Mom was thirty-four when I was born, two years later she had a
hysterectomy because she had cervical cancer. She did not tell anyone
that it had been cancer until she told me six months before she passed
away nearly thirty years later.
I was twenty-eight when mom died. She had been in remission for 26
years before the cervical cancer returned. I had been gone from home
for about ten years when this happened. I had not seen her very much
because my husband was in the Air Force and we were living in other
countries or states. At the time of her death we were living in the
Midwest and my parents were living in the Pacific North West.
I had taken my two youngest kids and visited her the Christmas before
she died, and I was able to be with her the last week before she passed
away. For the previous eight years we had only exchanged letters and
phone calls, with a face to face visit each time we moved from one
country or state to the next - that was about three times. Mom was afraid
to fly so would not come and visit us, and we could not afford the air fare
from overseas, to make the trip. We had been stationed in Europe and
Hawaii during that time.
We had a decent relationship during this time, however, I could not
stand to be in her presence for more than a week or two at a time. This
was because all the old control issues came out in both of us - her
controlling me, me trying to prevent her. That made for some
spectacular arguments if we were together too long. Despite that we
loved each other in our own way, and we understood our roles and did
not deviate from them.
The story I share with you below is one of pain and sorrow, not because
of the loss I suffered, but because of the reasons behind the inability to
mourn that loss for many years. I felt guilt because I could not bring
myself to express love for my mother, because I had knowledge to ease
her passing that I was too afraid to share, all on top of the grief and
sorrow that is normal for such a loss.
My mother at my
about eight years
before her death.
Mom called me several months before she passed away to tell me the cancer was back. We
had just gone through the relief of being told she was in remission again and now she was
going to have to go through treatments again. We were hopeful that she would go back into
remission. Mom was sixty-three, and still fairly young. I know that I was too young to have her
die, I was not ready for her death. I knew that there was too much between us that had not
been discussed that needed to be. I knew that we could have a better relationship than we
had, and wanted that. The problem was that we could not do this over the phone or in a
letter, it needed to be done in person and that was not possible at the time because of where
we each lived.
In the middle of this time between this announcement and her death, we moved to a new
military assignment. We did not go visit my parents because I had just been there three
months before (Christmas time)and the military would not pay for the detour in our travel. We
had settled into our new home, the kids were into their new school and had finished the
school year when my dad called and told me to come because my mother was dying. I
arrived there with my four kids a few days later. My husband had to stay until she died
because she was not his own mother.
I went to visit her the same evening we arrived, without my kids. My dad drove me to the
hospital and showed me where her room was. As I walked into her room she looked over and
saw me - a huge smile lit up her face. I was astounded by this, I had never seen such a look
on her face before. The amazing thing was that it was there just for me. I had not seen her
show love to me before, and this was obvious proof that she was at the very least thrilled to
see me. This was a treasured moment for me. The rest of the time we were there, my dad
gave me a car to drive and the kids and I went to visit her every day.
On the day she passed away, I had made my usual trip with the kids. When we walked into
her room I could see that she was worse than usual. I asked her if she was in pain, she
nodded. I could see that every breath was an effort for her. I called a nurse and informed her
of my mother's condition, told her to call my dad at work and have him come, and informed
my mother that I was going to take the kids to a sitter and come back. We left then. I knew in
my heart that she would be gone before the day ended.
I was frightened of being alone with my mother while she went through this. I didn't just leave,
emotionally I ran away. I decided to not come back until my dad was there. Because of my
fear, I missed an opportunity to be alone with my mother. I had not been alone with her the
whole time I was there, so had not had an opportunity to speak privately with her. I let fear
govern me then and lost an opportunity to help her and get to know her better.
I went back later in the afternoon, feeling guilty because I had left her alone all that time.
When I got there my dad, one half brother, and brother were there. We stayed by her bed
and waited. I could not help crying and it really bothered my dad. He told me to stop or leave.
I tried but could not stay stopped. He finally told my half brother to escort me to the waiting
room where his wife was waiting. I stopped crying then, I don't know for sure why I was able
to then and not while I was in her room, but that is what happened. I guess it was because I
was not with my mother, and because I was in a public waiting room and was too shy to let
my emotions be shown.
A few hours later the men came out of her room. My dad told me that she had "lost her
bowels and the nurse is cleaning her up." I knew that this was going to be my last chance to
say goodbye and I knew that she could regain consciousness before she actually passed
away. I asked my dad if I could go in and see her. He said no, that the nurses were cleaning
her up, it smelled pretty bad in there, and she was unconscious and it would not do any good
anyway. He told me to go home and he would call me when it was over. He told me that if her
nose was pinched shut she would stop breathing because she was just reflexive breathing.
Because he was my dad and abuser, I had learned to obey him and not argue. I left the
hospital and drove to his house. I cried most of the way. I called my in-laws to inform them
and found the first sympathy offered to me by anyone. I cried while talking to them. I shed
tears for the loss, for the hurt of being sent away twivce, and for not having said good bye to
my mother. When we were done talking, I composed myself and drove to my brother's house
to get my kids. I visited with his wife for a while and before I could leave, my dad called from
home. He told me that she was gone and that I was to stay where I was for the night, he did
not want me around. Again I meekly agreed without question. I was even more hurt by this
rejection. It was simply more proof that he did not love me. It was more proof that I was a
reject of society.
My husband arrived the afternoon after her death. I met him at the airport and cried in his
arms. After being sent home without saying goodbye to my mother, and rejected by my dad
the same night, I needed the comfort of my husband's arms. It felt good to stand there and
cry. I was able to receive comfort from him for the next few days. When my husband was
asked to be one of the pall bearers he and accepted. Later, I realized this was a mistake
because he was not with me during the funeral, a time when I really needed his support and
comfort. Instead I was alone with my family members.
During the funeral, I was again reminded that my tears of sadness were not acceptable by my
dad. I made a herculean effort to shut them off and succeeded. I learned that my emotions
were not appropriate in my dad's presence or in public - it was embarrassing to others to see
my tears, I was an embarrassment to my dad because I cried. I understood that he would
send me away (reject me) if I cried.
My brothers were there with their wives, my dad was, of course, alone, as was I. I assumed
that he and I would walk beside each other behind the casket. I paused for him to step up
beside me since the two of us were the last to leave the pew. He paused, waiting for me to
move forward and walked behind me. Once again I was rejected by him. As I walked down
the isle behind my brothers, I did my best to not cry, I became like stone. About halfway down
the isle, a woman old enough to be my grandmother stepped out of a pew and took my,
walking the rest of the way with me. She was a dear friend of mine, and I greatly appreciated
this comfort (it has been twenty years, and I still cry when I think of this woman's compassion
A day or two after the funeral my family and I left for home, and I jumped right back into my
normal routine. Mourning my mother's loss was not in the program, there was no time, and
there were few who did more than say they were sorry for my loss and forget about it. I did
not know how to mourn this loss, so I did what I had been taught by my parents - I stuffed my
emotions and locked them away. They remained locked away until I was given permission to
release them by a therapist ten years later.
For a long time I was angry about the way my dad had treated me, but I have since come to
realize that my father may have actually done me a favor without realizing it. His intent was to
protect himself, but in doing so he protected me and my children. He was a porn and sex
addict who considered women to be objects for his pleasure anytime he pleased. Mom told
me that he used sex as stress relief. Mom's death would have been a highly stressful day,
making his urges more powerful. By his rejecting me the way he did, he may have saved me
from being raped, while saving himself from prison - he knew I would report him if he had.
Figuring this out did not take away the anger I felt toward my dad for his abuse of me, but it
did make me grateful for having been rejected at that particular time. His selfishness was my
salvation, why it happened does not matter, I am just grateful it did.
About two weeks after I returned home I had an uncommon experience, for me anyway. My
mother came and visited me. I was resting but not asleep. I had my eyes closed and suddenly
my mother was standing before me. She appeared as I knew her as a child, very much like
the picture of her at the top of this article. She did not speak out loud, but she conveyed to
my heart and mind that she approved of what I was doing, that she loved me, and would let
me know later some other things she desired me to know. I was not frightened by this
experience. I felt joy because my mother loved me and approved of me, my guilt was relieved
because she was okay and appeared happy.
This experience helped my morning process, but it did not help me express my emotions that
were locked away. Despite this experience, it was a long time before I stopped thinking about
calling her and then realizing I could not anymore. It was a long time before I stopped thinking
I needed to share something about my children with her and realizing I could not.
Names of family
they are identified
by their relationship
to Laurie, instead.