Recently, I went to my home town in Wisconsin to say my goodbyes to my mother. She was almost 92. She had been ill before, but there was something about this situation that told me it was time to take action and go home for a couple of days.
Mom and Future Me 1950
The last time I saw her was in July 2016, and we had a beautiful visit. She was feeling good, and in fact when I showed up at the Brookdale facility she wasn’t even there – she had gone on an outing for a few hours to a music event. She was a huge music lover, and sang with the local Sweet Adelines barbershop music group for many years, in addition to the church choir and, probably, the shower. I came back later, and she even recognized me, but not until she heard my voice – I’ve been gone from my home town for 40 years, and in that time we’ve seen one another in person off and on, but it has mostly been letters and phone calls. Since her memory has been faulty the last few years, I was grateful that she recognized my voice and we were able to have a lovely time together. The year before, she hadn’t known me.
While I was in town, I decided to see the movie “A Dog’s Purpose”. I actually had several movies on my list to chose from, and was hesitant to go to this one in particular – when I first saw the movie trailer I cried from start to finish because the subject resonated with me so strongly, and I didn’t want to spend two hours sobbing and then go visit my ailing mom – but it kept beckoning to me. I listened to my intuition, and spent a couple of hours with a reincarnating dog.
It was exactly what I needed. As an affirmation of my belief system, it was priceless, and helped me immeasurably to cope as I bore witness to the beginning of my mom’s transition. I sat and read to her, even though she was pretty much unconscious, and during that time I was very aware of three beings at the foot of her bed, keeping a silent and invisible vigil. I thanked them for being there and felt comforted.
My brother arrived in the early evening and we sat and talked, more deeply than we have in some time. I’ve always kept my “special gifts” under a bushel basket with my immediate family, because we were raised in a very practical fashion and woo-woo wasn’t really part of our training growing up. However, in recent months I’ve been more who I really am with my family than ever before. This evening was no exception. I told my brother about the beings I had seen. He remarked that he had never seen anything like that, and he almost sounded regretful about it. I also found out that he, like me, had grown up with a pretty massive fear of dying. I’m not sure where that came from for us, but how interesting that we would reveal this fear to each other while our mother was doing exactly that. As we’ve gotten older, the fear has subsided somewhat. There are times when I can feel some curiosity about the “next thing”, and even hope. He feels the same way.
As we prepared to leave for the night, I stroked mom’s hair and marveled at how soft and silky it was. I’ll never forget that. Her body was failing, but her hair was like angel floss. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Me, best friend Judy (mom’s daughter from another mother), and mom circa 2014
The next morning, my brother called me early to say that mom had passed during the night. It was as though she had waited for the two of us to be present at her side, our little family, and for peace and love to surround her. She knew her kids would watch out for one another; her job at last was complete.
Mom defied family convention by saying that she wanted to be cremated, and her ashes spread over the farm where she spent the last almost-50 years of her life. No pine box for her! She loved that place, and I feel so grateful that it has remained in our family; my nephew lives there now, with his wife and children. It is a great place to grow up. I’ll travel back in the Spring, when the flowers are blooming and the trees coming to life, to join in the ritual of finalizing mom’s wishes.
My family was conventional but weird in its own way. My mom, who looked like the epitome of conventionality, chose her exit in a way that was totally unconventional to her upbringing. She had an open mind, a wisdom about her, a hands-off way of loving her children once we were grown, that I strive to emulate. All she ever wanted was to have a passel of kids – she ended up with two, and filled in the big family gaps with my cousins and the neighbors. Everyone loved coming to our house. Her heart was huge, and I always enjoyed having her come with me on my teenage adventures (yes, I did, and I invited her!) She was fun without ever losing sight of the fact that she was the mom. I always felt safe.
As I grew to adulthood and moved away, she let me go, but she never, ever judged me or stopped loving me, even when my life was chaos, sometimes heartache, a revolving door with men and husbands, as I strove to find myself. She treated every one of the people I dragged home with respect and love. I’m sure she was as pleased as I when I finally grew up enough to realize that I deserved all of the happiness I’ve found with my husband of 26 years, Glenn. It took me quite a while to get there, but she always hung in and cheered me on from the sidelines. She was the Best. Mom. Ever.
Rose Gertrude Zauner Neuens – Born November 5, 1925 – passed to the next life January 27, 2017. Fly with the angels, mom.
Glenn, me, and my wonderful, wacky, wise mama