My mother died last week shortly after Mother’s Day. Her death was sudden but peaceful; as hoped, in her own home while her family was sleeping.
We knew she was in decline, but few knew the end was so near.
She had been battling COPD for several years, the price for decades of heavy smoking. An intelligent woman, Mom was well aware of the dangers of tobacco, but she was a product of her times.
Like other women who came of age after World War II, smoking was an integral part of her lifestyle, even in pregnancy. She did not manage to overcome the nicotine addiction until she had retired, when she had time to invest in a stop smoking program with skilled medical support and counseling resources. Multiple earlier attempts to stop smoking had failed.
The Wisdom of Carpe Diem
Mom had 7 children, half of whom live not far from her home. The rest of us spend hundreds of dollars and fly for hours whenever we “go home,” so we don’t see our parents or extended family as often we’d like.
Sadly, as a “non-local,” I was not there on Mother’s Day — but could have been. I had already flown from Seattle to Boston to visit my parents, and deal with maintenance issues at a second home 120 miles away. I had intended to give Mom this card in person, rather than mail it as per usual, but she died before I could do so. Mom had hoped to see me later that week, when she’d regained her energy after a large family party with her local children and grandchildren.
Now this card has become a symbol of the unintended but painful consequences of moving away from home.
My husband was quite sick over Mother’s Day weekend; I opted to stay and care for him rather than drive 120 miles to see Mom, believing I’d see her a few days later. Given 20–20 hindsight, I would have made a different choice. Instead I chose to care for my husband, assuming I’d see my folks a few days later. Who would have guessed that Mom would die Tuesday night (even her doctor was surprised).
There’s a lesson here: if you have a loved one who’s fighting a terminal disease, call or visit them while you still can, even when it’s not convenient. Find ways to work around calendar issues or conflicting priorities. There are no emails or phone calls in Heaven…
Family is precious, and your time together is finite. Enjoy family and friends while you can.
As I learned the hard way, decisions that seem rationally correct can prove to be emotionally wrong. Seize the moment — carpe diem.