The Other I

September 7, 2007

Mom’s last six weeks

Filed under: Life as a Nun — theotheri @ 10:00 am

Although I didn’t know she had been told that she had about six weeks to live, my mother knew.   I now look back at the selfless, undramatic courage she showed during those last remarkable weeks with amazed admiration.  At the time, though, I took it for granted.

She did not look for pity or attention or stage dramatic scenes.  She had six weeks to finish a job that needed years.  Her oldest son was just twenty, her youngest daughter seven.  She spoke to each of us individually – what we should do, how we should carry on, and that she would be there looking down from above.  With the older ones she told us openly that she was dying, and we talked about it freely.  Mom was dying.

This openness has had a profound effect on our family.  We talk about dying far more often than most families, and when my Dad, and my younger sister Mary learned they were dying, we all knew.  We never pretended that everything was really all right, that the medical treatments were working, that somehow we were immune from death.

Mom and Dad came to visit me at Maryknoll, and I was given special permission to have dinner with them in the guest dining room.  We spent two days together.  She told me about the challenges she thought each of us would face as we grew into adulthood, our strengths and vulnerabilities.  Her message to me was that she and Dad did not want me to leave Maryknoll after she died.  I had a vocation and I was not to return home to take care of my younger brothers and sisters.  I did not argue, thinking she probably had several years to live, and although she was dying, it was still sufficiently distant to disregard.

 Two days later she was dead.

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