As we say goodbye


Just like in life right now, Mom’s picture is more vivid here, Dad is a bit blurry, not as well lit. I’ve introduced you to my mother, told you what she and her voice have meant to me. And I will keep telling you stories about her, I will bear her torch. I am my parents in so many, many ways. My dad means the world to me, too, as any of you who know me, know. He’s been gone from us earthlings for six and a half years but I still feel his spirit moving around nearby.

“A good grieving cry, now that helps, ” he said once when we were considering the wastefulness of tears.

I’m helping myself to a lot of those cries right now. This morning I woke up and the image of me as a girl near my mom’s side of the bed, looking at her sleeping, came to me and I helped myself again.

Once, while Mom was in the hospital and Dad and I were waking up at home, and the whole house felt so strange without her in it, and we were wondering about going to do something and I said, “I just want to be with Mom,” he said, “you’re like me, babe.”

I’m preparing myself to say the final earthly goodbye to her, and she has given us the gift of a long one, given us the gift of letting her departure settle in, as parts of her go, and with her, more of Dad goes, too, of course.

I keep hearing her say, “I want to go home,” as she did when she moved into the memory care unit where she is now.

And I said, “Mom, I think the home you mean is in your heart now. It’s with Dad and all of us and we are all together. And we are, Mom, in your heart. We always will be.”

I watched the relief move through her body and I was so grateful we were sitting in the sun.

“And, anyway, Mom, wherever you are is home to me,” I said.

She dried her tears, and pulled herself together, then looked straight into me with those brilliant blue eyes of hers and said, “You better remember that.”

It would be so selfish of me to want her to carry on now, just so I could go and rest my head and feel her hand on it, her fingers playing with my hair.

A world without my mother, however, and without my parents, is difficult, if not desolate, to imagine living in.

I posted this picture because I want to introduce you to Millie and Bob. Their love created so much good and made seven fascinating human beings and supported and inspired countless others. They were the showing up kind of people, the carrying on kind, the do what you can where you can kind. The kindness kind. The ready and willing and able kind. People who were not afraid to say “I don’t know,” and then to try and find out, if they thought it was necessary and knowable. They tried to understand, to connect, to soothe, to lighten others’ loads  They were the freedom-loving charitable Blessed Virgin Mother Sisters of Charity  and St. Francis kind of people, seeking to console more than to be consoled. They were people who understood the healing nature of laughter. People who knew that education, sharing, and justice make systems work well.  People who made mistakes, admitted, learned, and grew from them. They honored their mothers and fathers. They were people who said what they meant and meant what they said or kept quiet. They worked hard and had fun and moved through joy and pain and sorrow and disappointment and accomplishment and worry and relief. They said they were sorry sincerely or didn’t. They liked to dance. “Oh, that made your dad and I feel so good to watch you dance like that,” Mom said after I danced with others at their retirement center, when they could not anymore.

I feel so fortunate to be sprung from these people, to carry both of them inside of me.

Please think some kind thoughts of celebration of Mom’s precious life as she journeys home. Please remember Dad. Please remember them. Talk to me of them when you see me. Tell me of the times they lifted your hearts as it will lift mine.

I think I can speak for my sisters and brothers, too, when I say our hearts are heavy and our guts are working hard.

Once when I was gathering some newspapers off the floor around Dad’s feet, and he was around 84 or 85 at that time, I asked, “Do you need any of this?”

“Not unless there is something in there about my parents coming back,” was his answer.

Yesterday, as I drove in Chicago, the radio in the car died, the clock died, the heater died, but the engine was still going and I said out loud, “Please just get me to Dubuque,” and believe it or not, the radio, heater, clock, and lights all went back on in a moment and in succession.

Home is huge, I know, and as I journey home to accompany my mother’s journey home I also know I am home. We are home. As we watch her go, others are excited to see her coming, I believe. Is there an other side? Who knows for sure? I feel it. I have witnessed what feels like proof of it. Many people call it many different things and many believe it just goes black. Maybe I like the term the “other side” best because it is part of my favorite joke:

Two people are across from each other, a river in between them. One hollers, “How do I get to the other side?”

The other hollers back, “You are on the other side.”


About a decade ago, Mom, Dad, and I were hanging around the living room,  they were laid back in their chairs, and I was on my back on the floor. We were kibbitzin’, as Dad would say, and the subject of heaven came up. “It sounds kind of boring to me,” I said to the air.

Mom sat up in her recliner, smiled, and said, “I am sure they have a lot of fun activities there.”

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