This is Where my Mother Died

I had to be in Mayes County today, and it was my first time back in Pryor since mom died.


I came here to cry, and say goodbye, and let go of the shock and heaviness I have been carrying.

I didn’t want to come, but was nearby, and driving here was the hard part anyway.

It was daytime now, not perpetually late evening sinking into midnight.

It is warm now, cooling off into autumn, instead of a cold January day with afternoon drizzle that turned into hail that turned into ice.

I am alone, instead of surrounded by my youngest nieces sleeping under chairs in corners of the waiting room while the older siblings take turns holding them and weeping.

It is quiet now, instead of the chaos of trying to save her, the doctors rushing around, or policemen standing guard over her body.

Her trauma is ending, and my trauma is fading.

Yesterday my brother and I received a 60 page report in the mail, the final details released by the hospital.

Three timelines punched me in the gut: the timeline of the doctor’s notes, the timeline of her EKG, where we could watch her heart struggling against shattered ribs and then finally stop, and the timeline of the ambulance workers at the scene. This story was the same as they told us when we met with them in January, except far more graphic and difficult to bear.

The filler pages in between were labs and blood transfusions and labs labs labs.

And then it is done.

The sixty pages suddenly stop, as if there is no more story to tell.

It doesn’t say how I kissed her forehead and smoothed her hair.

It doesn’t say how soft her hands were.

It doesn’t say that she asked for me before dying, or how I cried out that I loved her, over and over again until they pulled me away from her.

It doesn’t quote the sassy through-the-veil showdown she had with Nathan while my brother and I wept at the shocking news of her passing.

It doesn’t list Nathan’s parents arrival, or how my Bishop and his wife came.

It doesn’t describe how we surrounded her with goodbyes and hugs and kisses and whispered prayers of love.

It doesn’t say how the medical examiner made us leave her or how he took her away before we knew it, even though there were no more goodbyes to say.

It doesn’t say how we gathered in the room across the hall to give and receive blessings, or how we relied on those blessings in the days and weeks and months that followed.

It doesn’t even say that she died of a car accident instead of cancer.

It only says what was broken.

It only says that everything was shattered.

It only says there was nothing left of her.

I could have told them that.

I could have told them how she used herself up being a single mother through really hard years.

I could have told them how our bad choices broke her.

I could have told them how her waiting her whole life to be loved well shattered her.

They only saw what was wrong.

They only listed all the things that were broken.

They only said her heart stopped.

They didn’t say that it was healing.

They didn’t say that we were healing.

They didn’t say that we had come so far, and grown so much, and made such progress that we were happy now, in our golden girls years that made us wiser and happier.

They didn’t say how shattering her body was like cracking an egg full of butterflies, letting her spirit fly free from the pains and illness that haunted her far too long.

They only said her heart fought like a soldier, because she was a mom who endured much, and that she tried to come back for us.

I see it on the EKG, like an I-Love-You in morse code, her trying hard to fight to be here with us.

But then it says expired, like milk.

It doesn’t say released, like a calling.

It doesn’t say how my mother and I had made our peace and found ourselves and forged our grown-up friendship.

It doesn’t say how my brother could hold the big picture now, or what fun they had together all day long before the accident.

It says her heart stopped in a pile of broken bones, with all her blood spilt.

It doesn’t say that she used up every ounce on us, or that she spent her life giving up everything so we could do anything.

It doesn’t say that she was released because her work on earth was finished.

It says she expired, like milk, and that we are to be notified.

It doesn’t say she was released because she had fulfilled her calling in raising us well.

It doesn’t say that after all her body had endured all these years, that now she was released because my brother and I were ok.

It says to notify us.

We are to be notified, baby brother.

We are to be notified, now, that everything is going to be okay.

Everything is going to be okay, because Mama said so.

And what mama says goes.

And so now mama goes.

And so now mama is gone.

Except she is not.

What before was her deep longing to participate, to love and be loved, to celebrate all things grandkids, is now fulfilled far more easily than ever before, because she is free.

The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.

It did not feel like happiness, at first, for mom to be ripped from mortality so suddenly.

Except it made sense: she always knew she would never be 65 (she died right before her birthday, and always said she would never be 65 because she would never be old enough for Medicare), she had just finished the perfect day with my brother’s family, and she was working so hard to give me and Nathan our newlywed space.

I missed her already, before she died.

She had just moved out, and was trying to leave us alone, and we both grieved the transition.

I don’t know how I would have survived this year, if mom and I had not already said our goodbyes before I got married.

She knew I was happy, behaving myself, and thriving. Finally.

She had done her job.

She was released.

I needed to come here, to this place, to this hospital, today, to say goodbye.

Not really to say goodbye to her, but to say goodbye to the shock and shadows of grief, to let it be, to move forward with faith in the Savior who empowers the eternities.

My mother is more present than ever, if anyone wants to know.

And sassy as always.

But making progress in peace, and in joy, for which I am so grateful because no one deserves it more.

She is preparing, and I am learning, and together we make peace possible for each other.

I think of her everyday.

I talk to her everyday.

Some days, like when the report from the hospital came, I still scream out her name (which is “Mama”), still cry when I am alone, and still gasp when I find something of hers or see her picture.

But I am breathing.

Grief is getting lighter.

Soon it will be my wedding anniversary, and I cannot believe all that has happened in the last year.

She was there.

I will have my first thanksgiving without her, and my first Christmas without her.

I have become the matriarch, without warning, and without children that are my own. I am a matriarch with now one to matri.

I breathe prayers of promises, cry gratitude tears for dreams and visions, and do my best to make choices that “honor my father and mother”, who were goodly parents, and with whom I will be reunited by the power of the atonement

We are almost to the temple, and we are getting closer, all of us.

We are being gathered.

I came here not to say goodbye to my mother, but goodbye to the hospital where she let go of mortality, where her pain expired because it no longer had power over her, where she herself was released.

I have come to let go of this place, of these memories, because I look to the temple now, and the time is coming.

I look to the temple, because that is eternity.

I look to the temple, because that is where I see her, where our friendship continues.

I look to the temple, because that is where peace is found.

Posted in Family permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


This is Where my Mother Died — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Emily,

    I was looking for Young Womanhood Recognition ideas and somehow came across your blog. I loved your writing so much that I clicked on your homepage and found this blog about your mother’s death. I am so sorry for your loss. My mother was “released from her calling” six years ago in a car accident as well. She also knew that she would die young and was a single parent for many, many years. Thank you for putting into words the feelings I have also felt myself. You write so well! I’m so grateful that we know that this life is not the end and families are eternal! My prayers are with you.

    Much love,