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i didn’t get to say goodbye to my mom December 19, 2013

Posted by guinever in death.
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Not too long ago, my dad and I sat in the tiny hospital room facing my mother. Behind me, the discharge plans were written on the dry-erase board; we were waiting for a room at a local rehab center. My mom was being treated for pneumonia and she had been hospitalized for eight days. She was looking forward to going to a step-down facility so she could get moving and go home soon.  

Two doctors had visited earlier in the day, and both had said she was breathing better. One of them said he’d be back in the morning and they’d draw labs again–there were a couple numbers that didn’t look that great.

The physical therapist came after lunch. It was time for some leg lifts. With great exertion, my mom lifted her legs one at a time. I sat across from her, lifting my own to match her rhythm and counted the lifts. It was time to stand up from the chair and lie down on the bed so she could extend her legs; she had been sitting for so long.

That was it. She stood with the aid of a walker. She turned and backed up a couple steps. She sat on the bed. She went stiff and collapsed.

As the therapist guided her body so she’d stay on the bed, I went to the other side and leaned over my mother to press the call button. If I had looked at her face just then, I would have known she was gone and maybe the next 20 minutes would have been different.

But I didn’t look at her face. I just reacted. I ran into the hall; I knew this was a situation beyond the physical therapist, and we needed help.  (She thanked me later, by the way, for my quick response.) Soon, there was a  crash cart in the hallway and medical personnel filled my mom’s half of the small curtained-off room. They were working on her. I was not with my dad when the doctor asked him if he wanted them to continue the resuscitation. I was coming and going, in and out of the waiting room. Pacing. Breathing. Praying. Inhaling essential oil. Calling my husband.

I asked if I could see her. A nurse let me in. I looked at my mother’s face, her open eyes, and saw emptiness. Death.  I had stared death in the face before and this was it: life and soul and breath are no longer. Only a body is left, the person is gone.

I shouted, “Give Abby a kiss for me.” And then I left the room.  Yes, I shouted. Not that she could hear me if I shouted. But the room was so loud, loud with beeping machines and men giving orders. So I shouted.

I didn’t believe it. I went in the hallway and told my dad that on my drive the day before to visit them, I had imagined her dying peacefully, but this wasn’t how I had imagined it. This wasn’t peaceful. His response was that it was peaceful for her; it just wasn’t peaceful for us. I realized he was right and expressed my agreement.

Also, I didn’t believe she was gone yet because I thought I’d get to say goodbye. No one had told us she was going to die.  The doctor said he’d see her tomorrow. I just thought that sometime in the years to come, we would know her time would be short, and all the family would be there, singing and reading psalms and then we’d all say goodbye and have sweet words and then with a great Hallelujah, she’d enter heaven. Others have recounted stories like this. Why would ours be any different?

I didn’t get to say goodbye. No one did.

When my dad told me that the doctor had called it, that she was gone, peace flooded me. Might seem weird. But I knew her earthly struggles were over and she had been released from the pains of this earth. This peace continued for a couple weeks until I went back home and crashed. I stayed in bed for a few days and read Pride and Prejudice, only getting up to fix meals for my family and to start another load of laundry.

I thought of all the things that my mom was going to miss–the important events in my children’s lives: Alex’s graduation followed by that of his 3 siblings. Mary dancing the lead in a ballet someday. Soccer games. Debates. Weddings. Births of  her great-grandchildren. Holidays.

But most of all, she is going to miss our every days.

And I thought of my dad. alone. He didn’t get to say goodbye either.

I miss you mom. I know I’d miss you even if I did get to say goodbye…



1. Laura - December 19, 2013

Love you, G. ❤


ballet you say - December 19, 2013

Thanks! You’re a good friend.


2. Cindy F - December 19, 2013

I did not get to say good-bye to my dad or my brother. I understand your feelings completely. I sometimes feel regret that I didn’t do this or that or didn’t say things I should have said. It can be hard.


3. dan herrick - December 20, 2013


I have no regrets about not ‘getting to say “Good-bye”‘. I said “I love you” many times during those days. I’m the one who called for the full code blue response. Since then I have often thought about what a terrible thing it would have been if the Lord had let the team resuscitate her. Her life was a very heavy load of physical pain for many years, and it was really bad the last few weeks. She had reduced physical activity to as little as possible (she drove to the store, but sent me in alone, for example). When I told them to do the code blue I was telling them to bring her back so she could do more of that. The Lord is gracious that he did not send her back to us.

You list a bunch of things ahead that my Donna will not be a part of. Unless the Lord had completely reversed the path Donna’s health had been travelling, she really would have missed those events anyway. The last time or two we visited you in Lexington, she drove us down there and I did whatever it was that was going on and she stayed at your house.

Remember that the Lord gave her the energy and the stamina and a low enough pain level that she was able to drive us to Skaneateles and back and was able to actively participate in the reunion party and enjoy herself with her brother and sisters and nieces and nephews and cousins. Her work here was not done until after tenth August, but then the Lord took her to her reward.

And now, she is playing games with Abigail Helene and she doesn’t hurt while she is doing it. And she is the only ancestor Abby knew in this life who is there to play with her where she is.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away and sometimes the taking leaves a really big hole behind but the Lord is gracious and good in His giving and in His taking. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I love you, Guinever.

Thank-you for being there with me that day.

your dad


4. Gloria - March 19, 2014

Dear Guinever,
Your facebook post led me to your poem, and then to this page about your mom. As the tears flow, the words posted from you and your dad have been a source of both grieving and healing. I am so very sorry that the memory of Abby’s death will always be with you, but I can only imagine the strength and help you have been to others as you have posted this blog and walked this path in God’s strength and by His amazing grace. May you continue to find your strength in Him as you raise the beautiful children with which He has gifted you, and never forget the time you did have with that precious little girl who is walking the streets of gold with your mom.
with much love, Gloria


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