Only child remembering Mom

Like most others watching the Olympics, the death of Bronze Figure-skating Medalist Joannie Rochette’s  mother tore at my heart. I think it is partly because I lost my mother when I was close to her age (22 to Joannie’s 24). Then there is the cause of death – both in the same general medical area. Joannie’s mother died from a sudden heart attack while my mother died from a brain aneurysm. In my case, there were warning signs, mainly a headache. Neither my mother nor I took heed and then it was too late.

When a parent dies, the children can feel guilty. I know I did because of the way I reacted when I found her unconscious.

The last Saturday morning in July, I get up at my usual late time of 9.30. I hear nothing and don’t smell the coffee Mom usually makes when she rises at 7. I wonder what’s going on and step out to the living room and dining room. She’s not there. She isn’t in the bathroom either, but when I push open her bedroom door she’s still lying in bed.

“Mom, why aren’t you up? Come on, get up.” I charge over to the bed. She’s on her back, her eyes are closed, and I think she’s still asleep, so I shake her. “Mom, stop playing tricks and get up. This isn’t funny.” She doesn’t move, but she’s still breathing.

Oh. Oh. What do I do? Why won’t she open her eyes?  What is going on?

I charge out to the living room and yank the phone off the receiver. My heart does double-time and I want my mind to go to numb. Each turn of the dial stretches each number into a long road to uncertainty.

I manage to get the doctor’s office. His answering service picks up. They’ll leave him a message. I guess they don’t think it’s urgent, but I’m at my wits end. I don’t know why she won’t wake up but I cannot deal with the situation alone. So, I call my fiancé

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home. Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford.)

Not exactly a stellar reaction. I know I was in shock and that’s normal. But I was also immature for my age and just plain stupid. And here’s where the catch-22 comes in. I was stupid and immature because my parents had sheltered me and been overprotective. Not unusual for raising an only child. But… and there are two big buts here. Although I have no brothers or sisters, I had been exposed to family deaths as a child – five  of them close family, including my Dad’s and also an uncle who had seven children ages seven months to nine years. I had attended some of the  funerals, but here the trail takes another wonky turn. Although I can  remember clearly many details of being at the funeral home where my father’s body was on view, I remember NOTHING about his funeral. Yet I remember both the times at the funeral home and the actual funeral for my Mom.

Is my subconscious trying to rationalize the different situations with my parents’ deaths? Although I found my mother unconscious I was not with her when she died thanks to the hospital waiting to decide to let me know until after the fact. From my memoir…

I get a phone call from one of Mom’s church friends….

“Sharon, I just called St. Mike’s and it doesn’t look so good. They’re not really saying anything, but when my husband was dying this is the way it was. They didn’t phone until after he died. You better get down to the hospital.”

I phone home and get Aunt Marie who is just heading out the door. We agree to meet in mother’s room at the hospital. Then I receive permission to leave from the Acting Superintendent who says to get one of the staff to drive me. I look around for a cop – preferably a hunk in uniform who can just shove aside the security guard at the hospital. It’s before visiting hours start at 11 a.m. and I don’t have enough nerve or body to muscle my way in.

The only cop is a 19-year old cadet. But Roger is tall and in uniform, and he drives me. When we arrive, I ask him to accompany me to the elevator because I had problems with the security guard after hours on Saturday. I feel safe strolling behind this almost-cop in uniform. The guard gives me no problem. I thank Roger and take the elevator up. As I round the bend on mother’s floor, I overhear two nurses at their station talking.

“Better phone the daughter.”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home. Copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford.)

Grieving has several stages and everyone doesn’t experience them in the same order.  According to Mental Health America http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/grief-and-bereavement/coping-with-loss when someone close to you dies, these emotions  include: “Denial, Disbelief, Confusion, Shock, Sadness, Yearning, Anger, Humiliation, Despair, Guilt.”

That last one, guilt, I carried around for years. She was my mother and I should have known what to do; should at least have gotten her to the hospital faster or I should have suspected what those headaches could mean and insisted on Mom seeing her doctor. But unlike Joannie Rochette, I was a flibbertigibbet in my early 20s and definitely not brave.

Again Mental Health America states on its website, “The death of a loved one is always difficult. Your reactions are influenced by the circumstances of a death, particularly when it is sudden or accidental. Your reactions are also influenced by your relationship with the person who died.”

I did finally lose my guilt and forgive myself – time is the biggest healer. So is growing up, understanding myself, and maybe connecting somehow in spirit with my mother. And no, I’m not really psychic, but one of my friends is. Going back to my old growing-up house also helped me realize that Mom (and Dad, too) are with me in spirit wherever I am.

So I hope Joannie Rochette can now grieve in peace over her mother and hold her close to her heart as she continues on with her life. I’m sure she will – she is an inspiration to us all.

Cheers.

Sharon

Onlychildwrites


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1 Comment

Filed under Death and Dying, Health, Only child

One response to “Only child remembering Mom

  1. This post meant a lot to me. I too wondered how Joannie Rochette could possibly hold it together when I was such a mess after losing my mom at a similar age. I’ve written a memoir style book about it, but have no idea what to do with it. I haven’t even showed it to my agent. I always wondered why anyone would want to read a book that obviously doesn’t have a happy ending. I also read that nobody is interested in books about cancer. I don’t think that’s really true. ” Signs of Spring” by Laurel Lee was a fantastic book, though I read it while there was still hope for my own loved one. I’d be very interested in reading “You can go Home”. I’ll have to do some more digging around on this blog to find out more about you and your writing. Thanks for sharing. -Tara

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