Sometime in the late hours of July 20, 1998, my mother, then aged 59, went to bed. Riddled with cancer, she had been given mere months to live. She had called her siblings and their father and me and confirmed her weekly chemotherapy appointment.
My mention of recommended hospice care rendered her belligerent. She brooked no discussion of end of life arrangements, flatly claiming she wasn't dying. This ostrich-in-the-sand approach left me exhausted and was an indication of the depth of her fear, I knew. Our weekly phone calls had became exercises in dodge and dive. She dodged every question put to her, forcing me to simply dive into the small cadre of friends who accompanied her to appointments for information and to remind her yet again to give her doctors a letter giving me permission to speak with them.
The letter appeared a mere three days prior to her falling into a peaceful sleep and slipping away. She was found by the friend who was to drive with her to the chemo appointment. Living in another city, news of her death reached me on the evening of July 21, a rainy night as I returned home from work. The sheriff and coroner had counted medications, determining that there was no obvious evidence of overdose. With the doctor's signature and a finding of death by natural causes, I saw no reason to ask for an autopsy, focusing instead on her end-of-life desires which were part of her Will.
I was two weeks from my thirty-ninth birthday and left to sort our tangled, sometimes turbulent history amid goodbye...
As I reflect on her life this night, I am reminded of both her much darker side and instances from my earliest childhood when I would sometimes catch her dancing to the popular songs of the time in our apartment or the small house we occupied prior to her second marriage or our singing together to the car radio on the way to school for the three years I attended the school at which she taught. I can't hear any sixties music without calling her to mind. My love of books and reading, my cats and other animals, the beach and a varied palate, all stem from her influence.
We, however, were otherwise so dissimilar that it rankled her. An introvert and bullied as a kid, I sought the quiet refuge of my room when not at school, and often found myself on the end of demands to make more friends, wear this not that, do this not that, because don't you know you are a reflection of me? and myriad other things which only worsened with time.
Beyond this was a woman with expectations and a strong need for control who frequently lost patience and her temper, taking her anger out on me, often to the point that my stepfather, whom no-one would ever describe as a softy as a seasoned military officer, had to intervene...
Dying at home and gently in her bed was a mercy few with widespread cancer are granted. I hope she was finally at peace.
On this date every year a small candle burns, and I reflect on our