Posted by: CeCe | February 8, 2012

My final gift to my mother

I generally don’t write about things that are too personal on here, but I am going to write about something that is deeply personal to me now.

This June will mark three years since I lost my mother.  I don’t know how to describe her to people who never had the chance to meet her, but she was incredibly sweet, corny, courageous, classy, incredibly dignified, caring, and strong.  She faced so much grief in her life, including losing an uncle when she was 7, a brother when she was 14 and he was 19, losing her parents within less than two years of each other, and losing her husband (my father) after nearly 34 years of marriage.  She had a miscarriage between my eldest brother and my sister, and was honest enough to tell me about the years she and my dad spent thinking that they would never hear the pitter-patter of little feet in their house.  They struggled to make ends meet, and often all but starved.

My mom was 42 when she had me, and even though my dad was already dying by that point, they both tried their best to make sure that things were as normal as possible.  Of course I knew that Dad was sick, but I didn’t know how sick; the worst was kept from me until the end.  I was 10 when my dad died.  That meant that I had a special relationship with my mom from that point, because I was the only child who was regularly home.  But that’s not what I want to communicate.  Yes, my relationship with my mom was special, but that’s because my mom was special!

She gave me so many gifts.  I’m not talking about gifts with monetary value, although there were some of those too, like the Christmas she bought me my first CD player, which was literally the only thing I wanted.  In this case, however, I’m talking about the priceless gifts she gave to me.  She gave me her quiet wisdom.  She gave me her experiences and allowed me to learn from them.  She gave me her compassion.  For an example of this, when one of my best friends was killed in a car accident, I came home and told my mom the news, and she just hugged me tight and cried with me.  For another example, when she was diagnosed with cancer and it was looking like she wasn’t going to make it, her concern was for us kids, not for herself.  She gave me her optimism.  Very few things could actually drag my mom down, and because of that, I’ve faced most of the events in my life with the same optimism, the same “could-be-worse” type perspective.  For 28 years of my life, my mom gave to me, unselfishly, with absolutely no expectations of anything in return.  She never even expected or demanded that I love her– but I did.  Oh I did.

It was for these reasons and so many more that when we knew that the cancer was going to take her from us, I didn’t think twice about taking on the privilege of caring for her in her home.  It was the longest two weeks of my life.  It sounds so small now, especially when there are greater men and women than me, who have taken on the care of loved ones or even strangers for months or years.  But this was my chance to show my mom how much I really loved her, to attempt to pay her back in some way for everything she gave me.

So I took care of her, for about 17-18 hours a day (I had help from hospice and from other family members for about 1-2 hours, and slept for about four hours a night).  I sat and watched TV with her.  I helped clean her up when she needed it between visits from hospice nurses.  I brought her her make-up, her comb and face-wash when she was expecting company.  I washed her sheets.  I gave her her medication, measuring each precisely and making sure I stuck to the schedule.  I cooked for her.  And even though I was completely worn out within just a few days, I tried to never let my mom see how tired I was.  When she woke me up at two in the morning because she was in pain and needed something for it, even if I had just gotten to sleep, I went in to her and made sure she was okay before I went back to bed.  And I was usually up less than four hours later to get her first morning pills and some coffee started.

I couldn’t take her pain away.  I couldn’t cure her.  But in those days that turned out to be two of the three last weeks of her life, I poured as much of my love for her into everything I did.  And that was my final gift to her.  Was it enough?  Most of the time I don’t think so.  I often wonder if I could have done more.  If I could have been sweeter.   If I could have been more patient.  If I could have and should have spent more time with her.  I carry that guilt, right along with the feeling that I gave all I could.

I wish I could have had the chance to truly pay her back for everything she gave me, or even half, but the truth is, I don’t think I could have even if I were given a thousand years.   But that was my final gift to her, such as it was.   It wasn’t half as amazing as all that she gave me, but in the end, it was all I could offer.



  1. Thank you for sharing this experience. I think that your mother would tell you that you’re being silly – you’re only human but she expected nothing from you. She was merely thankful for the time you had together in the last moments, and that she appreciated all the care you offered her. ❤

    • I hope so, Kelly, she was amazing!

  2. Thank you for shareing,that was so touching. She knows.

    • Thank you Jennay, I hope she knows. 🙂

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