Brand building through storytelling

My Mother – Rosemary Murphy

RosemarySix Words – How My Mother Taught Me One Last Lesson…

There is nothing earth-shattering about the death of an 87-year-old woman…unless that woman is your mother. Suddenly this woman who had been there forever was gone. The nurse who greeted us when my sister and I had arrived had warned us, but nothing could have prepared me for the empty feeling I had as we walked into her room to see only her lifeless body.

I had arrived in Edmonton five days before from Chile, where I was living at the time. I visited her every day, sometimes alone, other times with one or more of my four sisters. We talked and laughed and even had her laughing. Although she wasn’t always lucid, she always knew who we were – her five daughters. She could even list our names – Mary, Pat, Sheila, Maureen, Sharon. I can still hear her recite that litany when we were children as she tried to come up with the name of the person she was castigating. Those of you with more than one child, or more than one dog, for that matter, know what I’m talking about.

She had more trouble with her nine grandchildren’s names. She didn’t always recognize them in her last days. We weren’t quite sure how many marbles were still there. One day she said to me, “Are you someone’s mama?” Oops, no marbles there. I leaned over to her and said, “I’m Kim’s mama. Are you someone’s mama?” She grinned and said softly, “I’m Kim’s mama’s mama.” Yep, there were still some marbles left.

During those last days, she often called out for her own mother, who had been dead for over fifty years. I think she was scared. I’m sure she knew that her time on this earth was coming to an end, and she needed some motherly love and assurance that everything would be all right. We tried the best we could to give this to her. I hope we were right.

She died at 9:45am, five days after I arrived and 2 days after my sister, Sharon, arrived from Australia. Pat and I had left the house at 9:30 to go and see her that morning. We were ten minutes too late. I think she wanted to make sure that if we couldn’t all be there when she died, none of us would be. She didn’t want to create any sibling rivalry. On hearing the news, the others came immediately. The five of us spent three hours with her before the doctor came to confirm her death, processing this new reality, holding her hands that were far more relaxed now in death than they had been for the last week.

The preparation for the funeral, the burial and the wake brought on a flurry of activity. Her five daughters, her nine grandchildren and four of her five great-grandchildren were there to send her off into the unknown. It was a time of coming together. Cousins who didn’t see each other in the course of their daily lives were reunited. It was especially poignant to see three of her grandsons who are now fathers standing in a circle comparing notes on the challenges and rewards of parenthood and how overall, it really is worth it. It dawned on me then that it wasn’t only her daughters who benefitted from Mom’s eternal optimism. There was no doubt in my mind that her grandchildren and even her great grandchildren would be influenced by this blessed ability to believe, during the inevitable dark days that life presents, that things will get better.

It’s been a year and a half now. I am living back in Toronto. I often find myself thinking about her, wondering where she is, whether she can see or hear me, and coming to grips with the fact that I won’t see her again. There’s no more picking up the phone to chat with her and hear how her regular Sunday afternoon visit with my sisters and their families had been, no more visits to celebrate her birthday.

I discovered that the most comforting thing after her death was when people emailed me their condolences or sent me a card or – best of all, if possible, came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry about your mom.” Those six words spoke volumes. I had never before realized how important that small gesture is for helping someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.

The next time someone I know experiences the death of someone dear to them, I don’t need to say any more than those six words. There is nothing I can say to lessen their grief. They just need to know I care.

Posted by Mary Wallace

Previously posted comments:

Rona Maynard
July 23, 2010 at 8:08AM

Well said, Mary. Those six simple words mean so much to anyone who’s grieving.

Maureen Watson
July 24, 2010 at 8:08AM

Your words are lovely, Mary. They resonate so strongly with my own experience of my mother’s death. The light you saw shining in your mother was so powerful and so wonderful that you were compelled to share it with others. Thank you for sharing.

Maggie Law
July 28, 2010 at 11:11PM

Thank you Mary. Your story is a reminder that it doesn’t take much to support a grieving friend. My mother passed away a few years ago but 17 years before she became a widow. It was difficult for people to know how to relate to her. Some people just dropped off the scene. If they knew how easily they could have supported her with six simple words they could have preserved a relationship with my mum but people often just don’t know what to say to the grieving and just back away.
Bless you, your sisters and you mum.

Claudia Smith
September 30, 2010 at 6:06AM

Hi my “Old” Friend,
Mary, I really loved reading about your mother and her ripples to her grandchildren and of course your sisters.. I could hear your voice and your smile at times. The ripples and waves from our lives can never be known. The part at the beginning about the empty feeling and your mother’s lifeless body gave me a terrific jolt in my stomach because my own mother is 90 and still well, but she is 90… and it made the reality of one day not too far away very, very real.
Thank you.

Deb Pascoe
December 30, 2010 at 11:11AM

A beautiful, funny, poignant tribute. I’m moved by every mother story posted. So much honesty and emotion shines through every word. And so much love. I don’t know if any of you would call yourselves writers, but each one of you are. If writing well means going straight to the heart, each one of you most certainly are.

Sharon Sharpe
May 26, 2011 at 6:06PM

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I watched my own mother reach the end of her life at age 91. Unfortunately I wasn’t with her when she took her last breath but I can remember the hug she gave me after she refused surgery for her aneurysm – the only hug I can ever remember receiving from her. She was allowed to die peacefully and pain free(I hope). I agree, that those 6 simple words meant so much at the time.

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