Saying Goodbye: A Daughter’s Journal

Marianne & Beth Whitman

In loving memory of Marianne Whitman, we are re-running this blog written by her daughter Beth for In Care of Dad two years ago today.

by Beth Whitman

I was thinking about last Monday, when I visited Mom. It was dinner time, and I noticed that she was holding her cup of chocolate milk up to her lips, and trying to drink, but she couldn’t figure out how to tip the cup so that the milk would get to her mouth. I put my hand on hers and helped her tip the cup. She drank deeply, almost finished the whole thing in one go. I refilled the cup, and again she couldn’t figure out how to tip it toward her mouth. So I helped her again. And after a couple of times, her hand began to remember the motion and she was able to do it herself. But she put the cup down, and when she picked it up again her hand had forgotten.

The process of saying goodbye happens over and over again in little ways. But today it happened a big way. Today she died.

I did not wake up this morning expecting to have my mom die today.

I feel somehow a little guilty.

I got the call this morning. The night nurse called as she was going off duty, and said that Mom had taken a turn for the worse during the night. She wanted to make sure I knew before she left for the day. I had been walking Pippin in the pouring rain. I was soaked through and the rain was seeping into my shoes. I told my friends that I was walking with, “My mom is dying.”

One of them said, “It is a full moon tonight. Full moons are a good time for passing.”

Yes.  A good time for passing.

This past Saturday, when I woke up at 6:30 in the morning, I went in to Dad’s room to find him fully awake and dressed. Shoes on and everything.

“We need to go to Goodwill to buy a blue suit,” he said.

I had a mountain of work to accomplish that day, but I said, “Okay, Dad, I will call our friend, John, and see if he can take you to Goodwill today.”

John, bless him, was up for an outing with Dad and came by mid-morning.

A couple of hours later they returned. Light blue pants, light blue shirt, somewhat darker blue blazer, and blue tie.

Dad changed into the outfit, and everything fit perfectly.

He wore that suit the rest of the day, and again the next day. And the day after that (Monday), when the call came that Mom was failing, Dad put the suit on again, and we went to sit with her until she passed.

I think somehow he had known.

And I remembered back to something my dad had said a few years ago, when he was having trouble with the circulation in his feet. I had been massaging his feet, trying to get them warm again and the swelling to go down. I started crying. And, somehow, even though my back was turned to him, he knew I was crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, and I laid my head against his leg and just let the tears come.

“You know, this is how some people die,” he said. “A little bit at a time. First, it’s their leg, and then some other part of them, and then a little bit more, and a little bit more every day.”

I think I am a little stunned, I think maybe in shock a little.

Mom’s death feels really weird. And really sudden. Even though it’s been coming a little bit at a time, for a long time now.

 


 

Beth Whitman lives in Maine and is a member of Belfast Cohousing and Ecovillage, a developing community on the coast of Maine focused on multigenerational living and sustainability.

Beth would like to thank the staff at the Glenridge Long Term Care facility in Augusta, ME, for their devoted and loving treatment of her mom.

 



44 Responses to “Saying Goodbye: A Daughter’s Journal”

  1. kris says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your mother. I know exactly how you feel. My mom passed away in March after a 3 1/2 year battle with alzheimers and although she had died a little every day, the feelings the day she died were of surprise and disbelief. All along, I knew it was coming but our minds have a way of denying the truth. I feel as though I will never recover the loss of my mother and life will never be the same. May God be with you as you travel this road of loss.

  2. Ann K. Swasey says:

    I am. moved by your family journey. I am sorry for you but happy for hour mom.

  3. Debbie says:

    I am So Very Sorry for your loss.I’ve lost both my parents,life has never seemed the same.A Part of me died inside.I Pray God gives you Peace and Comfort,during this difficult time.Hugs

  4. Beth says:

    I did not have the luxury to have the close relationship as you did. Beautiful.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I am so sorry about your Mom. I have lost both of my parents, it’s a terrible feeling. Just remember she is in a much better place. Again I am sorry for your loss.

  6. Auntie Dorie says:

    My mom has been in placement almost 2months. Each visit yields less and less recognition. Spent 5 hours with her Tues. I was shocked she’d gone downhill to the point of needing assistance to sit and to stand, and of course to walk. She did repeatedly say she lived me. I helped her change her soiled sweater and she didn’t know how to get arms into the sleeves. While she took a short nap she moaned in pain with each breath. I had the oximeter with me-her oxygen never held higher than 85-87. She could hear my husband talking to home owner-she’d say Snicker! I figured out when she lived with us 6 months–she and he the diabetics would share a miniature snicker bar. She talked in jumbled mumbles–was talking about picking potatoes. This morning I went outside and checking olants that haven’t frozen- spaded the potatoes she had set out-I now have over 50 golden Yukons! I guess I got the message!

  7. Michaelene says:

    Dear Beth, I am so sorry for your loss.Enjoy your time with your Dad. It’s a shame we are such busy people that we forget about the circle of life and we all do it at one time or another.Everyone forgets how to appreciate what time they have with loved ones..So,hug your Dad ..Healing prayers sent your way. Michaelene.

  8. I am sorry for your loss and for your tears and for the ache that will remain in your heart when you think about your mother.
    My mother was 101 and ten months when she passed suddenly sitting on the commode one morning. How can I use the word suddenly when she was dying a little bit at a time for so many years. But that’s how it seemed. I was shocked.
    May the tears fall freely.

  9. Alison says:

    So sorry for your loss. I know how you feel. Thank you for a beautiful blog that has captured the emotions so well.

  10. Mary Anne Barth says:

    Beth,

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss. My mother passed away almost three years ago after having a stroke the previous week.

    Losing a loved one is never easy. God be with you and your Dad.

  11. Michael says:

    Aww, what a wonderful way to describe what has happened. I so appreciate your experience . . .

    My mom died October 29th 2013 and it was about 10 months in coming. . .

    My dad died December 26th, ’12. We made the decision to remove life support on Christmas Day, my wife and two grown kids spent the night with their poppa and he passed with my mom at his side the day after. Then, the Sunday morning after my dad’s funeral on Saturday, my mom called me about 5 a.m. and needed to go to the hospital.

    My dad’s death was fairly sudden (only 5 days after his heart attack and bad decision on my part to start life support). But my mom died in little pieces . . .

    Blessings to you and your family . . . Michael H.

  12. Helen Burke says:

    I relate to you feeing stunned.. My mother was in great health for 89 years no meds.. for regular or daily uses….. I am still stunned and shocked she had a quick heart attack…. was fine til just before we took her to hospital… she had a flu bug.. Wish I could still explain the feeling it is as tho she still has hold of my heart to let me know she is there. and a part of my mind reallly I think went with her… I will continue to pray for you in the weeks and months that go by…. Nothing like this happened to me when I lost my dad…. It is a journey I wish no one ever had to take.. Love you my sister in Christ……

  13. Jeffrey says:

    A beautiful entry Beth. After 5 years with alzheimers I thought I would be happy to have my mother pass. She had wanted it for 40 years, ever since my father died, her one and only true love. I thought I’d be happy that she finally would be at rest. But it did not turn out that way. I did not want to let her go. I asked the funeral home to give me a couple of hours with her. I wept and wept and had anxiety attacks and wept some more. I’m not sure you can ever be ready for someone you love to die. Thank you for your blog entry. It is beautiful and yes, your mother was right, you are wonderful. Looking forward to talking soon.
    Love,
    Jeffrey

  14. Pat says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss. My husband died just a month ago. His death was sudden although he had been dying for months. I’m glad you were able to spend quality time with your mother. God”s grace to you and your father. Peace to you.

  15. I started crying as I am going thru this with my mother who is 80 and has been with us for 3 years she was living by herself prio but I felt like I was over there everyday as she could not remember taking her meds and she would over dose. I love my mother and it hurts to see her going down hill she has started asking me I need to go home she has done this now for 3 weeks. My mother is from Germany and was such a very strong person she has never let anyone or any thing stand in her way and these days I have seen a lot of tears and she so fragile. I have taken the steps to put her in a nursing home and it’s taking everything out of me as I am feeling so guilty. I can’t imagine what you are feeling loosing your mother. When the thought of loosing my mother I break down. My wish is that they find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

  16. Therese says:

    Dear Beth,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for your sharing of your family’s journey through this ugly disease.

  17. wALT says:

    mAY i SAY , A LOSS IS A LOSS . yOUR STORY BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES THAT HAVENT CRYED FOR A VERY LONG TIME . i GUESS i NEEDED IT . i LOST MY BIG SISTER ( mONDRA ) TWO YEARS AGO ON HER BIRTHDAY . fOR A VERY LONG TIME i WENT TO HER HOUSE AND WOULD SIT WITH HER, TALK TO HER, CLEAN FOR HER ECT . iN THE BACK OF MY MIND i KEPT TELLING MYSELF SHE WILL GO SOMEDAY. wE GOT TO SING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HER .BEFORE SHE TOOK THE TRIP HOME . i SURE MISS HER AND KNOW ONE DAY WE WILL SEE EACH OTHIER AGAIN . mAY gOD BLESS YOU AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY .

    WALT

  18. judith says:

    I have been thinking of you a lot since I heard about your mother’s death. Having a parent die is such a mix of emotions as well as all the practical matters that must be dealt with. I hold you and your dear father in my heart as you move together through this time of grieving.
    Love to you both,
    Judith

  19. Autumn says:

    I am incredibly sorry for your loss, Beth. I’ve been following both you and your mom’s journeys. You have been a source of strength and inspiration over the years. Thank you for sharing such an incredibly intimate part of your day-to-day with us–we have all benefited from your honest and transparent account of lives affected by this disease. We are in the thick of it–my stepmom and I–with my dad who is 63 and deep into the stages of early onset frontaltemporal dementia/Lewy Bodies Dementia. He is nearly speechless and fades daily further and further away from us. Thanks to the thoughts you and your mother have shared over the years, none of us is alone. I want to say, “you’re wonderful.” Thank you.

  20. Judy Koger says:

    I understand. God bless you and help you with preserving those loving memories forever. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today.

  21. Bobbie Smith says:

    This brings back so many memories. My mother died almost four years ago on Dec. 20 , 2009. She was almost 92 and outlived Dad by 12 years. Dad had Altzheimer”s Disease (confirmed by autopsy.) Mom had dementia the last two years of her life.

    Mom died on my birthday and the same day I lost a premature son gmany years ago. We lost many other family members and friends in December.

    Condolences on your loss. I am so sorry.h

  22. Anne Bena says:

    Beth,

    I know how hard this must be for you; I lost my dad to Alzheimers in May. My heart breaks for you, but I hope that knowing your mom is now at peace and no longer struggling with this horrible disease will give you comfort.

  23. Barbara says:

    You are in my prayers as you and your family make this journey. Blessings and peace.

  24. Nancy Oquin says:

    I am so sorry for your loss of your mother. I was with my Mom for 2 yrs. and watched her become more helpless .She passed away In June 2013.It is a shock when our loved ones pass on even when we think we are prepared; you are in my thoughts may God grant you comfort and peace.

  25. John says:

    Beth,
    So sorry to hear of your Mum’s passing. I’m sure from your writings that you’ll always remember the smiles, love and laughter X

  26. Lillian Wlasiuk says:

    Your story is very real and transparent. I thank you for allowing me into your life for a short time. You put into words what I could not.

  27. Joy Talbot says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I cared for my mother, in my home, for 9 months before she died. She died holding my hand and I will never look at life, or death, in the same way. I wish I had kept a journal, like you. I think caring for an aging parent is the greatest gift a child can give. My mother died 26 years ago but I still miss her and I still am so happy that I could be her strength and help during that long passing.

  28. Felicity Myers says:

    Beth – I’m so sorry for your mom’s passing. Your accounts of your loving care of your parents are so beautiful and affirming. And this little video is absolutely a precious thing, I hope you’ll watch it often! I am just now feeling ready to see River Farmer – the video of my dad. My mom and I are strolling the so-far slow path: she’ll be 96 next month. It is for her as your dad describes – piece by piece. I am so grateful to have had these years with her, but I hate to witness her in pain and having to suffer indignity after indignity. But her mind is good so there are many blessings. Bless you; I hope you are well. F

  29. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I am crying now. My father died almost two years ago. It’ll be two year November 28th. He was Mom’s Care giver. He and Mom were at the spa. They’d both swim. Someone found him in a shower. Heart attack. They never were able to get a pulse. I was Mom’s Caregiver from that moment on. Until this past July. Now She’s in a memory section at an assisted living. I visit at least twice a week. Wishing I could visit more. When I do visit, I sit with her and the people around her. I know she doesn’t like no longer being able to go to the toilet by herself. On one hand I’m thankful she forgets because it would kill her. I always think the “end’ is closer than anyone else. I’m just crying a lot lately.
    I apologize. Peace be with you. Thank you for your journal. Bless you.

  30. Lyda Dicus says:

    Beth,

    I am very sad about your Mom’s death. Your journal is so lovely and warm and thoughtful and full of your grief. What a gift your Mom had in you through your love and sharing with her during her final months/years.

    You are part of our larger family even though you are far away. I think of every day when I see your animal photos card on my fridge and want you to know that you are especially in my thoughts at this time.

    Lots of Love,
    Lyda

  31. Steve says:

    You’re wonderful. Love you.

  32. Geralyn says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Mourning is such a personal thing. I got home from work tonight after a long day and saw this post. I had been debating with myself whether I would visit mom tonight at the nursing home. I cried as I read this and didn’t think twice. I reached for my keys, locked the door and drove to see mom. She is in the home due to a broken hip and diagnosed with dementia. My dad has stage 4 lung cancer along with many other medical issues. Your dad was so right when he said “a little bit at a time.” That’s how I feel watching both of my parents fading away. I mourn them already and cry everyday. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind and then realize, this is the circle of life and how lucky am I that I have this opportunity to love them and look out for both parents for as long as I have them. I hope you find peace! I know that is easier said then done. I lost my younger and only sister in 06′ due to breast cancer and I still pick up the phone to call her. I miss her as much today as I did on the day she died. God Bless you and your Dad.

  33. gloria young says:

    BETH, your beauty shines though your words of love , Your words have touched so many people as they (and I ) listen to you live though your love of your mom and dad. Thank you for being . Gloria

  34. Barclay Shepard says:

    It was a special treat for me to be with you and Arthur yesterday. I was amazed at how at how up-beat and lively you were. And I was very touched by your message here … such a lovely sentiment and moving thoughts. It also gave me pause as I reflected on the many happy memories I have of your dad starting when we first met in Istanbul and what a coincidence that we both had such strong ties to Boothbay Harbor and his brother with the Bowdoin connection. And then how honored I was to be his best man at your parent’s wedding. You mother was a beautiful bride.
    I’ll see you on the 15th.
    Much love to you and your dad,
    Barclay

  35. Duke Whitman says:

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing Beth :)

    Duke

  36. Carol Scribner says:

    Beth, your sharing here is a gift to all of us: such beauty and strength out of such difficult times. I’m sending love and all good wishes to your and your Dad.

  37. Doug Rawlings says:

    Beth: Your mom was a very important player in the life of Maine Veterans For Peace as your dad served as our secretary and treasurer and overall valued, wise voice. Your mom often came along for the ride but then would offer valuable comments to help us out on more tan one occasion. Below is a poem I wrote for my dad, who was also a musician. I think it applies to your mom. Take care of yourself. I am sure I speak for my fellow members of VFP when I say how sorry we are at your loss. Best, Doug Rawlings

    A POEM FOR MY FATHER

    “Suddenly I realize that if
    I stepped out of my body
    I would break into blossom”
    — James Wright

    My father stretches out before me
    his lounge chair coffin off-white
    polyester
    his ersatz death mask snoring softly
    his fingers stumbling across his stomach
    through the memory of some Chopin etude

    It is a midafternoon in early July
    a thunderstorm is blowing in
    from off West Palm Beach
    raking the lagoon
    sending the mourning doves
    back into the trees

    I love you, I whisper
    loud enough to pull him to the surface
    He eyes me startled and scared
    his breath catching on something he heard
    something that may have been significant

    We exchange shy smiles
    do not speak
    I turn back to my reading
    he to some meadow of the soul
    where old men practice
    the silent art
    of breaking into blossom

    –Doug Rawlings

  38. Max and Cynthia Kortepeter says:

    Dear Beth, Alan and Art,

    We of course knew that Mary Ann was failing when we visited them in the little yellow house on the lake in Auburn. Both used motorized vehicles. We also remember the good times in the old house attached to the hilltop house in Auburn. In the old days our kids remember Beth and Alan taking them for a ride in their pony cart. Art & I remember the good times at Robert College, w. Barclay telling his prep Kids”Be quiet”. Most weeks Joe Inscoe and I would journey down to the Park Oteli to sing arias from operas & drink screwdrivers. Also some of us sang at the Dutch Chapel in Istanbul with the Beechers and others. Art had to deal w. Joe on some nights! Mary Ann is much missed, also her viola and lentil soups! We hope there will be a grand reconciliation in the family, either now or in the hereafter. Beth, thank you for all your caregiving to your parents and to us.
    Love, Max and Cynthia Kortepeter

  39. Debbie Sommers says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost both of my parents to Alzheimers. It is a devastating disease to everyone experiencing it and the loved ones left behind. I cared for both of them until their passing. I lost Dad in December 2010 he passed on his 81st birthday, Mom went to be with him 8 months later
    May you find peace.

  40. MargaretMary Sweeney says:

    my sincerest condolences on your Moms passing……..i also lived with my parents to the end of thier lives DAD passed Jan 9th 2003 and MOM November 12th 2004
    DAD suffered from Non Hodgins Lymphoma MOM eventually, Dementia…….my brother took his life in 1992……..i rem my MOM. the 14th of EVERY month she’d write on the calander RIP JOHN C……….my DAD asked me one day “Peg when will she stop doing that’ i said ‘DADDY.. Never’
    and this past NOV Mom has been gone 9 yrs Jan 9th dad will be 10 years
    I Miss them like it was yesterday…crying reading your blog..im sorry but it does not get easier its why i9 love Rose Kennedys quote

    “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

    ― Rose Kennedy

  41. Shannon O'Donnell says:

    Beth, my condolences on the death of your mother. The juxtaposition of the very long time-ness and then the sudden going—there are no words. My mother died the Sunday before, Nov. 17th. Maybe the two of them are comparing notes now. Peace and all good.

  42. marie barrese says:

    Beth, I am sorry for your loss. I just lost my dad on the day after Thanksgiving. I cared for him at home except for the last 5 days that he spent in respite care. I understand how people can die a little at a time. My dad had dementia, he asked for my mom everyday, even though she past away 13 years before. It was sad to see this active and vibrant man lose the ability to walk, see dress himself and feed himself. A little at a time he began to forget where he lived and asked to go home. He grew up in the house next to ours which was his sisters’ until 8 months prior to his death. I miss him a great deal, but I know that he would be happier where he is. I sat with him on the day he died and told him that it was okay to go and be with my mom. Within 10 minutes he was gone, I sat and cried with him before letting anyone know that he had passed. I wanted to be alone with him one last time, no matter how much time we have with a loved one it is never enough. I have learned to live life to the fullest and enjoy every minute, I also learned to not take advantage of being with loved ones because you never know when they will be gone.

  43. Karen Banda says:

    I lost my mother last Thursday, 11/12. She, too, died a bit every day for the past 4 years, And even though I knew it was coming, I didn’t expect it the day it happened. I take comfort in knowing she’s at peace now. It was a very long, hard road for her. She’s now with my father and brother. I have to hang onto that and the fact that she’s no longer miserable to get me through. Dementia is a horrible thing.

    God bless you and your family. One day at a time.

  44. Maggie says:

    Beth, you do not know me, but I too am motherless. My mom died on 11/14/15 and the wound is still fresh, so your blog entry brings me to tears.

    I turned to your blog for comfort many times in the last 7 years that my mom has lived with me….. just knowing someone else out there was experiencing the slow death of their mother was quietly appreciated by a stranger.

    Your father sounds like an amazing man…. and your mother’s smile has made me smile many times.

    heal well….. and know that your love for her still shines brightly.

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