My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern
In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois. I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends. Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.
We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year. When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival. Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.
Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood. On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy. My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.
In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents. Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.
So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents. I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.
My excitement soon turned to worry. When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain. She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon. I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest. All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.
The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking. On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come. Something was wrong – much more than routine.
Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it. The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision. Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace? A tough decision.
A few days later Mom was gone.
Gone – before I got to write down those stories.
Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.
It has now been thirteen years since Mom left. As I age myself I begin to understand her more. I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me. Often I see that my comments are not welcome. I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering. All the things I once thought about my mother. Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.
Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”
Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”