Reflections on my Mother’s Dying
Sunday was my mother’s 95th birthday. I took her flowers – bright yellow lilies and red Gerber daisies that I thought she could see. And a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and bright yellow icing flowers on it. The lovely ladies who take care of her around the clock got her ice cream, a pretty little cake and lovely balloons. They woke her up and we all sat around her bed eating ice cream and cake. Mother was fed a small bowl of ice cream and a small piece of cake with lots of icing. She ate it all.
I remembered the wonderful peach ice cream that Mother made when I was a little girl. Mother was not known for her cooking – actually she hated cooking. To her eating was a necessity that was to be completed in the most efficient and practical manner. She did not linger in the kitchen ever and, as grocery stores prepared more and more foods, Mom was one of their biggest fans! But in the summer time she would make ice cream – peach or pineapple. Then Daddy would sit in the shade of the hackberry tree beside the driveway and hand churn the mixture for what seemed hours. I remember the noise of the tank as it moved the ice around, the taste of the rock salt and the pleasure of seeing the paddle come out of the rich creamy mixture.
I remembered Mother’s 90th birthday. I had wanted to give her a party – not a big one. Just ask a few of her women friends to lunch at a nearby restaurant. But she said no. She did not think anyone would want to have their Saturday disrupted. And, besides, her friends did not go out much any longer. I knew at the time that Mother was turning down the pleasure of a party. She did not often “indulge” in purely social events. Life for Mother was serious and one should work hard – idleness was to be feared and avoided. Pleasure was always suspect.
Sitting by her bed on her 95th, I almost wished I had pushed the point and had a party anyway. A few of those friends are now gone, but several called during the day to leave her a birthday message. Her caregivers told her about the calls and I think she understood, but the time for parties is gone. Her time for pleasures is gone and that saddens me.
I found last week in her closet a carefully “saved” umbrella that I had given her years ago. It is black on the outside with a small bright pink ribbon running around it, but, when you open it, the whole inside is covered in a rose design. Lots of rich reds and deep pinks. It is like walking under a bouquet. When I first opened it, it made me smile and I had hoped Mother would enjoy it too. I think she said when she received it that it was “too nice to be used”! Another small pleasure turned down.
Driving home I realized that part of my pain in losing her is hearing her say that she has had a sad life. And in many ways she did. But her marriage was long and mostly successful, she has been healthy until very recently and many of her friends are still in touch with her. Did she multiply her sadness by turning down small pleasures as they were offered? A rosy umbrella does not stop the rain, but can’t it be a reminder that God is our shield and protector in rain and in sunshine? I wish I knew what did make her happy, but I didn’t and don’t. I plan to use the rose umbrella until it is in shreds – I hope she will understand.