My Final Mother's Day

T.A. Barnhart

Mother's Day is Sunday, and I'm not looking forward to it.

Last July 3rd, my mom went to her local Albertson's in Winter Haven, Florida, to finish making a special dinner for her husband, Bob.  She and Bob married during my senior year of high school in Billings, Montana; November 1974.  Since then, they had not missed a single holiday together until Bob's leg problems landed him in the hospital for the Fourth of July 2005.  My mom had health problems of her own, in spades, mostly the lung cancer that was unavoidable after 55 years of smoking.  But Mom had her ways that couldn't be denied, and making Bob a special post-holiday welcome-home dinner for the 5th was something she was going to do.  Tired or not, her activity level reduced by the inability of her lungs to process even the oxygen-enriched air she was breathing through plastic tubes, she was going to do what she always did: something for someone else.

Her last words, to the woman at the checkout at Albertsons, were "I don't feel well."  And then she fell, and that was pretty much that.  Not a very dignified way to go, but for anyone who knew my mom at all, it was the equivalent of Bing Crosby going down on the golf course.  Mom, for whatever faults she had as a mother, loved to do for others.  She had her quirks in this, but at her memorial, the common theme was "El Rene just loved to help other people."

Her death came as a shock, a heart attack that resulted from years of strain on her heart and lungs.  I was expecting a slower, more ugly death from cancer; this was better in that regard.  But there was no time to prepare, no chance to repair bridges or say goodbye or ask questions about long-lost relatives whose stories I would so love to know.  I didn't think ahead to a day like last July 4th, when my mom would be gone forever.  Who does?  We don't like to think of death, so we generally avoid thoughts of it.  I wish I had done so just once, just once gotten on the phone and said a few things.  She knew I loved her, and I knew she loved me, and whatever separated us, well, I hope it didn't matter to her.

Don't screw up this Mother's Day.  If your mom is still around, make the most of this Sunday.  Call her or visit; send a card, flowers, wine, warm socks.  If you are angry with her or hurt by how she raised you or bitter or just distant, get over it.  It's not worth it.  To be honest, my parents didn't do a great job.  They loved me, but they left so many gaps.  Their marriage went south when I was 10 or 11, and from that point on, I was left on my own, emotionally.  I don't blame them because I know the people they were, the stuff they had to deal with in their own lives.  My dad and I have a good relationship now, for which I am eternally grateful.  My mom lived a good and happy life down in Florida with Bob, and I am glad she did.  I'm sorry I didn't get down there to visit; I wish my kids had known her more than just a couple of visits up here when they were little.  And I will always regret that I didn't get to say goodbye, that my final Mother's Day slipped past me in secret.  Sunday will be a day to remember and to mourn, again; I hope it's also a day some of you will fix things with your mom.  Your time is short, and it's always shorter than you think. 

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    I'm so sorry about your mother's passing. It never goes away, but it does get easier. And life does indeed go on.

    My mom has been gone for nine years now - she got the long, slow, painful death from cancer. Doesn't make it any easier...though we were blessed with time. She was way too young and so was I - was only 22 at the time. All of the important stuff that moms are supposed to be around for, she didn't get to be.

    It's more than OK to take this time to grieve. I choose the anniversary of her death to do that, but it's different for everyone. Eventually you might find yourself in the same position as I am - trying not to think about it and pretending it's just another Sunday.

    Two of my best friends' mother is very ill and this is probably their last Mother's Day together and as far as I know they're not doing anything too remarkable... you know, I think even though we know that time eventually runs out for everyone and that we're not given any guarantees in this world... we always take it for granted that we'll get another day. It's not until you don't get that day that you realize you should have been paying attention.

    TA is right... take it from people who don't have moms. Most of our moms aren't perfect... how many times do you look at the caller ID, see it's Mom, and think twice before answering it? But this Sunday isn't about you... it's about her. So do something nice to thank her for being your mother. Because someday when she's gone, it will be about you and the fact that you really wish the phone would ring... just one more time.

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    Hey Todd. I will take your advice and spend Mom's day with her. Thank you for the reminder of what our true priorities in life should be. You and your family are in our prayers.


  • Mama's Boy (unverified)

    Wow, what a lovely way to remember your mother. Writing a story telling everyone how you're sorry she's dead but that she wasn't a very good mother and did a poor job of raising you in your opinion and that you never even went to visit her one single time in Florida after she remarried.

    It's like you're trying to slyly wrap your loathing of her in an admonition to others to not forget their moms as you did, yet you can't pass up the chance to kick her memory and defile her spirit by speaking ill of the deceased, your own mother. Some bad mojo there.

    Maybe she wasn't perfect. Few of us are. But she was your mother and she gave you life and there are better ways to pay respect to that than to write something like this just so you can tell the world what a crappy mom you think she was. How perfect a parent have you been to your own children?

    Perhaps you should look in the mirror and ask yourself how good of a son were you? And take another moment to think about what words your own children may one day write about you after you're dead and gone.

    Instant Karma is a bitch, and you Mr. Barnhart have deep issues that require counceling and therapy.
    Happy Mothers Day and here's wishing you well and hoping you get the closure and help that you need.

  • mconley (unverified)

    T.A.: My mom had a pretty peaceful departure two Christmases ago, but Mother's Day is still hers in my book. Great post, despite Mama's Boy's reaction (which, MB, makes me want to say "physician, heal thyself").

    Thanks for reminding those with mom's - perfect, imperfect, or perhaps just human - to appreciate them tomorrow.

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    Maybe she wasn't perfect. Few of us are. But she was your mother and she gave you life and there are better ways to pay respect to that than to write something like this just so you can tell the world what a crappy mom you think she was.

    And maybe you should be nice to somebody when they're grieving. Jeez. And that's so not what he's doing. Unless you have lost a parent you have NO clue what it's like dealing with it - NONE. Good parents, bad parents - good parents make mistakes that stick with kids for their entire lives. My mom was no exception (sorry, Mom - but it's true - and if she were here she'd probably be the second to admit it. After me, of course). Not being able to resolve issues with your parents before they die is horrible - on any level - and someone who has never walked in those shoes hasn't any right to judge. Period. Personally, I will love my mother forever, but there are a lot of things I'll probably never get over. It's hard to live with that lack of resolution.

    Karma's a bitch, huh? Well then perhaps you should be nicer. Actually, perhaps your time would be better spent calling your mother.

  • Michael M. (unverified)

    Tomorrow I go to the cemetery for the first time since my Mom died three weeks ago. Not how I'd hoped to spend Mother's Day. You couldn't be more right time being short, shorter than you ever think it will be. I moved back here just about a year ago after living a minimum of 3,000 miles away for the past 20 years, and only seeing my Mom once a year in all that time. Twenty years, about twenty visits, about a week each. It seems so inadequate now. At least I got to spend more time with her this past year, but for more than six months of it she was in and out of the hospital and laid up in a nursing home. I thought we'd have more time, I guess you always think you'll have more time. But it runs out.

  • Mona (unverified)

    Hi, That nearly bro't tears to my eyes (in fact, I believe it did!) Thanx for that! I'm so grateful I still have my mom around and I feel so lucky. She's 82, almost 83. Still loving, still cares, not nearly as busy as she always was, but it's her time to relax and rest. She started watching the Mariners lately on TV w/ my Dad and he teases her by saying she likes 'm even more then he does! So cute! She loves Ichiro, along w/ everyone else. BUt it's fun to see that side of her. I did spend yesterday w/ her.

    I think Mama's Boy should think before he sends vicious, judgmental responses like that. I'm sorry! But IF there were issues, I'm sure that the writer of that Mother's day post is not taking that easy! I know a few yrs ago I was having issues w/ my folks for a terrible thing I'd done and they were very unhappy w/ me and I avoided them. WHAT IF they'd died during that time?? I don't know (and neither do you) IF or what the issues were, but believe me, taht would even make things worse. How cruel of you, Momma's boy! You had no right.

    I am sorry, Mr Barnhart, about your loss! God bless.


  • steve (unverified)

    Mama's Boy, you misunderstood T.A. or you decided to ignore what he is really saying. He did not say anything harmful towards his mother, instead he spoke in a manner that reveals he understands her. Understanding a parent is an important step in having a strong relationship. There is no law against talking about someone who is deceased. In fact, through dialogue do you understand who they were.

  • Meryl (unverified)

    Thank you for sharing this, T.A. My Mom is 72; she's 4'11" 98 lb and legally blind. In the last 40 years she's had a brain tumor and 3 types of cancer, each one worse than the last. She walks 1 mile an hour, she's hard of hearing and her once-quicksilver mind is getting addled. Sometimes she can't participate fully in conversations. But when we suggest that she sit something out because she gets tired so quickly or because we don't think she'll have fun (or, truthfully and selfishly, because she'll slow us down), she bitches a blue streak until we realize it's worth it to walk a mile an hour just to have her along. I spent 30 years resenting her, our need to tiptoe around her illnesses and fragility, until one spring day I was evacuated from Russia, where I was working, during the Kosovo invasion of 1999 and I had no place to go but home.

    In our socio-economic strata, in our mobile society, not too many people get the chance to surf our parents' couches at age 30 but, hopefully, we get the opportunity to reconnect with our parents as adults and really come to appreciate them. I am sorry you didn't get that opportunity to see your mother's life in FL (OK, I probably wouldn't visit a state where Jeb Bush was governor...) - but there is something in her passing that has made you appreciative and that in itself is beautiful.

    My condolences, and happy Mother's day to all the moms of the world.

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