A week ago at about this time, I got the call that my mother had died.
It was a shock.
Mom was human, so I knew she’d die at some point. We all do. (Well, except for Enoch.) And on March 28, Mom was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” So I knew that, barring a miraculous act from God, her death was sooner than we’d foreseen.
But it was still a shock.
There’s a lot to be thankful for:
- Mom died peacefully, in her own bed, falling asleep–no struggling or pain.
- My brother-in-law, an RN, was with her at the time–no “should I have done more” second guessing for the non-medical people in the family (like my sister and me).
- She’d had a day full of conversations the day before. I wonder if she’d decided it was a day of goodbyes.
- She’d even gotten to say an extra special goodbye to my dad before he went to work. She knew. And it was ok.
I’m so glad she won’t have to suffer the worst of ALS. She died while she still had some control of her muscles and her movement. And I’m so glad my family’s made the choices it has–self employment, distance learning, and home school– to be able to drop everything and drive down to be with family the moment we heard.
It still stinks. And people familiar with this side of grief tell me that it’s going to get worse after the service tomorrow. (I’ve counseled people through death, but this side is really different.)
Mostly humbling gratitude
What a week. Time is all wonky. I sit down to do something and all of a sudden two hours has gone but I have little to show for it. I feel like I’m not getting much accomplished but I’m exhausted by 6 p.m.
But I have to say, I’m mostly grateful. Mom is in a far better place. The last time I got to talk to her, she told me that she’d lived with so many fears, but now Jesus had taken those fears away. And I’m grateful that she wouldn’t put up with any of us feeling sad for the rest of our life or beating ourselves up for the things we didn’t say!
I’m grateful for a family that works well together. My wife and kids are a tremendous team. My sister and her husband have been a constant presence for Dad. My dad is pretty remarkable in his own right. Mom’s brother and sister-in-law are amazing (always have been). All the people our family’s adopted or interacted with are surrounding us. Even more, the Body of Christ, the followers of Jesus that were praying for her and my family are all around. (Our church in Waterville has been amazing even though we’re not physically there right now!)
And the widest circle of all, the people that don’t share my faith tradition or relationship with Jesus but care enough to express their support and gratitude.
In the midst of the sadness, it’s humbling for this kid from Maine.
How can we help?
For all who’ve asked “How can we help?” — we Pitmans are stubborn-as-mules do-it-myself Yankees. We have generations of practice not asking for help. We stink at it. So honestly, we don’t know. Prayer is always welcome. It’s doing more than you know.
But I know that doing something tangible (not that prayer isn’t), is comforting too. My friends over on Facebook are building a list of things. The constant refrain? Our families will need the help for months to come. (And apparently the most help involves food. I’m good with that!)
If you’d like, you can make a donation to your favorite charity. We give addresses for The ALS Association Northern New England Chapter, The ALS Center at Dartmouth, and Pathway Vineyard Church in Mom’s obituary.
I guess I’ll say, please don’t let our ignorance in knowing what we need stop you from trying. But please honor us, especially dad, if we say, “Thank you but please stop”!
Also, we’d be honored if those of you who knew Mom would share a picture of mom or story or memory about her, even just a couple lines over at http://facebook.com/KathyStories. And if you’re unable to come to the service tomorrow at 1 p.m., we’re going to attempt to stream it over at http://marcpitman.com/kathycelebration.
Most importantly, please keep lifting Dad up in prayer. I can’t imagine losing your best friend of over 45 years.
What have you found helpful?
It’s only been a week, and though we were preparing for Mom’s death, I don’t think we were quite ready. Not sure if you ever are.
What have you found helpful in dealing with grief? And for getting through those moments when it catches you unaware?