Let the Haunting Begin

Quietly and without pain, my Mom slipped away Friday night after five weeks of hospitalization. Friday morning, certain the time had come, I chose to suspend all further treatment and had all of her monitors removed. A sensitive doctor and some of the best nurses I’d known at her last hospital provided tender and attentive care, and just the right touch of wry humor. As one of the nurses said, “She was determined to get out of that bed and go home, and at the end, she did.”

Now there’s little more to say, except to acknowledge that she loved much and lived a good life – perhaps the best epitaph of all. 

On the other hand, her death and my decision to post a photograph to mark her passing is a last bit of daughterly rebellion. Some of you will remember the story, posted just about a year ago. Those who missed reading it may enjoy this fond look into the joys and complexities of a mother-daughter relationship.

I never expected my mother to live to be 80, let alone 92.  As a matter of fact, my mother never expected to live much beyond 70.  But here we are – mother turning 92 in a day or so, daughter 63 for a while yet – looking at one another cautiously over the dinner table, trying to understand how such a thing could have happened.

Luck played a role, of course.  My maternal grandmother died when my own mother was only 16 and all but one of her sisters died young. The odds appeared to be against her from the start.  But when the scourges of increasing age arrived and attempted to take their toll, they were beaten back. The surgeries healed. The heart attack responded to the stent and the congestive heart failure was remedied by the pacemaker.  At 70, things were looking good.  At 75, we were amazed.  At 80, we sat at the dinner table with friends and laughingly agreed it was a good year for the extravagance of jewelry and gold. After all, as my mother herself pointed out with great realism and without embarassment, it might be the last year for gifts.

As she began to move into her eighties, each of my mother’s trips to an assortment of doctors resulted in high hilarity as the latest injuries and surgeries were catalogued.  Double ankle fracture. Rotator cuff repair. Pulled tendon. Tibia crack.  “Listen”, said the orthopedic surgeon. “You’ve got to stop playing soccer.”

As the years went by, she stopped degenerating physically and seemed to regenerate.  The stresses that resulted from my father’s death, the forced sale of her home, the moves to Kansas and then on to Texas began to ease.  Like every mother and daughter, we  experienced a few cracks and fractures in our own relationship, but we coped.  I haven’t a clue what she was thinking when the conflicts erupted or the silence set in, but I know I was repeating to myself the mantra of every befuddled, middle-aged child: “I’m the adult in this room.”  And, ultimately, I was. But so was she.

When it came time to celebrate her ninetieth year, there were options galore.   At first we considered a little party, perhaps dinner at home with friends and a cake.  We thought of indulging in a favorite restaurant, splurging on tiny portions of marvelous food and a nice Sauvignon Blanc. We wondered aloud if it might not be a fine day for a drive into Houston, or a trip to Galveston’s Strand.

Any of those would have been lovely, but 90 years of life, 90 years of experience and struggle and endurance is worth more than dinner and a cake.  We talked, discussed and fussed a little at one another until finally determining a fit course.  We would go east, to Louisiana, first to Breaux Bridge and Acadiana, and then beyond to Baton Rouge, where cousins still live.

Beulah continues to live on the very property where I first came to love the moss-draped oaks of Evangeline’s world, and her sister Marlene is not far away.  They’ve been there all along, descendents of my great, great-grandfather David Crowley. He traveled a bit himself, journeying to Iowa from West Virginia via Texas before traveling to Colorado to try to make a fortune panning gold.  When war was declared between the States he returned to Iowa, helping to form the 34th Iowa, a regiment that fought from Vicksburg to Boca Chica, from Mobile to the Atchafalaya Basin and New Orleans. At war’s end, he made a final return to Iowa and continued building the family whose descendents later scattered across a dozen states.

How part of that family arrived back in Louisiana is a story for another time, and the mysterious fact that my mother’s generation of cousins lost touch with one another may have to remain just that: a mystery.  But as they say in Texas, what goes around does come around, and it’s never too late to re-join generations torn asunder by time and circumstance.

That my 90-year-old Mother would be reunited at last with Beulah and Marlene, also in their nineties, should have been birthday gift enough. But there was something more, something wonderful even beyond the telling of it.  Those Baton Rouge cousins never had seen their great-grandfather, David Crowley. Serendipitously, moved by reasons of my own, I had been digging into envelopes and boxes left to moulder in dark closets and the vaulted silence of banks. What I found we carried with us to share with the cousins, a gift to them from the past and the beginning of a family’s personal reconstruction.

There are photographs, with names inscribed on the back. There are Civil War pension documents and hand-written letters from women who endured the journey by wagon across the Texas plains. There is a twenty-five page family history written by Beulah and Marlene’s mother Fannie, and copies of transcribed information from a family Bible that was certified by the Clerk of Courts.  Best of all, there is a single tintype, rescued from the drifts of paper that might have hidden it forever.  It is David, and his wife Annie, and the daughters of their family. Forced by photographic necessity into silence and immobility, they gaze serenely into the eyes of history as though waiting to reach out across the years, to  reestablish contact and to be seen at last by another generation, itself nearly gone.

As we linger now after dinner, mulling over family history and considering our plans for this year’s celebration, I suddenly become aware of a distinct silence at my mother’s side of the table.  “What?” I ask.  Giving her coffee entirely too much attention, she finally looks up. “When we went to Baton Rouge to visit Beulah and Marlene – do you remember what I told you about your camera?”  I do remember. She made me promise that, no matter how fine the photographs, no matter how lovely or intriguing the images, I wouldn’t post them online.

“The same rule applies this year”, she says. “You can’t put any pictures of me on that silly machine of yours.”  Startled into my own silence, I think for a moment and then ask why.  She gives me her look that clearly translates “I have raised me an idiot child” and says, “Because, dear – I’m 92 years old.  I have no desire to have my picture on your page. Write what you like, but keep my picture out of it.”  After a bit of gentle protest I agree, but as I sit and sip my coffee, I’m still thinking my way around the issue.  Eventually I glance up to find my mother gazing at me with the serenity of David, Annie and the girls.  “No,” she says.  “No pictures at all.  None. Not even when I’m dead and gone.”

Some weeks later, as she finished reading this piece for a second or third time, Mom fixed me with a glittery stare. “You do understand I meant what I said, don’t you?” “About the pictures?” I said. “Of course.”  Smiling her approval she added, “If you put a picture of me on your page after I die, I swear I’ll come back and haunt you.”

Today, if I thought that were possible, I’d post a hundred photos in her honor. On the other hand, one might be enough. Posting her picture, I smiled my own gentle smile and thought, “OK, Mom. I’ve done it. Now, let the haunting begin.”

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106 thoughts on “Let the Haunting Begin

  1. Linda, my heart goes out to you. I know it can’t have always been easy for you in these past years, but it must now be a comfort to know that you did your best by your mom and helped her maintain her independence and dignity as long as possible.

    She sounds like quite a lady, and she looks so beautiful in that photo, I’m hoping she’ll forgive you for posting it.

    1. Becca,

      You know the old joke about childbirth – if anyone really remembered the pain, the human race would have died out eons ago! It’s the same with so many situations in life – the difficulties, little resentments and frustrations begin to fade quickly, if only we will allow them to.

      There will be a huge hole for a while – after all, she was mother, child, friend and roommate all wrapped up into one! But eventually memories will fill it up, and life will go on.

      She was quite a lady, for sure. And if I make it to 93, I hope I look as good as she did!


  2. Ohhhh, Linda. I know it hasn’t been easy, but you did do the best you could for your mom, and deep down she knew it. She just had to retain her maternal rights, is all.

    As Becca says, you gave her independence and dignity (much as she gave you when you were young) as long as you possibly could. No one could have given her more.

    She was a beautiful, strong, intelligent, independent woman–reminds me of someone–and I think, this once, she’d be okay with you sharing her photograph.

    1. ds,

      The great wonder is that she wasn’t always so independent. When Dad died, there was much she’d never done – put gas in the car, travel alone, drive out of town. But she learned as we traveled through those years together, and she became far less fearful.

      The great irony is that, just as I helped her learn about the joys of independence, she taught me much about dependence and dignity. I know that she taught me much more, but only time will reveal what those other lessons might be.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind words.


  3. Linda:

    Your mothers looks very regal and her smile as sweet as an angel’s smile. She must be somewhere on a cloud preparing for her haunting experience.

    Your post is warm and full of daughterly love. Thank you for sharing the love for your mother.



    1. Omar,

      Preparing to haunt? Perhaps. On the other hand, I rather enjoy the thought of she and my Dad conversing on a cloud. I can hear him saying, “You always have taken forever to get ready to go anywhere – even heaven.”

      She could be as stubborn as she was sweet, and her scowl could be the very opposite of that smile, but I know I’ll miss it all. I’m glad to have shared her with you, and I’m sure there will be more stories to come as the memories sort themselves out.


  4. Linda, a gasp and a tear from me as I read your post…and initially, when I first saw your dear mother’s picture I could see you within her face. I’ve not seen you close up, of course, but the pictures I have seen of you most certainly bear the resemblance.

    How honored we are as daughters to have had our mothers…you’re 65, I’m 50, my mother is 75. In many ways, I see us in the portrait you have painted of you and your mother. Mine still almost outrides me on our bicycles three times a week; her waist is trimmer than mine…but I don’t mean to go on about me on your lovely post.

    I admire how you posted what you wanted, sharing your life (and hers) with us. Perhaps your mother would have changed her mind had she known how her smile gives us who view it courage and strength.

    Blessings on you, friend.

    1. Bellezza,

      I so much enjoyed your post about your own Mother’s special tea – and how I envied you as I read! Mom always recovered from her accidents and illnesses with remarkable ease, and I had hoped that there would be more celebrations in her future.

      But this time was different, and we both knew it. She was ready to move on, and in the end it was my role to preserve her right to do so in peace.

      I smiled to read your comment about our “family resemblance”. We do look rather alike, and the similarities between Mom and her remaining sister is even more striking. Even better, the three of us have voices that sound much the same – there have been some interesting phone conversations in the past when one of us misidentified the person at the other end of the line!

      But now, the voice will sound only in memory. Well, unless she was serious about that haunting, of course. ;-)


  5. My sincere condolences,Linda.

    My mom’s 93rd birthday would have been tomorrow. Two days after my own. Unfortunately she only got to celebrate 58 of them, and for the preceding 20 years she had crippling rheumatoid arthritis and spent the last half dozen of those in a wheelchair.

    Your mom had a pretty good run and it seems she made the most of them. Be glad for that.

    1. Richard,

      Oh, I missed your birthday! Best wishes – I hope it was a happy one and that you have many, many more.

      And thank you for your condolences. Circumstances intertwined our lives in such a way that the void left by Mom’s absence may turn out to be even larger than I anticipated. But, life being what it is, the grief will ebb and the void will begin to fill – then, there will be just the cherished memories and the story-telling.

      Mom’s “good run” is part of what made this hospitalization so difficult for her. They called her “Houdini” at her last hospital – she constantly was trying to get out of bed to go home, and she was good at it! Of course, until five weeks ago she’d been making her own lunch and walking around – she truly seemed peeved that her body suddenly turned against her.

      She chose cremation for a variety of reasons. The most important was the quite practical one of making it easier for me to get her across state lines, back to Iowa and burial with Dad. We’ll probably go in the fall. Until then? Well, maybe a kitchen ledge, as one of my friends has done. Of course, she’s had Mom tucked up there for several years. I don’t believe I’ll go that far.

      In any event, you’re absolutely right. She did have a good run, and I am glad.


      1. Missed my birthday? Gee, it wasn’t like you didn’t have OTHER things on your mind Saturday.

  6. My mother died way too young – she was 62. We used to joke that she’d have to live with my nephew in her old age because if she lived with me one or the other of us would commit murder. That’s only slightly true. I think we would have managed.

    I’m glad you have all of these stories about your mom, and that you were there for her. I don’t know that it makes it easier, but it was a good thing.

    P.S. we often joked about my mom haunting us, and truth to tell I really wish that she had. I wasn’t exactly ready to let go. Guess that’s selfish of me :)

    1. Bug,

      Luckily, Mom and I got over our homicidal tendencies before circumstances threw us together – and a good thing that was! Of course, we also agreed it was good that we found a situation where we could be only a couple of minutes apart in the same complex. Every time someone said, “You know, you could move in together and save money” (or whatever) both of us would say, in unison, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

      After her initial hospitalization we made plans for her to move into an assisted living situation – in fact, she was there briefly before going back into the hospital. I’d always said t I wanted to help her stay in her own place until that wasn’t feasible, and it was clear to us both that the time for a move had come.

      In many ways, I’m glad things worked out as they did. It would have been awful to see her simply languishing in a nursing home. As oldsalt said, she had a good run – a five weeks’ hospitalization at the end of 93 years and a quiet, peaceful death is one of the biggest blessings I can imagine.

      And if not wanting to let go of someone we love is selfish – well, I guess I’m right there with you!


  7. Linda, I remember reading your original posting a year ago. Reprising this is such a lovely tribute to your mom.

    My Mama didn’t live to see the Internet age, so I don’t know for sure how she would have reacted to it. Knowing her, I think she would have been enthralled at the possibilities. Nor do I think she’d have had any objections to having her picture posted. IF I could have found one. I have very few of her, since she was always the one behind the camera. She passed when I was only 29 and the opportunities of getting any more came to an end.

    If you do have any ‘visitations’, I hope they’re loving ones.

    1. Gué,

      I have far fewer photos of Mom than Dad, and for the same reason. She loved to take pictures of Dad and I, but he wasn’t so inclined. I wish now I’d taken more over the years, but she wasn’t especially thrilled to have her photo taken, either. Ah, well. A few good ones certainly are enough to refresh the memory and warm the heart.

      You were so young to lose your Mama! Mom’s own mother died when Mom was only sixteen. She told me once she decided early on she was going to live long enough that I wouldn’t have to go through that – and she certainly did! I still remember her 65th birthday party. She was astonished to have lived so long. Of course, she got even more astonished as we clicked past 70, 75, 85, and then 90.

      As for visitations… Well, you know enough about Mom to know that the primary reason she’d come back would be to get some of that yarn. If I get up one morning and find the good stuff missing from the stash, I’ll know who did it! ;-)


  8. Linda,

    Beautiful. Your mom, your relationship, the tribute. I think your mom has us beat— haunting is such a refined way to socially network compared to blogging.

    My daughter and I are so moved by this post and our thoughts are with you. I am glad your mom left this world so peacefully.


    1. Claudia,

      You’ve given me my first real out-loud laugh in a few days. I suddenly had a flashback to a certain movie, and heard my Mom saying, “Facebook? We don’t need no stinking Facebook!” You’re right – who needs social networking when you can hover around the ceiling and whisper what you will? ;-)

      Her leaving was extraordinarily peaceful – undrugged, unplugged, without pain and without struggle. We all should be so blessed – not only for the “good death”, but with such a good life.

      And special greetings to your daughter – I’m glad she appreciated it, too. That means a lot to me.


  9. My condolences.

    My mom, who was 52 when she died last year, also insisted I post no pictures of her. She hated how she looked with her wispy, post-cancer treatment hair. As she lost more weight, she hated how she looked even more. I did once say I wouldn’t post the pictures I was taking . . .

    . . . but that was before I’d uploaded them and seen the glorious intensity of her love for her grandchild. How could I not share that love, which is–I think–what most people will see, knowing that the only pictures I would ever get of her and my son would be these pictures?

    I don’t regret it. And I’m happy to say I haven’t been haunted, save by these sudden moments of love that seem to surround me without warning . . . posted pictures and all. :)

    Beautiful entry. May your mom’s memory be a blessing.

    1. Deborah,

      You may not have realized that those pictures are the first things I saw when I came to your blog for the first time. They were beautiful, and intense, and absolutely radiated love.

      Looking at them, I thought about my conversations with my own mom about photos-on-the-web. I knew her reasons for not wanting them posted – rather different from your mom’s reasons – and I knew how “silly” those reasons were, at least from my perspective. Still, while she was alive I honored her request. Now, I don’t regret posting her photo, either. And if she were here, I suspect she’d understand why.

      You touched on the heart of the matter – when love appears in the world and we see it, how can we keep from sharing?


  10. I hope she haunts you mercifully and that you love every minute of it. Sweet story and I’m sorry for any pain you have.
    your blogging friend from your silly machine,

    1. CheyAnne,

      Oh, you know I’d love every minute of it! And do you know, she had your poppy with her for a while! She loves flowers but when she was in ICU she couldn’t have any real ones. So, I took that little watercolor poppy to the hospital and put it on her bedside table. It made her smile. ;-)

      Of course there is pain and of course there are tears, but they’re only a sign of the love we shared. One day the tears and pain will be gone, but the love will keep blooming – don’t you think?


      1. Absolutely! I still get choked up by tears sometimes missing my Dad, but I know I’m just missing the love I felt at his presence here with me, now I know it’s his essence of love surrounding me. The tears will ease and one day you will wake to know the worst of the physical loss has passed. That your Mother will always and forever be in you and with you.
        And I am so honored and blessed that you shared the little poppy painting with her. Who doesn’t love bright orange little flowers? I know it made her smile, as it does me when I think of that. ‘Your mother lying still, only because she had too. But, when she gazed at that little painting she probably went beyond it, to fields she must have walked in this lifetime, here where poppies and other beauties bloomed beneath her feet. I know it brought her comfort.
        Take much care of you dear friend….

  11. I never seem to be able to find a “sympathy” card that expresses what I want. Many are too religious (at least for me) and the rest are too maudlin. There seems to be a niche here that needs filling. But some years ago I found one I really liked. My own mother is 92 and, when the time comes for me to be on the receiving end of those cards, I wouldn’t mind one that features this quote, attributed to Galileo, and I hope it holds some meaning for you too:

    “I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

    1. Al,

      It’s a wonderful quotation, as evocative as Bok’s “Turning Toward the Morning”. I’m grateful to you for introducing me to that song – it’s been a great comfort.

      Not only that, Galileo’s words stir memories of another poem that’s been much on my mind lately as I’ve walked the midnight corridors:

      “I have been one acquainted with the night.
      I have walked out in rain –and back in rain.
      I have outwalked the furthest city light…”

      Galileo and Frost together make me smile. After all, you have to get beyond the city lights to truly see – and learn to love – the stars.


  12. Oooh!

    How lovely she was through your camera lens, Linda.

    My own mother feared and shied away from the camera’s truth too.They were both so beautiful and we’ll never have enough photos of them. I’m so glad you shared this one.

    The world’s a little quieter here in Georgia without her presence.


    1. Laura,

      Here’s another delight for you – Mom and her younger sister, Maxine, at their grandmother’s farm. Mom’s the one holding the bucket, of course.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of one last road trip with Mom. Some text, some photos… Toying with titles. We’ll see.

      But first, the details, the chores, the business of it all. And a little of that blessed quiet, for remembering.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Can you post from that marvelous swing?


    1. Kit,

      You’ve got to love Buffett. He truly does have a song for every occasion. Well, and a few songs that still are looking for an occasion, but that’s ok. ;-)

      I had to grin at your choice. When Mom and Dad still were traveling together, they hated coming south through Dallas/Ft.Worth, so they’d slide down the east side of OK and TX and quite often would stay in – Paris, Texas! As a matter of fact, they got iced in there for three days one winter. And when Dad was gone and I drove Mom back and forth from Kansas City for visits, we’d stay in Paris, too.
      She didn’t come by and whisper that in your ear, by any chance?

      All things considered, I’m doing fine. Life is going to change a good bit, but I haven’t a clue what those changes will look like. I am greatly relieved that hurricane evacuations just got simpler, and I’m now free to have fish for supper every night if I choose. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

      Truth to tell, there’s something just slightly absurd about becoming an orphan at 65. There might be a story in there somewhere!

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m looking forward into getting caught up with some of my favorite bloggers, and listening to some of that good music you come up with!


  13. Oh, Linda. This is so you, so beautifully honest and evocative. I am sorry of her passing, as the end of something, but in ends are beginnings.

    A beautiful tribute, actually, story/history, this. The more so because after reading you these few years, I feel I know you and likewise, your mom a bit.

    And keep us up to date on the haunting. Honestly, you and that machine of yours.


    1. oh,

      When I moved from Salt Lake City to Texas, even a year of living in the valley, surrounded by the wonderful embrace of the mountains, was enough to leave me vertiginous on the coastal plain. For a while, there was too much space in Texas, too much sky.

      That’s a bit how I’m feeling now. Mornings are fine, because she was less a part of my morning routine. But in the evenings there’s just too much space.

      Of course, I came to learn one of the advantages of the prairie and plain – there’s a whole lot of horizon out there, beckoning. One of these days, I’ll regain my balance and start traveling again. As you say, endings mean beginnings – and who’s to predict what’s next?


  14. My deepest condolences, Linda! And my giddiest thanks for daring to be ‘disobedient.’ I love seeing the image of the woman about whom you have so often talked.

    Life will never be the same.

    1. Ginnie,

      How right you are, about life never being the same. It won’t necessarily be worse or better, but it will change. Has changed.

      For a time there will be the busy-ness of it all – sorting the tangible memories called possessions and so on. Then, there will be only the absence and the memories, and infinite gratitude for all she gave me.

      So good of you to drop by. You’ll be seeing me more in the coming days. ;-)


  15. Thoughts of you and your mother have bobbed in heart and mind since sometime Saturday morning. By Sunday, I thought, “I need to check in on Linda.” Instead, I picked up my shovel and began to outline new garden beds, in anticipation of today’s arrival of our lawn irrigation contractor. The thought never surfaced and only now am I finding my way to my laptop.

    I haven’t read your post, though I will. Your opening line was enough to bring me pause. It is my turn to offer you condolences. I wish death wasn’t part of everyday life equation — like higher math I guess — it’s too far above my understanding. For now, I take comfort in the years you shared together, the rich memories she left behind which you will discover only in time, and the many, many get-out-of-town trips. Surely the open road is calling to you to get away for a little while.

    I’ll check in later, when I can read without tears. Blessings to you, my dear friend. And to your lovely mother too, who is not above them, I think.


    1. Janell,

      I rather like the thought of you and your shovel out in the garden-to-be. There are a lot of similarities between your current process and mine – though I’ve been watering with tears and the “weeding out” is a little more complicated. (Or not – I never could figure out what was a flower and what was a weed. Thistles are so pretty, after all!)

      But as you say, in time the soil will be amended, the seeds will sprout and the blooms will appear to delight heart and eye. Memories and insight will blossom, too – of that I’m quite certain.

      And speaking of blooms – is it simple coincidence that a large, unidentified cactus I’ve had for over a decade choose this weekend to reveal two enormous, night-blooming flowers? Perhaps. But watching those flowers open in the night was remarkable – of course I’ll share them, once I’ve had time to process the photos.

      Thank you so much for coming by. And do be careful with that shovel. I’ve seen how hot it’s been in Oklahoma!


    1. Richard,

      Thanks so much for the mention! I’ve not read your post yet, but I’ll have time during the heat of the afternoon to settle in and begin catching up with folks.

      Personally, I like the positive aspects of haunting – like a haunting melody. I’ll bet you do, too.


  16. Thank you for sharing your mother — and her picture. I have a feeling she would have haunted you even if you hadn’t posted that portrait, at least in the sense that you will never forget her — not even for a day.

    1. Charles,

      Of course you’re right. The tears will subside, but the memories will not. And if my own memory should start to go – well, there will be a bit of a written record.

      Truly, the greatest blessing of the past couple of decades is that we were able to overcome the estrangements of my high school and college years and become even closer than we were when I was a child. We were granted the gift of time, and I’m immensely grateful.


  17. I read this post wondering where (without looking it up) your journey to my part of Louisiana fit into the time line of your trip with your mother to Baton Rouge.

    I’m typing through tears right now, as I am just that sort of sappy sentimentalist these days. I am grateful for you and your mother that her passing was peaceful. One day maybe you can share with me what ailed her in those last weeks, and whether or not the battery just ran out of power.

    Your writing always moves me, Linda, touches my soul and spirit without fail. Your words stir me to feel, care, believe, and live to the uttermost of what life is offering. When you return, maybe you can help me know how better to live my life and care for my husband, maintain balance, and not hold too many pity parties. I have your friend, Bug, to thank for letting me know about your mother. Rest well, my friend. We’ll catch up soon.

    1. BW,

      Our trip to Baton Rouge was almost exactly a year before I landed on the Bayou. Her birthday was March 15, and I was at your place in April, the week of the DWH explosion.

      Truth to tell, I think my dear mom just got tired. In her last year, I’d hear her say more and more often, “Oh, it’s just not worth the trouble”. Sometimes she’d decline an invitation to go out, sometimes she didn’t want to have her hair done. There were times when everything seemed “too much trouble” for her, and perhaps it was.

      And I know she became increasingly lonely over the years, as her friends and relatives disappeared one by one. By the time she got to 90, all of her good friends were gone, and she just wasn’t in much of a situation for making new ones.

      In any event, her sister came to visit this spring, and after she left there were tiny changes to notice. She began eating less and drinking less – I’d fuss and fuss, but she’d say, “Oh, I just don’t feel like it” The day after Memorial Day I came home to check on her at noon, and found her on the floor. She hadn’t exactly fallen, she’d just not had the strength to support herself.

      So – off to the ER, where they found out-of-whack electrolytes and a fever. In a day or so, that had turned into pneumonia. They fixed her up, and we decided together it was time to give up the apartment. We found a nice place, and she was discharged to their skilled nursing facility. A week later, it was back to the ER with atrial fibrillation and a high fever. Then, there was an infection, common in folks taking heavy-duty antibiotics. Into ICU, and then discharged to a long-term acute care facility, where she was when she died.

      The last few days, she drifted farther and farther away. In fact, when she said, “I’m not going to leave this place”, it wasn’t a question. It was a simple statement from a determined woman that she was going to be done with what she liked to call “all this malarky”. ;-)

      Having her gone is hard, but I can tell you – having to watch her lie in bed for months or years would have been unbearable. We were blessed, indeed.

      We will catch up – and now we can do it in person.


  18. Beautiful post, Linda — one that shows both the rich relationship you shared with your mother, and the richness of life she enjoyed — and a beautiful picture, too.

    Women’s reluctance to have their picture taken, or to share their picture, too often means that they seem to disappear from their family records as they get old. I’d like to think that your mother might take some secret pride in your decision to assert her picture, to tell her story; I hope she haunts you in all the best ways.

    All my condolences, friend. Wishing you peace.

    1. anno,

      Actually, I just was thinking yesterday that Mom’s response probably would be, “Well, Honey, if it makes you happy”. She tended to get upset or cantankerous prior to events – afterward, she could be the very model of equanimity. ;-)

      We did have a rich relationship, although the full phrase has to be “rich and complex”. There are other stories that could be told – like the one about the time she locked me out of her apartment, or the day of my first real rebellion, when I refused to go back to Rainbow Girls. But those require a little time, a bit more perspective.

      Your comment about women disappearing from the family record reminded me of one of my favorite ancestral photos – my great-grandmother, in her wheelchair (caned, with huge wheels!). You can tell from her expression that she wasn’t about to disappear until death forced the issue. Reminds me of someone else.


  19. May I offer condolences on behalf of GrannyAnne and myself.
    Call it haunting if you wish. Eventually, in my experience, it will be the happiest memories that will last the longest and I am sure you will experience the same.


    1. John,

      Thanks so much. I noticed Granny Anne’s first post about your trip this morning – I’m anxious to enjoy her writing about it. It had to be a wonderful experience.

      I know you’re right about the good memories enduring. It’s been so interesting to begin the sorting-out process in her apartment. The most “valuable” pieces often have no or very little monetary value – like the little cranberry glass dish she always served cranberry sauce in. What “must” be kept are those items that are most evocative, little things that will help to keep those memories alive.


  20. Hey…you got Snow White’s attention on that one. We’re sorry for your loss but Snow said, “that was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. It makes me smile.” And by the way…you write very well. She may be gone, but she’ll always be with you, as you remain with her.

    1. symonsez,

      Oh, I’m so glad it made Snow White smile. It makes me smile, too, as I re-read it. Sometimes I even smile through tears – you know, that old rainbow-and-rain business.

      I’ve already found myself wondering if she isn’t lurking around. A couple of things have happened…

      For one thing, I was desperate to find her diamond rings. She always was “hiding” them somewhere, and I was beginning to think I was going to have to unroll every skein of yarn in her closet to find them. How I did find them and where they were is a story in itself, but suffice it to say they were hidden in plain sight, and it took the intervention of a neighbor to find them. Not only that, an honest neighbor, who told me where they were. If I hadn’t found those, I would have been haunted, for sure!


  21. Oh, Linda, I’m so very sorry to hear about your mom. I got your phone message when I returned home from vacation (and relatively little blog visiting — my Internet was very spotty.) Not a clue of it there, but I thought I would check your blog before I call you back tonight.

    I remember this post — I remember it well, because I remember I chuckled after this wonderful telling of family history. There was this decidedly intent and personal bit of present! Not on that machine! Oh, yes, she’d be a little mad — maybe — but on the other hand, if she knows it’s because you love her so — and so do we, she might — just might — forgive you!

    Oh, to reach out and give you a big hug. Doesn’t work so well thousands of miles away, but know you are in my cyber-hug zone and in my heart.

    1. jeanie,

      I’m smiling myself this morning because I seem to have accomplished one of the things that was on my list. Mom had bird feeders, and now, of course, those birdies won’t have their daily food and water. I’ve been trying to tempt them this direction, and in fact the bluejay family finally has shown up – parents and THREE babies. No question it’s the same birds. With luck, her finches will follow.

      Now, it will be my turn to fly off and find food and water for my spirit in a different place – or places. Clearly, it was a very good decision to forego the Chicago trip. But now, it’s time to begin a new life.

      Remember the old acronym from autograph books and hand-written letter – CYK? That stood for “consider yourself kissed”. Instead, I’ll consider my hugged!


  22. Your decision to overrule a half-hearted promise and to honor, instead, this wonderful woman has led you to produce a touching tribute. I’m sorry for your loss, Linda, but happy for the life-long gifts you and your mother gave to each other. As in so much of your writing, your gentle and loving sense of humor comes through in this post. Let the haunting begin, indeed.

    1. bronxboy,

      One of the things I learned through this experience is that life can be flat funny, even when it isn’t. ;-)

      The only thing you got wrong is that phrase, “half-hearted promise”. I have relatives that read this blog, and if I’d broken the promise before Mom’s death, she would have known about it. Then I would have had to live with her knowing about it. I may be strong, but I’m not stupid!

      So on we go. As Thornton Wilder put it so well, “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love…”


  23. I’m sorry for your loss, even it was expected that she would leave soon.

    I once said to my husband that if he had a particular, popular funeral song sung on my funeral one day, I get back and haunt him. He smiled and said “of course I will play that song, dear.”

  24. Linda,

    I just clicked onto your blog and learned of this sad news. My condolence for your loss. I’m sure in a way as the nurse had said, it’s consolation and comfort to know your mother is now safe and sound at home.

    This is a moving piece of memoir, Linda. And yes, I do remember that your mother had forbidden you to post any picture of hers. But your line “Today, if I thought that were possible, I’d post a hundred photos in her honor” is so poignant. I’m sure it’s not the beginning of ‘haunting’, but of inspiration and memories to cherish from this day on.

    1. Arti,

      The word of the day is “moving” – both in the emotional sense and in the quite practical sense of emptying Mom’s apartment. It’s a strange kind of triage – what to donate, what to consign, what to keep. I do understand in an entirely new way the impulse to keep everything – the favorite soup bowl, the worn pair of shoes, the eyeglasses, the half-read book. All of those “things” seem imbued with her life – as if by touching them, I can touch her.

      Ah, well. At least I have things to “do”, which suits me very well. And tomorrow I’m going back to work, which sounds like a great relief, except for the fact that it’s still hotter than Hades down here, and unbearably humid. But still – it’s a step toward routine, and healing.

      And after all – Mom wouldn’t be pleased with me if I went all non-productive all of a sudden! ;-)


  25. Linda,

    We’re so sorry to hear that your Mom passed away. We’re so sorry for your loss. From what you’ve shared we have the impression that she was a vibrant lady who lived life to the full.

    Our relationships with those we love can sometimes be complex, but in the end it is our love for each other that make it a rich and wonderful experience. I’m sure she will be missed.

    We offer our deepest condolences to you and the family. May she rest in peace.

    Matt & Jojang

    1. Matt & Jojang,

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes. She will be missed, and remembered fondly.

      As we’ve so often said to one another, in a variety of ways, it is love that makes the difference. Mom knew she was loved, and I have no doubt that eased her passage.


  26. Ah Linda, my heart goes out to you this day. I can honestly say, I understand. You know our journeys were similar in many ways.

    Today I was finally able to visit mom’s retirement home where she lived for 18 years up to March 4 when she died peacefully at nearly 102. The sales manager told me that mom is apparently unwilling to give up her apartment. “I rented it three times, and each time they backed out,” she said. Mom is not haunting me…but apparently she’s haunting them. I can’t imagine though because she was so ready to go. Husband says it’s a control thing. :/

    May your mother speak to you in the quiet of your thoughts as mom has done for me. Find comfort in your tears. We have joined the club of women who walk the world without their moms. Keep writing to us.

    1. Martha,

      Oh, I am laughing. The thought of your mom exercising a weird sort of squatter’s rights on her retirement home apartment is just funny.

      I was so happy to find your blog, but events overtook me and I started living those experiences instead of reading about them. Soon, I’ll be reading again, and doing my own reflecting on this common journey we’re called to make.

      It does occur to me that many women – and men, too – walk this world without their mothers or dads, even though the parents still are living, breathing beings. It brings home even more sharply how lucky I was, and what a blessing a true family is. For one thing, a true family even can endure death.


  27. My sincere condolences on your loss. This post resonates with me in so many ways. My Mum is 85 and lives with me. She too dealt with the loss of her husband and being forced to sell her home. Your Mum seems to have been a feisty lady, with a strong will, a wonderful but sometimes difficult thing to live with, at times. But what memories you have from such a long time together. As for the haunting “There are no goodbyes for us.Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart……Gandhi”
    Take care of yourself.

    1. Mary,

      She was feisty, albeit a bit passive-aggressive at times. But when she determined that this or that was going to be, it usually was.

      My favorite story from this last hospitalization came from the ICU nurses, who nearly had their own coronaries the night Mom’s monitor went black. She’d decided she’d had enough. She took out all of her IVs, disconnected her monitors, grabbed her bag of Werther’s candies and headed home. ;-)

      She didn’t get any farther than I did the first time I ran away from home, but she gave it her all. When I declined to take her home myself, she was furious – what kind of daughter would disobey her mother’s wishes, after all? But in the end, all was well, and all will be well – all manner of things shall be well.


      1. The words of Julian of Norwich. I have a recording of The Notre Dame Choir singing this hymn. I love it. Thank you for this timely reminder. I needed it tonight.

    1. Nanette,

      And the same to you, friend. Your “loss” won’t be quite so complete, but loss is loss and it’s all rather unnerving.

      Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.


  28. Linda,
    It’s been a long journey for you and your mother, and I know very well how difficult some of it had to be. You’ve done everything a daughter could do. I hope that brings comfort to you.

    I’m very thankful that she didn’t suffer in the end. That’s a true gift.

    I’m glad you decided to post her picture. She was beautiful. Godspeed.

    1. Bella,

      Well, of course I didn’t do “everything” I could have done, and I know you well enough to know you understand when I say I’ve been through the whole list of missteps, omissions, unnecessarily cranky moments and so on since she died.

      It’s a natural reaction – a little guilt always mixes in with the grief – but as we’ve so often said, “You do what you can and not what you can’t.” And she certainly had her moments, too. The way I figure it, she’s probably sitting around now wishing she’d done a few things differently, herself. She certainly expressed some of those wishes while she was alive.

      I made her a deal before she died – we’ll just forgive one another and go on. I’m not sure she heard me, but I think she did. My personal opinion is that’s what helped bring such a peaceful end.


      1. It isn’t easy to switch roles with an elderly parent. I’ve seen people run away from it but others stick. You and I are stickers.

        We all have our moments, and there are bound to be clashes when strong personalities are battling to prevail. This I know from first hand experience. God knows, Dad has a strong personality. Of course, I’m perfect. As you’ve said, someone has to be the “adult in the room.”

        Still, you did the best you could do, and that’s all any of us can ask of ourselves. Forgiving each other and ourselves is the right way to go.

        1. You’re right about the difficulty of switching roles, but even that had its humorous moments.

          In her last hospital, Mom gave me “that look” at one point and said, “I want you to get me out of this joint.” I said, “You know I can’t do that. I won’t do that.”

          Her response, after a brief silence? “I suppose next you’re going to tell me I have to eat my carrots before I get dessert.” I suggested she thank her lucky stars I wasn’t handing out English peas, and we both laughed. How well we knew one another!

  29. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. You have described her as such wonderful person.

    We saw a funeral on tv once with a song that just made me grit my teeth, and I said to my husband, that if that song is played on my funeral I’ll come back and haunt him. He smiled at me and said: then I’ll play that song.

    I don’t think the photo is as much rebellion as you say, but rather a small hope for some response from the other side.

    1. Désirée,

      Wonderful story about that song – I know just how your husband felt!

      I think part of the reason I honored my mother’s request while she was alive is that I did understand it – and the reasons for it. Despite the fact that I’ll post pics of myself now, I was terrifically camera-shy for a portion of my life. I ran from the camera, not toward it. And she was shy, generally, and grew stiff in front of the camera, so this photo, absolutely casual and a true “snap-shot” captures her far better than any of her more formal photos.

      Even if there’s no response from the other side, I’m glad I did it. Such a lovely woman deserved to be memorialized.


  30. Your relationship with your mother is so lovingly described, Linda, that I feel I can understand the bond between the two of you. I’m so sorry to hear about her death, and wish you much love and nurturing from those around you.

    Also, please don’t let this be the only time you talk about your mother! I really loved hearing about her. xoxo

    1. Lily,

      Oh, my! There’s no way she could simply disappear from my writing, any more than she will disappear from my life. Like my Dad, she’ll embed herself in my memories, and she’ll be here as surely as the sun and clouds that move across the sky.

      I’ve had to smile at your wish for love and nurturing. Many aspects of this new post-death reality have been eased by extraordinarily caring strangers – and little bits of serendipity scattered about. I’m thankful for them all.


  31. Linda, I know that, however certain you are that your mother’s passing was as it should be, and that her life was full, you will be feeling that empty hole of her absence for a long time. I am thankful that you shared this piece with us, so full of your wise and loving spirit, so filled with loving gratitude. I don’t know what I believe about spiritual survival after death, but I do believe that our mortal anchoring in one-directional time can’t be the whole story of the universe.

    Treat yourself very kindly during this time, as grief is hard work. Blessings and peace to you and to your mother, wherever and however she is. And blessings to the cousins you reconnected with in recent years, as they approach the finish line of their very long lives.

    1. Mary Ellen,

      One thing I’ve learned in life is that grief becomes much more difficult when denied. “Fighting” tears can be exhausting – letting them drip down in post office or grocery with a simple explanation doesn’t offend anyone and it allows the healing process to move along more quickly.

      It’s hard to imagine that she’s been gone a week. As the old saying goes, it seems like only yesterday. On the other hand, that points directly to the elasticity of time. That uni-directional, uniform ticking we call time is only one of its aspects. There are others, which I suspect I’ll be exploring in days to come.

      Suffice it to say when it comes to experiences like this one, they’re far better measured with a kairometer than a chronometer. ;-)


    1. maggie,

      I was thinking about you yesterday, as I imagined the final trip home Mom and I will be taking. Your photography is so evocative, and so capable of capturing what some people consider an oxymoronic phrase: Midwestern magic.

      Thanks so much for your kindness in stopping by. Little by little, a new routine will be built.


  32. Mom took me to say goodbye to her mother – I was an early teenage “man child” and did not know much about what that meant then. Grandma became upset. Later Mom told me Grandma said she did not want her grandchildren to remember her in that way. The memory of a frail lady in an hospital bed has faded.

    Times were tough in the early ’50s in rural Canada so we all lived in Grandma’s house my dad built in the small town. Some of this memory is reinforced by later telling: “There is a Snort in the Wall!” I was younger than three years old since we moved to a new house Dad had built about then. According to family lore I woke crying and frightened. The “Snort” was Grandma sleeping in the next room.

    I’m not sure that she would prefer this image but as you say: Let the Haunting begin.

    1. Ken,

      There are reasons for the LOL acronym, and this is one of them. I’m truly laughing out loud – “The Snort in the Wall” is the perfect title for a children’s book! Who knows – maybe it could be a book about multi-generational families for kids who have barely a clue what it means to have parents around, let alone grandparents.

      Which reminds me – I saw a van a couple of days ago with a logo of an old-fashioned schoolhouse with a bell and a web address: One Room Schoolhouse.com. I’ve not looked yet but assume it’s a new home-schooling venture. In any event, those one room schoolhouses were as valuable for teaching life skills as multi-generational families. But I’m at serious risk of digressing, so I’ll just say I loved your story.

      My earliest memory of death (apart from an unfortunate turtle) was a trip to the funeral home for my grandfather’s “viewing”. When I went to the funeral home to tend to details after Mom’s death I had to smile. It was far brighter than those old time funeral “parlors”, with far fewer heavy draperies and a more distinctly suburban-provincial feel, but good gosh – the funeral director still had that “look”! The only thing missing was the blue suit….


  33. You just made my day, Linda!
    It is odd that we can get (and give) such a kick to someone with whom we only share a language, minor computer and typing skills and an interest in ideas. Come to think of it those items add up.

    I have a picture I want you to see so I’ll email it direct because I have yet to figure out how to put pictures on my WU blog.
    Too many memorials in my recent past – a bit of a lull lately, touch wood. Most of my friends and family do not ask for a formal funeral so we send them off with our best wishes and a story or two for the other survivors.

    May your Mom rest in peace.

    1. Ken,

      It is fun, isn’t it? One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is that there’s no guarantee where the path is going to lead. I start off in one direction, and before I know it there’s been a double-loop, a multitude of shortcuts and a several roads not taken. Never been a dead-end yet, though.

      No formal funeral for Mom, although we’ll have a graveside memorial for her in Iowa. I picked her up this morning and it appears she is resting peacefully, tucked in among her beloved African violets. I must say, I think she would enjoy that. I find it entirely comfortable. ;-)


  34. English peas? I despise those things. One of the few veggies I try to avoid eating. I’ve been picked on at work for picking out the peas in my soup!

    “The Snort In The Wall”? You’re right; that would make a great children’s book.

    I had two of ’em. Granny and Papa. We’d go up to spend the weekend at the farm and there was only one other double bed available, which went to the visiting adults. Us young’uns had to make do with the couch and pallets on the floor.

    Thing was, Granny and Papa slept in the next room, in the bedroom next to the den. If you didn’t get to sleep before they did? Oh, heaven help you.

    Living on a farm, they were up at the crack of dawn, so they didn’t last too long in the evenings. About five minutes after they went to bed….. the sawing started. Both of them, at full blast.

    My book would be “The Snorts In The Wall”!

    1. Gué,

      I was astonished to discover there are people who think mixing peas, cheddar cubes and mayonnaise equals a salad. To each her own, I suppose, but that seems pretty far down toward the “bad” end of the scale.

      I never had to deal with the Snorts in the Wall, but there were two sets of aunts and uncles who had chiming clocks in the living rooms where we kids slept. The pallets were fine, and the pillows were comfy, but those danged clocks would keep us awake – or wake us up over and over – for at least the first two nights. Since we rarely were there more than three nights, there was a little napping going on, even when we got older.

      I do enjoy that “kin to cain’t” lifestyle. I never really experienced it until going to Liberia, but there we had no real choice. When it got dark, it was dark – no lightswitch to throw there! It will be sort of interesting to see what kind of routines I settle into now.


  35. My sincere condolences Linda. You are an extra-ordinary good writer and this is post is a beautifully written, honest tribute to your Mom.
    I thank you for posting her picture. You had to.

    Not many people pass away so peacefully – “undrugged, unplugged, without pain and without struggle.” Beautiful!

    [My Mom just turned 95 on July 1st. My tears are still running down my cheeks as I write this… Thank you again.]

    1. dearrosie,

      It’s amazing to me how many of my friends and acquaintances have parents who’ve attained ninety or more years. There can be problems with advancing age, of course – especially medical. Still, one of the blessings a long life can bring is the chance to come to terms with its end before the end actually arrives.

      I began grieving my mother’s death months before it happened – not for any particular reason, but just because of a growing awareness that the end would come sooner rather than later. She always had recovered from everything – broken this and imperfect that – but one day I realized those miraculous recoveries couldn’t go on forever.

      There have been a number of little surprises over the past weeks. One of the most pleasant is this – even though both of my parents are now gone, I don’t feel orphaned at all. ;-)

      And thank you for your expressions of sympathy. I appreciate them, deeply.


        1. Oh, Rosie,

          I’m so sorry. No matter how well prepared we think we are, that final departure is a shock and a deep, deep grief.

          Know that I’m holding you in my heart, even as the tears begin to flow again – for you, and me, and for all who are grieving such a loss tonight.

          And know this – had I not had that earlier post to draw on, I might not have written anything yet. Coming back to life and words is a long, slow process – but life, and words, will come in time.



        2. Linda,
          It’s a shame we don’t live in the same city so we could really support each other through our grief.
          However we’re lucky to have met each other through our blogs and today on this the one month anniversary of your Mom’s passing I send you my love, along with courage and strength to help you carry on.

  36. What beautiful, painful therapy writing this must have been. A gentle voyage that softens the sharpness of your loss. I’m so terribly sorry – your mother lived to a fine age, but one can’t help but miss such a vital and strong lady.

    Be patient; listen – wait for a rustling in the air. Look into the night sky for a star that glows brighter than usual…signs of a haunting are everywhere. I say the haunting has started already.

    1. aubrey,

      Painful at times, but therapeutic, yes. I hit a bit of a bump the day you left this comment – it was the first evening since Mom’s death I cooked a “real” meal for myself, and sitting down alone to eat it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. But I couldn’t go on eating fruit and take-out forever, so grilled chicken it was. A little salty, but not too bad. ;-)

      How right you are to advise patience. That’s one reason I’m pressing a bit to get the business end of all this taken care of – closing the apartment, disposing of posssessions, filing paperwork. Then, there will be time to wait and listen – and look. One day I’ll post some photos of the cactus that bloomed the day of her death – after more than ten years without flowering.

      To quote someone – Flannery O’Connor? crazy Aunt Rilla? – “I doesn’t interpret. I just observes”. And what did I observe? That the color of my cactus flowers were precisely the colors in the robe Mom’s wearing above.

      Who’s to say?


  37. Dear Linda, CYH and CYK!
    So sorry to read about your mom passing. It was such a pleasure getting to know her through you… she reminded me a bit of my grandmother, who would be 97 this year. I lost her four years ago, and still miss her.

    It will be some time healing, especially in the evening when you will have to “fill the gap” in your schedule, but time does heal, as we all know.

    I am positive she knew you so well, that of course she realized that lovely photo of her would be going up for the world to see! She certainly couldn’t admit it would be okay with her!!! But I bet it is okay with her, and now mom has her excuse to be haunting you day in and day out!

    I wish you peace and comfort, and look forward to meeting you at the next bloggy convention.

    1. Kerry,

      I hardly can believe it will be two weeks tomorrow since her death. There has been so much to do – far more than I ever imagined – and I’m glad to be coming to the end of the “work”. It will be hard to turn the key in her apartment door for the last time, but “last times’ come to us all, over and over, and however trite it sounds, it’s impossible to move into the future until the past is closed as firmly as that door.

      There will be great changes, of course, and some smaller but welcome changes – now I can have fish for dinner! And next week, or the week after, the best clock-gallery in Houston will be sending one of their crew to see what needs to be done to get the Grandmother clock running again. Mom wasn’t inclined to restart it after her move to Texas, but I’m rather eager to hear the ticking and chiming again.

      It will be a good reminder that time passes, and we never know when our time will be gone. As my beloved great-Aunt Rilla liked to say, “Tempus fidgets”.


  38. Just checking in on you to see how life is going. I think of you often and wish I were nearby (like my husband, who enjoyed good seafood at a Freeport eatery last night) to invite you out for a lovely Dairy Bar lunch.

    It’s a rare day that I don’t think of my parents — often it’s one at a time and not both. Yet, in the way all of life is mystery, both have become part of me in a way that they weren’t when they were living. Is this haunting? If so, I can only confess how good it feels. To hear an echo in memory — as I did recently when Sis and I were walking the garden center aisles in triple digit heat looking for bargain treasures, many which looked an awful lot like ‘fried flowers (a new State Fair delicacy, perhaps?) — of these words:

    “I’m so thirsty I’m spittin’ cotton,”

    only to discover the words coming out of my own mouth — is to remember Mother with love and laughter — a treat I was lucky to share with Sis, who was with me when Mom said it, one hot summer day five years ago. Yet, even without Sis, Mom’s saying was a treat to savor all its own, since memories nurture feelings of intimacy born out of shared experience. Like poetry.

    Well. Enough of me for now. I just stopped by to say you’re in my thoughts and prayers, Linda. Blessings on your day and on your own memories of your life with your Mother. May they “infect” your writing in a good way.


    1. Janell,

      How kind of you to stop by for a little “neighborly visit”! At this point, I’m still preoccupied with the chores associated with this new stage of life – primarily, emptying and closing Mom’s apartment. No matter the circumstances or the form it takes, moving is a pain.

      I thought about your sister yesterday as I contemplated my own apartment. I finally have things arranged in a way that seems pleasing, but I’m sure her “eye” would have been useful.

      Of course, wanting to keep certain of Mom’s furniture is one thing. Figuring out what to do with it is another. In the end, I had some decisions of my own to make since it seems to be a rule of the universe that for every piece of furniture added, a piece must be discarded. To keep her dining set, mine had to go – and so on.

      I’ve wondered if that same dynamic doesn’t apply in other ways. Perhaps to furnish a life, it’s necessary to let go of some of the past to make room for the future. But that sort of reflection is for later. Just now, I’m becoming extraordinarily eager to move on – it felt so good to get my latest posted, about the Barometer Bush. Like so many people say about Las Vegas, the past is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. ;-)


  39. Oh Linda, I am so sorry to be late in sharing my sympathy for your mother´s passing. This is a beautiful tribute to your dear mother, thank you for telling more of her and sharing her lovely smile.

    My own maman left six years ago and not a day passes without her “haunting” me. If haunting means seeing things with her eyes, feeling like sharing my thoughts with her, writing in my journal some of my memories of her, just feeling her close… then haunting is wonderful ! I wish you the same, dear Linda.

    1. Isa,

      It never is too late for good wishes, you know. And, there’s nothing nicer than an opportunity for more reflection, once the passage of time has focused everyone’s attention on other things. That is as it should be – now, with my mother’s apartment emptied and locked, and the sorting and storing of the items I kept well underway, even my own attention is divided. Yes, there still is grief, but there is a waiting life to be lived, too. It will be filled with memories and her presence, but still – it will be my life in a new way.

      In fact, one of my first new projects will be one you will appreciate – I intend to needlepoint a cover for the container filled with her ashes before I take it up to Iowa for burial with my Dad. A lovely lady at our local shop helped me understand how to make the pattern, and I have some lovely silk threads to use. When she and I did needlepoint together years ago, it was all Persian yarns. I think Mom will enjoy the extravagance of some of these new and quite beautiful threads – threads of life, dare I say?

      Thank you so much for coming by and for your condolences. I’ll be sure and share a photo of my little project with you. It’s time to begin limbering up my fingers!


  40. I’m so sorry to have arrived here late, Linda, and I’m also very sorry that you’ve lost your mother. What a fitting tribute this is to her, though. I’m sure she’d forgive you for publishing that photo on seeing the wonderfully supportive response you’ve received here.

    All my best wishes to you,

    1. Andrew,

      As I mentioned to Isa, time makes no difference in such situations. There is no “late”. I suspect if someone passes by a year from now and leaves good wishes, it all will become as fresh as it is today, and the expression of sympathy will be as deeply appreciated.

      She could hold a grudge with the best of them, but basically was a forgiving sort – I suspect the forgiveness is there, not to mention a new appreciation for the value of “this silly machine”!

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes.


  41. Photos are powerful, but more importantly they tell a story. Your mother’s story is told and the image is fitting. It’s her story and yours and you alone wrote it. Walk tall, Linda. You’ve done the most important and most difficult thing of all: told the tale, and told it true.

    1. Tom,

      “Tell the tale, and tell it true”… Isn’t that just the heart of the matter, and what both of us keep struggling toward? Certainly that’s a good part of your gift, as with the story of the eleven-year-old and your books.

      Now that life has changed so greatly and a large, empty time-scape lies before me, the challenge will be to fill it with tales and truth rather than simple diversions. I already have the post-it note on the bottom of my monitor – “Tell the tale, and tell it true”.

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having those words as a guide for the next months.


  42. Linda, there are so many words I want to say to you. But none are forthcoming, so I’ll just say this: I applaud your strength in choosing to celebrate your mother’s life at the same time as you mourn its passing. I’m sure she’ll understand your small act of rebellion, and have nothing but a fond smile as she watches over you.

    1. Damyanti,

      As hard to believe as it is, it’s been a month today since her death. Most of the “necessities” have been dealt with now – the paperwork, closing her apartment and so on.

      Now the hard work begins. An empty apartment is one thing. An empty life is another. But my heart still is full of memories and love, and a few tears are a small price to pay for that.

      I appreciate your comment so much. I’m having a bit of a hard time getting back into the reading, writing and commenting routine, but it won’t be long before I’ll be visiting you again and enjoying your words.


    1. Jeannine,

      It was a rich relationship – rich and “complex”, as we say, just to keep things polite! There were things about me that disappointed her beyond words – my choice of varnishing, for example. And sometimes she could drive me right up the walls. In short, we were like any other mother and daughter, and we coped.

      The grief is about over now, though a tear or two will well up. Now, I’ve moved into a stage that feels rather like that funny feeling you get when you’re going up stairs and discover the last step missing. THUNK! I suspect this stage will go on for a while. ;)


  43. Linda, the picture of your mom is great! My mother hates having her picture taken and has for some time. Recently at my parent’s 60th Wedding Anniversary she actually sat for a couple of family group pictures. I was amazed and tried my best to get an honest smile as she always feels she looks like she’s gritting her teeth in photos. With a little joking around I think we got a beautiful natural smile and so I posted those pictures on my blasted machine and have lived to tell the tale!

    My mother is 82 and dad is 87 and both weathering their individual physical problems. With each episode I seem to just dread the inevitablility of missing them one day. But, that void will be filled with memories as you say! I am sure your mother looks down from heaven with a twinkle in her eye to the varnish gal who not only shines up the ships of sea but also polishes up the perspectives of her readers with her humor, wisdom and stories.

    1. Judy,

      Teeth-gritting? How about terror-inspiring? I have a couple of photos of my maternal great-grandparents that would make your blood run cold. Well, g-grandma, anyhow. I’ve been told that many of those old photos have “that look” because people were required to stay so still for the camera. I hope so. I’d hate to think those pics were a true reflection of grannie’s personality!

      I do think Mom would be pleased, and I suspect the twinkle is there – she wasn’t really a Plato the Pelican, if you get my drift. If we’re lucky, we all learn to smile in the face of life, and Mom was pretty good at it in her latter years.

      It’s wonderful you still have your folks, albeit with those “episodes” we all have to cope with. And it’s wonderful to have you stop by – little by little I’m developing a new routine, and soon I’ll be stopping by your place, too!


  44. Linda,

    Richard of One More Good Adventure (only recently discovered) directed me to The Task at Hand via link to Let the Haunting Begin. It is a pleasure to read eloquently crafted english filled with love, compassion, humour and an understanding of life. I look forward to the hours of reading your past and future blogs.

    I share your tears; from experience they never cease completely, but with time the loss is manageable. My mom often said that to be born is fatal. However, we can’t help but mourn the loss of loved ones.
    A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs was similarly moving, especially having recently read his biography.

    (ref Janell’s comment 11 July): A weed is just a plant out of place.

    1. Rick,

      How nice of you to stop by, and how kind of you to comment. I’ve enjoyed Richard’s blog for some time, so it’s especially fun to know you found me through him.

      It’s quite interesting for me to come back to this nearly six months after Mom’s death, and a few months since the last comment. The rather gloomy predictions offered by some that a debilitating grieving process would go on and on…and on… have proven not to be true. I suspect the primary reason is that there was plenty of grieving before Mom’s death, not to mention the fact that she and I talked often in the year prior to her final illness about her readiness to let go of life.

      So on we go. It’s a new year, and we have a few miles to go before we sleep. I’ll enjoy having you stopping by to enjoy my words.


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