Monday, December 30, 2019

Keeping the Secret of A Terminal Prognosis: Afterword

[Reviewed and updated March 3, 2022]

Sharing tales of those we've lost is how we keep from really losing them.
  ~ Mitch Albom

A reader writes: As the daughter of the woman whose letter appears in your post Keeping the Secret of A Terminal Prognosis, I wanted you to know that just four months after she wrote those words to you, my beautiful mother died in her sleep of heart failure. My father woke up in the morning and found her gone.
She left us all letters, and in mine she left a link to your online forum, along with her log in and password. She wanted us to read all that she had written.

I want to let you and your readers know what she was like.

She had a PhD in biology when she met my father. He barely graduated from high school, but she was not a snob. No one ever loved another person as much as my parents loved each other. My mother stopped working when my brother was born and never looked back. 
I grew up in a house full of love and some of the most unusual barbeques and parties! A party at our house meant that PhD professors and scientists mingled with uneducated rednecks, all close friends of my mother. She loved them all! I thought it was normal for a NASA scientist to laugh and joke with a bartender or waitress. It was not until I went to college that I realized that this was unusual and only happened in my house. My mother made them all feel loved and welcomed.                
All 5 of us kids had so many stories to tell at her wake and I would like to share one here. When I was in high school, I met a boy who had long hair, piercings, tattoos, and was very angry. His parents drank and used drugs, so he raised himself. He hid a love of literature and poetry, because that was not cool. Something told me to bring him home with me. In our house, that was normal. Mama always made too much food for dinner, because we never knew who would show up. Well, my mama took one look at this boy, and shoved a knife in his hands. Within ten minutes, they were sitting at the kitchen table, chopping vegetables together and debating Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. I had never seen this boy not angry, but he laughed with my mother and they spent hours discussing books. My father is from Germany, so he pulled out some of his books, in German, and translated bits of German authors so we could all discuss the merits over dinner. That boy went home with three college-level literature books, and an assignment from my mother to read and be able to discuss three short stories and two poems. Two days later, he told me he had read them all, so I brought him home again. He did not believe that Mama meant that he was always welcome in our home. He soon found out that EVERYONE was always welcome in my mama's house!

He lived with us for three years, sleeping in my brother's room and studying literature. Mama cried at his graduation because his own parents weren't there. When he joined the Army, Mama was the one to email him and pray for him. He wasn't able to come home from Iraq for the funeral, but we will save her ashes and he will be with us when we scatter them.

That was my mother.

I also grew up with several pets, as my mama couldn't bear to see a hungry or injured animal. She brought home every stray she saw, got them fixed, paid vet bills to get them healthy, then found them homes.

That was my mother, and I am going to miss her so much! My baby sisters, ages 15 and 16 will stay with my dad and my Gramma and I will help raise them. I left my current college and moved home to help my dad. Mama would haunt me if I don't finish college, so I am going to enroll at the local college and live at home until Dad and my sisters can cope without me.

Thank you for helping Mama make decisions and being there when she needed to talk about leaving us. I know that she did not want to die, my mother loved life and people so much.

One more thing to explain my mother. She left her body to the local medical school so that new doctors could learn anatomy. She told my dad that she wanted new doctors to get more familiar with her internal organs than she ever was!

A great sense of humor, a big heart, an incredible brain. Everyone who ever met my mama is going to miss her so much.

My response: I am so very sorry to learn of the death of your beloved mother; please accept my heartfelt sympathy. We already knew your mama was a very special lady, but by sharing these wonderful stories about her, you’ve helped us see her through her daughter’s eyes, and I am so very grateful to you for that.

In her willingness to share so openly and honestly in our online forum how it felt to be saying goodbye to everything and everyone she’s ever loved, your mother gave all of us the priceless gift of seeing grief and loss from the unique perspective of the person who is dying. For one who lived her life so selflessly in the service of her immediate and extended family, I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for your mother to say goodbye to all of you, much less for all of you to see her go.

I'm sure you already know that the bond you have with your mother will be with you always, just as long as you keep her memory and the love you share with her alive in your heart. You will always be your mother’s daughter, and she will always be your beloved Mama. Death may have ended her life, but it certainly does not end the relationship you have with her. Although she is no longer physically present, it doesn't mean that you cannot continue to love her in her absence.

I hope the precious memories you have of your dear Mama will one day bring you comfort, and that you’ll come to find, in the lovely words of Hugh Robert Orr:
They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind. In those whom they have blessed, they live a life again, and shall live through the years eternal life, and shall grow each day more beautiful, as time declares their good, forgets the rest, and proves their immortality.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you continue to honor and remember your beloved mother. 

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