The Passing of My Mother Before She Passed

The Passing of My Mother Before She Passed

For my mom, Mother’s Day should have been known as Saint Mother’s Day. From the outside, my mother came across as a soft spoken woman, who didn’t have a malicious bone in her body. She faithfully attended catholic church every Sunday and a number of days a week. She lived by the many principles of the church. She truly was the kindest, sweetest person I had ever known. She never complained about any of the hardships life forced on her. My mom always had a smile and a reassuring attitude, finding the positive in any situation. The message might be you are a stronger person for the experience faced or some other constructive message no matter what the circumstance. My one brother joked that if our house ever caught on fire, my mom would remark how beautiful the flames of the fire were. Always finding some positive conclusion from terrible circumstances, was one of my mom’s traits. With that said, my mother was the strongest person I have ever known. She raised 7 children as a single mom despite many hurdles and while working as a full time nurse. Her children were her life. She had no time for anything else but her faith, working and her children. I could tell hundreds of stories of where my mom made sacrifices for me, my siblings or some person needing help. She would volunteer for “Meals on Wheels” to routinely bring meals to senior citizens, or drive them to appointments. However, I would like to share one story from when I was a boy. We were without a car for a short period of time, probably from the many miles on the car driving her 7 kids to activities or helping out others. I had a basketball game on a cold winter night in February. The school was almost two miles away from my house, with “short cuts” through backyards and fields. My mom walked to the game with me, trudging through what I recall being over a foot of snow and in temperatures well below freezing. She walked with me, so she could watch my game and make sure I got there safely. She did so with a smile on her face and enthusiasm in her voice. She was always doing things for others. That “was” my mother. 

I say “was” not because she has passed away. I say “was” because she no longer has the capability to be the same person. She no longer can work a full time job. She can no longer drive. She can no longer take care of seven children. She can no longer even dress herself or take care of her daily needs without some assistance. My mom has severe dementia. I dare say she has undiagnosed Alzheimer’s. Seeing my mom have the difficulty, or at times the inability, to confirm the names of her children, or even to recall how many kids she mothered, is extremely difficult. Seeing the lack of recognition in my mom’s eyes for a the first few seconds seeing me between visit is heartbreaking. She has been in assisted living for a several years, yet each time I visit her during my trips back to Boston, she tells me, “you know I don’t live on Greenwood Road anymore.”

It is a hideous disease, stealing one’s mind and ability to care for one’s self. It has not completely imprisoned my mother in a world where she doesn’t recognize her children each time or where she is completely unable to talk about some event in the past, but it is coming closer every day. I fear it will be here soon. However, I know as long as she is able to tell me, “I love you a whole big bunch!” all is good. I know that because that is something she heard me telling my young boys years ago during a visit to Pittsburgh. She began saying the same thing to me when we would say good bye and has continued to do so through her most recent challenges. She continues to have a big smile on her face and/or in her voice each time we say good and she tells me, “I love you a whole big bunch!” When she does say this it brings me huge happiness; not because she is telling me she loves me, but because I know if she can still remember that, she has not “passed away” and is still living.


Today's Blog: In light of the recent Mother's Day holiday, Jim Heneghan expresses how his mother's sacrifices shaped his life and how these memories are helping their family work through her memory loss struggles.