A week and a few days have passed. Mother’s birthday would have been Dec. 12. Instead she died on Nov. 29, approximately 13 days short of the monumental age of 97. After 90, all birthdays were “monumental.”
Two years ago, this columnist submitted a Gazette entry which honored her 95th birthday. That column also mentioned Louie Zamperini, the focus of Angelina Jolie’s 2014 movie, “Unbroken,” which profiled his unrelenting spirit and those of his age group deemed “The Greatest Generation,” by former NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw. Zamperini had just died, ironically at age 97, when that Dec. 12, 2014, Gazette column was published.
The following submission is not just a remembrance of my mother, but a few of the lessons this author learned during the journey. Hopefully these insights will help others who are attempting to balance life demands with the needs of an elderly parent, in-law or other relative.
It is difficult to comprehend that mother is gone after her near-constant accompaniment during this author’s 57 years. Since mother’s death and returning during the past week to Downtown Delaware, this author has stopped herself from walking back to the Sarah Moore Home. “Mother no longer is there, Mariann, turn around.” Also, a few of mother’s messages to this columnist’s cellular were saved, allowing her voice to still be heard.
The last few months were anything but easy. Mother’s final days were excruciatingly painful for both of us. Her health declined rapidly after she suffered an undiagnosed series of strokes. “The big one” leveled mother’s feisty spirit the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. She was unresponsive for several days, but thankfully this writer was at her bedside when she passed. Watching her decline was heartbreaking.
Mother’s sudden death was a poignant reminder that life is fleeting and can end without adequate directive, closure or knowledge of final wishes. My mother was not a person to “plan ahead” or take proactive measures. “Change” was her sworn enemy, but inevitable for a life as long as hers.
The funeral decisions for mother were all mine. Prior attempts to converse about the subject were taboo and often countered with caustic responses. Hopefully she was pleased with what occurred last weekend.
When this author returned for Fair Week in late September, mother’s decline had reached warp speed versus the prior snail’s pace. Her relocation from the independent suites at Sarah Moore to assisted living upstairs was necessary but never embraced. It was as if this author had jettisoned mother to Mars versus just the third floor.
A few of the life lessons learned during these past few years of having an elderly parent and being her only close relative were many. First of all, being proactive is necessary. “Waiting for the crisis” only adds stress to what will already be an inevitably problematic situation.
If your house is too big, please downsize now versus waiting until “living safely” becomes an undeniable issue. Should someone you know has become less confident behind the wheel, it might be time to surrender the keys.
Secondly, surrounding ourselves with “stuff” only distances us from each other. We often use our possessions as a focus of attention versus paying closer notice to each other and the environment. This was the rationale as to why Frank Lloyd Wright never designed homes with basements or garages. He was a minimalist, which seems to be a lost commodity in American society.
It is without question to this counselor and columnist that if we had fewer “things” and less technology to distract us, there would be more value on relationships rather the skewed societal importance of how much “stuff” we own and how connected we are on-line.
My mother loved her possessions. She enjoyed clothes and antiques, inherited many heirlooms, and resided in a large home which allowed her to keep “collecting.” Downsizing mother from a large Horseshoe Road farmhouse was challenging.
Owning “stuff” unfortunately is not the key to happiness. During this columnist’s past travels, usually with mother, the people in the poorest countries seem to be the most joyous. Recently this columnist, while grocery shopping in wealthy suburbs, often has observed how stressed the mothers appear and the seeming unhappy children who accompany them. Despite having a cartful of items and obvious monetary means, no one looks particularly appreciative especially during Christmas, only distracted and overwhelmed.
Since Christmas and New Years are approaching, possibly focusing on our relationships with each other versus purchasing a plethora of presents might be a more worthy investment of time and money. For the New Year, please re-evaluate priorities. Take the proactive route. Update your will. Purge your basements, closets, or garages and get organized. Spend less this Christmas and enjoy each other more.
Having those necessary yet uncomfortable end-of-life conversations for making plans are essential. Please do not keep family members “in the dark,” since no one has lived forever and neither will any of us.
Sweet dreams, mother. The pain has passed and you are finally at peace, next to my father in Marlboro Cemetery, who has been waiting there since 1977.
Maxine Main was respected by many, feared by some, and loved dearly, especially by her daughter who is sad that she is gone and will miss her as both a mother and a friend. This author is sorry to have been the one forced to make the changes in her life that were necessary, but often resisted.