave to share these thoughts, thank you :) I am still searching for words to express my own, it is such a shock when something of this magnitude happens. I love you and thank you for including me, I am grateful to have a wonderful family in you and yours (((huggs)))

  • http://www.cardiogirl.net cardiogirl

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Flora. As you said, even if we are expecting a death it still comes as a shock.

    My brother died last year after living with MS for 15 years. Like your mother, the last few years were brutal and he and I openly discussed his death. Toward the end we both looked forward to it for the relief in suffering.

    I really did think I was prepared and yet I still sit here in shock; I truly cannot believing he’s gone. I’m not sure I’ll ever really believe it which sounds so strange.

    Sending peaceful vibes your way.

    • Flora

      @cardiogirl, I’ve found that every death hits us in a different way, whether it’s your friend, a sibling, a spouse or a parent . . . Losing a sibling is a different kind of pain . . . you’ve lost not only a friend but part of your history, a large chunk of your life. I’m sorry for your loss, but as you said, there’s some relief in the end of their suffering even if it’s wrapped in our own grief.

  • http://awomanspage.com Walker

    What a great way to honor your mother; it’s a nice reminder for me to pay a little more attention to my mom. Thank you.

    • Flora

      @Walker, Thank you, Walker. Yes, savor the time you have with your mom now so you have fewer “if only” regrets later. There are so many things I now wish I’d asked her, but now a huge part of my history, her history is lost forever.

  • http://www.duchessomnium.com DuchessOmnium

    I am so sorry for your loss. And thank you for writing so clearly about it. I feel so lucky to have a relatively young and active mother. I try to value her now because I know it won’t be always.

    • Flora

      @DuchessOmnium, Thank you for reading my story, Duchess. Your word “value” is an excellent way to put it–that word goes way beyond enjoy, appreciate . . .

  • craig and mary lou

    Certainly enjoyed this and what a great idea. We can relate to what you are saying but the stuff doesn’t matter in the end except it brings back lots of memories. Thank goodness for the good memories which we tend to remember when it comes right down to it. Thanks Flo for sharing your thoughts. We will always remember your Mom and the fun she always had around us. She is missed!

    • Flora

      @craig and mary lou, Thank you for your support in all ways. Hearing all the wonderful, heart-felt memories people shared about her at the service, I kept thinking, “Wow! She was a neat person, a good soul! And I thought I was the only person who saw that!” Now when people tell me I’ve got her spirit, I won’t groan (you know she drove me nuts at times!) but instead I’ll be proud to have part of her in me. Thank you again.

  • http://barbarashallue.typepad.com Barbara S.

    Thank you for sharing this, Flora. I’m lucky to still have both of my parents, but the scene you described, standing in their empty house, haunts me. I know it will arrive one day for me and I try to live so that when it comes, I’ll have many phone calls and visits tucked in my memory to lean upon.

    • Flora

      @Barbara S. Thank you, Barbara. I like the way you put that, ” . . . phone calls and visits tucked in my memory . . .” Flora

  • http://www.greengirlsmarket.com Cheri

    Thank you for sharing your story Flora and you have my sympathies. My 95 year old stepmother recently moved into a nursing home and it’s amazing how the “stuff” that made up her life and her apartment loses it’s value when she is not there to use it. I have made this another reminder to myself to travel light. The “stuff” that we fill our homes with is not nearly as important as the laughter, the stories and the love we share.

    • Flora

      Thanks for reading this, Cheri. Yes, it’s all just stuff, but not the right stuff that matters at the end—or after the end. Talk now to your stepmother, share a happy memory with her—it will be a joy for you to see her eyes clear for a moment and watch her smile one more time. Peace to your stepmother, strength to you. Flora

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