Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Valentine Memory

On my way home, in the privacy of a restroom in the Spokane airport, I finally allowed myself to cry. Tears flowed and I sobbed like a child as the overpowering impact of reality hit me - my mother was dying.

She had been through so much those last few years: a broken hip and subsequent replacement surgery, a broken wrist, a debilitating stroke which affected her right side and left her unable to express herself as she once had. But it was this recently diagnosed lung cancer which would migrate to her brain, go into a brief remission then return with a vengeance, that would ultimately take her from us. Little by little, she was being stripped of her independence and dignity - I was beside myself with the unfairness of it all. I did not want to lose her, yet I wanted her misery to end.

We three sisters (Two of us flying in from other states) gathered at home over a long Valentine’s Day weekend - and clung to the promise of an approaching spring. My oldest sister brought a huge amaryllis bulb, so our folks could watch it sprout, grow and bloom over the ensuing weeks. I toted along three brightly blooming primrose plants, knowing the fresh blooms would be set in their sunny kitchen window. My second sister served Mom’s meals on a tray, fancied up and fit for a queen - anything to interest her in food. We tucked her in for her frequent rests with a kiss on her forehead and took family drives, as her energy permitted. Carrying snacks, we’d take turns handing her small bites, hoping she’d eat while distracted by the scenery that she so loved. The weekend passed all too quickly and as I hugged her good-bye tears welled up in her eyes. It was one of the few times I had ever seen her cry. We both knew her time was short.

We called often, sent cards and small gifts and visited her that summer. She died the following February; Dad told us it was a month he had been dreading. He knew seriously ill people could fight to make it through the holidays and winter only to lack the strength to get through February. It was a balmy month that year - shirtsleeve weather. We knew we had done all we could and I had no regrets. I’ve come to understand the importance of that. Mom’s crocuses bloomed extra early and large that spring.


Later that summer while Dad was visiting us, he told me of his vision. My father was not at all “that kind” of person. I had never known him to have, let alone speak of, visions. Still, he had had one. Shortly after Mom died, before we all arrived to help with the funeral, he was awakened in the middle of the night. Mom stood at the foot of his bed, radiant, young, lovely, dressed all in white and smiling. As he stumbled from bed to go to her, she raised her hand in characteristic manner to give a slight wave good-by and was gone. In his grief he was devastated at her departure and took no comfort from the vision, his voice trembling as he related it to me. Even though my father was terribly upset at the memory of the experience, I was truly awed and a strange sort of peace settled over me. I cannot begin to understand or explain his vision, but I believe with all my heart that he had it. And through his sharing it with me somehow I know that all is well in the end.


That was over twenty years ago, but every year as Valentine's Day rolls around, the memories come flooding back...and still I know that all is well. Love you, Mom.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going...I am the way and the truth and the life”  John 14:1 - 4, 6


  1. i understand your sadness...it's always a rough time around ANY holiday...or birthday...of someone lost. ((both my parents...and my only sister and brother...have lost their battle with cancer...)) i cry a lot...when i start thinking of them. i had 'visions' too...right after my dad, sister & brother passed away.
    it's so hard to not have a troubled heart...to NOT wonder why they're all gone? why them? not me.
    the memories don't really make me happy...they make me sad. i miss them every day! especially my sister & brother. i was the oldest!

    so...MY heart goes out to you...for your loss(es)...and wish you the strength...to get through your rough days... :]laura

  2. Thanks so much, Laura.I know that YOU know about rough days...in the end, all that any of us have of those who are gone are the memories.As I tried to convey, I am at peace with the memory of my mom's death, and my dad's 16 mos. later, but there is always sadness, also.It is NEVER easy to lose those we love.