Reflections on the anniversary of losing my mom

I got the call a year ago this morning.

It was a Wednesday - deadline day - and I had a lot to do before the next day's paper could go to press.

So when I picked up the phone and the woman from hospice said my mom was nearing the end and suggested I come over, I said I couldn't. I would be over after we finished the paper, I told her.

I'm not sure if I didn't think my mom would pass away before I got there or I didn't want to be there when she did. It might have been a little of both.

A few hours later, I got the second call. Mom was gone.

I still struggle with that decision. Part of me is relieved that I didn't have to see the final moments of her life and have those seared in my memory.

I'm still trying to shake images of her from the last time I did see her alive. We had enjoyed some outdoor summer visits at the assisted living facility where she lived, but COVID-19 had prevented us from visiting for several weeks last fall. When it was clear she had little time left, Dan, Ainsley and I were allowed to see her. By then she was no longer able to communicate and her eyes were covered with a gauzy, white film. I was bitter and resentful that I did not have the chance to say a more meaningful goodbye.

The gift of time has helped me develop a different perspective. I know deep in my heart, in part because so many have reminded me, that my mom heard everything we said to her that day. I have forgiven myself for my decision not to be present at the time of her death, especially because I know she was not alone. Her sweetheart and hospice workers were by her side.

The one-year anniversary of her death also means the end of the year of firsts - the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Mother's Day without her. With others missing from holiday celebrations due to COVID, however, I'm not sure her absence has really sunk in. Ainsley's other grandma, my mother-in-law, passed away in 2017, and I feel at times that I'm still adjusting to that loss.

Photos pop up on my phone of Ainsley with both of them and my heart aches for moments that will never be, holidays, birthdays, graduations they will never attend.

In the midst of all this, 53 years after my adoption and less than a month before my mom died, I discovered my birth family. This has brought me immense joy, but it has been complicated as well.

I am in the club of people whose parents are both gone, but I still have two parents who are alive.

That's not the only contradiction.

I am happy my mom did not suffer too long with cancer, but I am sorry we didn't have the three to six months her doctor had predicted. I am relieved she didn't have to experience the worst of Alzheimer's disease, but I wish she were still here.

I think of the words I wrote almost a year ago, about the juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, about how all endings are inexorably tied to new beginnings. I find them even more true today. Sometimes the things we feel don't fit together as neatly as we'd like.

I am at peace with the fact that she's gone, but I will miss her forever.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean