I don’t have a title for this post. I can’t think of the right one.
My mom died on Wednesday. She was a kind, loving person with whom I had a complex and often uneasy relationship. I have a lot of feelings about her life, our life, and now her death.
For now, though, among the many things my siblings and I have to do is to share the news of her passing with others. Many are people we know well, including our own friends and family. Others we know less well, if at all. Some know that she was ill; some have no idea. All will be shocked and saddened by the news.
I wrote my first of these notes this morning, to one of my mom’s friends who she knew when she lived with me a couple years ago. I only met her friend a few times, and I sat for quite awhile at my kitchen counter thinking about what to say and how to say it. The news will be devastating to her.
For the last few days, I’ve wondered whether I should or could record something in this space about my mom’s passing. At a loss about what to say so soon after her death, it occurred to me that the note to her friend may be a decent way to start. So here it is.
I love you, Mom.
Thank you so much for your note. I had thought of you literally the day it arrived when I was putting together a list of people to contact about my mom.
I am sorry to have to share that she died on Wednesday. She suffered a stroke on Sunday from which she could not recover; she was in a coma for several days with excellent palliative care and passed peacefully and without any pain in her sleep with my brother, R, and sister, C, by her side. My sister J had been there a few days before, and is with them now for a couple days. My brother J was able to see her just two weeks ago, and I was there before that; we’re grateful that we had the opportunity to spend some time with her before this sudden turn.
As I think you know, she was diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of the year and underwent several rounds of powerful chemotherapy. Just recently we learned that the chemo did its job and there were no signs of cancer left; this would have been relatively temporary because the only cure is a bone marrow transplant and she didn’t qualify for that treatment. Still, we were hopeful for at least a few more months.
But she experienced severe physical and cognitive decline during this time. It’s unclear if the chemo precipitated or even caused some of the decline, but in March she could barely walk and was fully wheel chair ridden by May. More importantly, she exhibited serious signs of dementia. We’d noticed bits of this even before her diagnosis, but they became prominent in the months since then. The doctors don’t know if the stroke was related to this decline in some way and/or if it was a function of the leukemia or chemo.
I don’t know if she ever spoke of her parents. My grandmother lived to 95 (and her mother until almost 100) and we always assumed my mom would benefit from those genes. My grandfather, though, suffered from Parkinson’s and he died in his 70s from a stroke as well, so there’s a family history. In that light, perhaps this was not as unexpected as it feels.
I know how much she valued your friendship, and I can appreciate how difficult it must have been not knowing about her health. At some point, she was unable to use her phone effectively and it was causing her some anxiety, so R took it to his house. I think it ran out of juice, which is probably why he didn’t respond to texts. We spent weeks with her in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation centers as we tried to get her healthy and strong enough to go to assisted living. She did make it there and enjoyed a couple of weeks of the amazing care they gave her.
Per her wishes, she’ll be cremated and there will be no service. She wasn’t big on attention and ceremony.
She doesn’t have a lot of belongings, having cleaned out her house pretty thoroughly here before moving back to California. BUT, she does have a ton of knitting stuff! My daughter, S, wants to go through some of it to see what she wants, and my nephew, L, wants to do the same (she taught both of them, as you probably know). I expect there to be a lot of yarn, patterns, books, and other things left over after they scavenge. If you or the folks in your group would like some of her supplies or something in particular that she made, please let me know and I’d be more than happy to bring them back with me. I’ll be in San Diego at the end of July (I made plans to take my kids to see her, and we will still go to see family and say our goodbyes).
All five of us kids are ok. We’ve all kept our own kids informed about Bubbe; this doesn’t make it easier to lose her but they are relieved that she wasn’t in pain. She has very sweet, sensitive, caring grandchildren. We all worked together to help her in these last months of her life; R and C bore the greatest burden of her daily care and she was exceptionally proud of them. She was loved and well cared for until her last day.
I’m so glad you were part of my mom’s life. Your friendship gave her great joy and enriched her life enormously. I know you will feel her loss profoundly. Our thoughts are with you too.