Time. One of the biggest regrets around the death of a loved one is lack of time. We don’t feel like we had enough time to say goodbye. We don’t feel like they had enough time on this earth, enough time to do the things they wanted to do.
In a few days, my mother, for almost the first time in her 58 years, will take control over her life. She will come home, cease dialysis treatments, and spend time with her family. She will choose to die. She will bravely choose to end her suffering and save some of her dignity.
With this particular death, we have time. I truly believe this is a gift from God. Only He knows the true depth of the issues my mother and I have, both individually and in our parent/child relationship. He knows the reasons I couldn’t live with her. He knows how well she nurtured me as a small child, though I can’t remember. He knows the reasons she couldn’t fight for her children. He knows the anger I had towards her that permeated most of my younger years. The anger that hasn’t quite been resolved even as I write this. He knows what caused her to stay in bad relationships, and to always be so kind to those who hurt her so badly. He knows why she spent 15 years choosing an abusive man over her children, and how much damage it caused us.
And God, because He loves us, gave us time. A limited, planned out, on-purpose amount of time. Time for one daughter to get here from Minnesota. Time to make sure that my last words to her aren’t spoken in anger or resentment. Time for her to tell us how sorry she is. Time for her to make sure we know that babies need sun bonnets when they go outside. To always use Ivory Snow, never Dreft. Time for one last story of “the day that you were born was the happiest day of my life.” Time to care for her, nurture her in her last days. We have time to make sure that her death does not add to the issues that have always been between us. He has given me time to research ALL the children’s books on death so I can help my step-children process her passing. He has given me time so I can try to figure out what in the world I am going to tell my 22 year old disabled kiddo about why the woman who always sings her silly songs and never gets annoyed with her is no longer here.
I write this now, at 35 years old, after having cared for my mother intermittently since 2008. We cared for her through a kidney transplant, and its subsequent failing. I am her care partner for at- home dialsys, and my sisters and I have been by her side through more hospitalizations than I can count. She has lived with me for the past year. For the last 4 months, she has been bed-ridden and in excrutiating pain. But I did not have a relationship with her in high school. I did not visit with her after I moved to my dads, unless I couldn’t avoid it. For almost a full year before before she moved in with me this last time, I did not speak to her, and I would not allow her to see my girl. Had her diagnosis come at an earlier time in her life, I likely would not have cared. I might not have shed a tear. I might not have gone to say goodbye.
Maternal mental health matters. It affects us and our children for the rest of our lives, and can even affect our death.
My mom and I, we have time. I will not waste it, and I will choose to find joy in it.
May is Maternal Mental Health Month. To help us end the stigma attached with maternal mental health complications, all month we will be featuring stories pertaining to MMH. If you or someone you know is in need of additional support, see our resources page If you have a story you would like to share, please contact us at [email protected]