beyond my understanding

Mom was my best friend.  But I wonder if I was hers.

Between what was (I assume) a combination of denial and fatigue and a desire to protect her only child, she didn’t share very openly with me during her last year of life. I remember her disclosing quite a bit after she was diagnosed, but sometime during the following months, things changed.  She liked to focus on the present moment. 

She talked about the weather. 

She talked about what to eat for supper.

She talked about which outfit Grandma should choose for the following day. 

She didn’t talk about her death. 

 All of this sounds really beautiful and wise, except when you are the daughter on the recieving end, left scratching your head after your mother’s departure, wondering what was going on with her.  I suppose most of it is fear.  I have fear that she was lonely, that she was suffering, that she had pain.  And I wish I could have said the right thing, or not said the right thing, and she would have confided in me.  And maybe felt a little bit better. If nothing else, I would have felt better. I think.

As a nurse, near-strangers have shared with me during their final days details of their deepest fears and their greatest joys.  Its disconcerting that my mother didn’t do so, even though some more mature part of my brain says “it was her right to do what she wanted to do, face what she wanted to face, and say what she wanted to say, so forget about it, Kate!”  I wish she could have helped me understand her experience.  What she felt.  What she saw. What she regretted. As if that somehow would help me comprehend the incomprehensible– my mother dying of cancer at age 58.

I hope it was a peaceful transition for her. I hope she didn’t have much pain. I hope most of all she knew how much she was loved.


retrieved from


Today my running route took me through the olive grove where I recieved the call that my mother had lymphoma.  I sat down on the very bench that held me 20 months ago.  I asked for a sign.

       Just show me you are with me, Mom.

I sat quietly for a moment, and then the sunlight cut through the trees.  Even though it is only February, the sun felt unusually hot on my skin. It warmed me deeply, it enveloped me.

       Okay, I’ll take it. Thanks.

There is much beyond my understanding. My pain today could not have been lessened if she had opened up more during those last months, and dissecting every aspect of her death doesn’t alleviate the loss. There is no way to analyze my way out of grief, even though I do try diligently.  Going forward, I will attempt to focus more on what was, rather than what could have been.  Because what was–an awesome, dynamic and genuinely loving relationship between a mother and a daughter– was so special.  Is so special.

4 thoughts on “beyond my understanding

  1. kellig

    thanks for visiting my blog. this is not what i was expecting. i have been writing about getting back into dating lately, so much of my blog traffic has been centered around that.
    however… as you read, today is the one year anniversary of my moms death, at 74, of cancer. every persons grief is their own, and I do not presume to know yours. but i recognize some of the things you are feeling. =)
    that last year has been strange, confusing, sad, uplifting, freeing and all kinds of other adjectives. I think about my mom every day. I try and extend my time with her, spiritually at least, by living a life that she wanted for me. rich, rewarding, full of love and friendship. moving forward is good.
    we were so lucky to have such great relationships with our moms.

  2. Susan B

    Time spent with a dying loved one is bitter sweet. We are already grieving the lost lifetime of meaningful moments and conversations we were supposed to have together. What comforts are the subtle and gentle memories and knowing that the relationship simply was and is one of the greatest love stories of my life.
    You wrote a beautiful and sensitive post that made a lot of sense. Thank you.


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