When a Parent Dies

Saturday night, my Mom passed away.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Me, my sister, and Mom at her 50th anniversary party.

Hospice had told us that Mom would probably die three to seven days after we started morphine treatments. On day six, Mom began pausing between breaths and our caregiver told me that my mother had a weak pulse.

After almost a week of agonizing waiting, the time had arrived.

I told my Dad and brother who were in the house that Mom’s end was near and asked my oldest son to call both my sisters to tell them that they should come over to say their last good-byes. My father came into the room briefly and said a few words and left in tears. My brother and I held our mother and told her not to worry and promised that we would all take care of each other. We both told her how much she meant to us and what a wonderful mother she had been.

I kissed her face and told her that she was a faithful servant of God and would be safe under his care and that I looked forward to seeing her again when she would not be in pain or sick anymore.

My youngest son and his wife came in to say their good-bye. I went outside to see how my father was doing and talk to the caregiver who was giving us our privacy. When I returned to Mom’s bedroom, the pauses between my her breaths were much longer. And then she took her last breath.

That moment will be forever in my memory. Although I am glad that Mom died peacefully at home with family by her side, I am still haunted by it.

Range of Emotions

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

Mom in the middle with her family on a trip to Australia.

My sisters both arrived and we all sat in the room crying together. When the hospice nurse came to care for her body, we went outside on the patio. We looked at the stars, and talked about some of our memories of Mom. Surprisingly, we were even able to laugh about some of humorous moments we had with her. However, when the mortuary came to take my mother away, we all burst into tears again.

It’s now been five days since I lost my mother and my best friend. The tears come and go.

As everyone knows, a wide variety of emotions are involved in the grieving process. The standard advice is to allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel during this time.  In my case, anger is not part of the equation. However, there is a bit of guilt. I had been a caregiver for my Mom, who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, for a few years. There is some remorse that I couldn’t be more patient at times. On the other hand, I also know that as an imperfect human being I did the best I could under the stressful circumstances. There is also some guilt over the fact that on some level I am relieved that my caregiving days have come to an end – it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – and I will now have my freedom again. At the same time, I feel a little lost. Once again, I am older and wiser and know this is a natural way to feel. I can forgive myself.

I am grateful that I was able to keep my promise to Mom that I would never put her into a nursing home – one of her biggest fears. There is also tremendous relief that my Mom’s pain and suffering is finally over.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

My Mom (right) with her own mother.

The fact is that I’ve been losing my Mom bit by bit for years now. Although it was not a sudden, shocking death, it is still painful and I already miss her. Sadly, as my Mom and I had told each other, you only get one mother in life and no one can take her place.

For the past week, we’ve had relatives, friends, and members of our congregation coming over to say their good-byes and then paying their respects. We have had an outpouring of texts, emails, phone calls, and visits offering kind words, food, help, and comfort for which I am so grateful. My husband, my siblings, and my children have been together almost every day which brings me comfort since they share many of the same feelings and memories.

On Monday, I went to see Jurassic Park with some of my family which was a welcomed distraction and break from all the emotions we’ve been going through. Nothing like watching dinosaurs eat people to take your mind off everything, right?  My grandchildren who were here over the weekend have also been a breath of fresh air.

As I write this blog, I am grateful to be alone for the first time to process some of my thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately, I got an awful case of the stomach flu and right now – besides being miserable – I am extremely fatigued.

Those who have lost a parent have assured me that it will get better and I know that is true. The aching will always be there but it will dim with time so that memories will bring me comfort instead of pain. I couldn’t get through this without “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.” My mother and I shared the same hope for the future. I look forward to the prospect of being reunited with my mother again. If you would like to learn more about this hope as well as for tips on dealing with your grief, you can download the free brochure, When Someone You Loves Dies. This hope brings me enormous comfort.

A Tribute to Mom

Mom, I will never forget your boundless love and generosity, your complete dedication to your family, your kindness, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

I am so grateful that you brought us all up according to Bible standards, that you gave my siblings and I such incredible childhoods, that you always made us feel secure and safe, that you so willingly listened and helped us through all our troubles, and that you were such a good friend to me. I am so thankful for all your unfailing loving support and wise advice throughout my life.

I am happy that you were adventurous and took us children with you on your travels around the world. And thank-you for being such a great grandmother to my children and grandchildren.

I know your passing will leave a huge gap in my life and I already miss you more than words can say. I so look forward to the day when we can be together once again.

Love you, Mom.


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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6 Responses

  1. Eve says:

    Such a wonderful and heartfelt tribute. Blessings to you during this difficult time.

  2. Tamara Cole says:

    So beautifully said, Julie. My love and sympathies to all the family. We look forward to seeing your mom soon in a much better world. It will be so wonderful to get to know her all over again, younger, stronger.

  3. I’m glad you have the blessing of your family and church family and that you are all able to bring comfort to each other. I’ll be keeping you all in prayer as you go through your grieving. Hugs.

  4. Sharon Mckee says:

    I know what you are going through. May Jehovah be with all of you. I lost my mom to death in Jan. It’s hard for me not to be able to call her and tell her this and that. She is the one who introduced us kids to the Truth which has sustained us our whole lives and was a good mom and grandmother to our children. Please give our condolences to your family out there. We will see them again under much better circumstances!

  5. Cat Michaels says:

    . What a beautiful, moving tribute to your mother! Thanks for sharing it. Julie, I can’t imagine your sorrow. There are no words. Thinking of you and yours and wishing you gentle moments in the challenge days ahead as you celebrate her life.

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