Thursday, May 09, 2024

My Mom

About a year ago, my mom noticed that she had less and less of an appetite. She would eat a few bites and be full. After several months of seeing various doctors and undergoing a variety of tests, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July. My mom met with several more doctors and learned about what treatment would entail. It was a lot. And even after months of chemo, rebuilding her entire stomach, and having a feeding tube, the likelihood of the cancer returning within two years was significantly higher than other types of cancer. After seeing my dad fight lung cancer and living on her own in Florida with my brother and I up north, she decided it wasn't worth it to receive treatment. She was ready to go out on her terms. 

However, things aren't that easy. It's not like you receive a cancer diagnosis and then pass away immediately. While I could write a separate blog post about healthcare coverage in the United States in terms of end of life care, I'll simply write that my mom was able to prepare for dying. Over a period of months, she would randomly email or text my brother and I with people we needed to contact or things we needed to do. She also donated clothes and other household items. She was able to live in her own home, went out occasionally, and had friends visit. Barely eating, she became weaker and weaker and any type of activity would tire her easily. She was able to watch The Moose's Bar Mitzvah online in early April, and I really think she was holding on to see it.

My mom passed away last week. She had been on hospice for months but that only meant that a nurse, social worker, or doctor would stop by the home every few weeks. Over the last month or so, the nurse visited more frequently until my mom was placed on crisis care where a hospice nurse was there 24 hours a day. My brother and I were able to make it to Florida in time to be with her when she passed away.

I realize that the first three paragraphs of this post are about my mom's sickness and death. She would definitely not want to be remembered like this. She was a vibrant person who loved doing things like going to concerts or musicals and especially loved doing these things as a grandmother. She wanted her five grandkids to remember fun experiences with her. We went to the circus, Legoland in Philadelphia, various kids museums and parks in south Florida, and most importantly, a cruise to the Bahamas last April. At the funeral and at the shiva minyan, her grandkids all talked about how much fun they had on the cruise. That's truly how her grandkids will remember her.

As for me, I'll remember my mom as always being there to talk. When I lived in San Diego or had late night papers in college and grad school, I could call at any hour, and she would be awake and available. Yes, my dad coached me in baseball and soccer as a kid, but my mom was always at my games and musicals and Cub Scout events. She was loyal to her family and friends, to her hometown of East Liverpool, and to Pittsburgh. She also didn't join a group just to join. She got involved in activities becoming a board member or building director. She also loved to travel and went on cruises regularly after my parents moved to Florida.

Two fun stories that I"m not sure everyone knows. 

* My mom did not attend her prom but instead went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game with her uncle.

* My parents dated for two weeks before getting engaged and got married four months later. They shared the same birthday and also the same anniversary.

Even though she's only been gone for days, I've already found myself wanting to call my mom to tell her something about my kids or about conversations I've had with people who knew and loved her. She is and will definitely be missed.


Amy said...

I remember hearing that story about your parents getting engaged after 2 weeks many years ago (I kind of picture your mom in your Pittsburgh kitchen telling me about it) and just being so wowed by that - truly means they were beshert.

I'm so glad that she got to watch Moose's bar mitzvah. And the ability to go out on her own terms, surrounded by family - what a blessing.

Thinking of you during this difficult time.

Sarah said...

Sean, I'm so very sorry. Sending much love.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful tribute to your mom. I know her memory will continue to be a blessing for you and your whole family. Sending lots of comfort to all.

Anonymous said...

So very sorry for your loss, Sean. This is a wonderful tribute to her.