Time Of Death – Reading The Obits & Waiting

I dreamed my mother showed up last night. She looked ten years younger than when I last saw her in 1994 and she came with a message.

She breezed into the room where I was sitting as casually as if she’d not been missing  from my life for the last 18 years and said in a loud voice, ‘I’m dying,’ much the way one might say, ‘I’m here’ after having arrived at their intended destination.

Before I could think how to respond she pulled a printer, already out of its box, but new and unused, from a handbag that looked like something Mary Poppins might travel with, an image totally incongruent with who my mother was when I was a child.

I took it from her when she offered it to me saying nothing as I did so, but inside my mind was a race track of whirling questions each thought like a numbered car going round and round with the lead car representing the overriding thought, a printer, 18 years of silence and you bring me a printer for my computer?

I considered for a moment that it might be a peace-offering of sorts although I’m not sure why as she had not said, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I wish things had been different’ or any one of many things that might have made room in my heart for healing.

Instead she walked about the room looking out of the window and checking the corners much like someone might go behind a cleaning crew, on a mission to find an overlooked speck of dust.

Her voice sounded unnaturally upbeat for someone sharing details of their funeral arrangements and the one-sided conversation seemed more as if she were planning a big wedding than an end of life ceremony.

I was still sitting in the same chair I’d been in when she arrived, holding on to the printer that I’d foolishly assumed was a gift. As she listed from memory all the things still left to do, I slowly realized that the printer was to be used to complete the tasks for her funeral and rather than an end of life reconciliation, what she really wanted was a personal assistant.

My mother’s birthday is only a few weeks away and I wonder sometimes if she remembers mine as I do hers or if she’s forgotten it as easily as she seems to have forgotten me and my sister, Margaret.

Our three birthdays all occur within 28 days of each other making it difficult for me to let hers slip by unnoticed.

I always notice and I wonder … is she still living and how will I know when she’s not?

Given her upcoming birthday, I’m not surprised to be dreaming of her now or even that she might be dying. Checking the obituaries is the only way I know she’s still alive, a sad end to a mother-daughter story that I feel sure began quite differently when I was born in 1960.

I wonder how many other adult children search the internet for signs of a parent’s passing and if there is any peace for them or closure when they find it.

If you’ve got a story similar to mine, perhaps you’d like share it in a comment below.

25 thoughts on “Time Of Death – Reading The Obits & Waiting

  1. You’re not alone in this, Elizabeth. When my Dad died in 2004, my mother moved in first with my brother and a year or so later with my sister (her “favored” children). It was as though I ceased to exist after Dad passed. My siblings & I have never been the best of friends. Favoring one child over another to the extent that my mother did creates a sense of entitlement and arrogance in the favored ones, sadly. My mother has now developed dementia & I can’t even find out her condition as my sister, her legal guardian, has instructed the nursing facility not to release information. So I wait to hear from friends or cousins who live in New England to get news of her–I was not told she was sent to a nursing home–a cousin’s father was visiting an old friend at the nursing home & called to tell his daughter he’d seen her.

    • Oh Cheryl, I’m really sorry to hear you have had a similar experience. The sibling piece makes it even worse. Sadly, I know about this too. My sister Margaret and I have a sister who is my mother’s youngest child (she had a different father) and the favored one from all appearances as she is the only one who has a relationship with our mother. That sister also has chosen not to have a relationship with us as well which was hard at first, but after so long I’ve come to accept things as they are.

      • Like you, acceptance is the only way that works–I’ve spent much time in anger and resentment to finally realize that I’m the only one hurt by that approach. I don’t comment often, Elizabeth, but want you to know that I read your writing as you post and enjoy it immensely. Thank you for your open and heartfelt sharing.

  2. How hard for you. My father cut off from me; when he died about 8 years ago I felt no deep pain or grief having lived with the loss of him for decades. After his death, the questions I have seem to multiply, my feelings of sadness and being not wanted grow with them. We can’t fathom others’ lives, others’ motivations, even when they belong in our history. You have clearly made a successful ;and fulfilling life for yourself. That remains your message to yourself. With best wishes, Anne

    • Thank you, Anne for sharing your experience. It’s a shame that you had years without your dad before he died. I want to believe but can’t really, that missing parents have no idea how their actions effect their children’s lives and the lifelong struggle it takes to overcome the rejection. I say I want to believe because I still don’t understand how a parent could do that to their child. As for my missing mother, I don’t dwell on it so much anymore … in fact, most of the time I don’t even think about my mother or my younger sister so the dream and my reaction was a bit of a surprise.

      As you put it so well, ” We can’t fathom others’ lives, others’ motivations, even when they belong in our history.”

  3. Gosh…your story breaks my heart…Cheryl’s does too. My fervent hope is that you’ve both found enough love in your life to help fill that hole.

  4. What Lani said..plus that you find you can truly let go of hoping the things you look for from your mother will be forthcoming, but find them elsewhere..and forgive her for it.

    • I miss hearing from you, Mariellen … thanks for commenting! You know I’ve been fortunate to have my step-mom, Cullene in my life to love and guide me for a very long time and I haven’t looked to my mother to fulfill any of my needs for years. I think that’s why the dream surprised me. Forgiveness is a tough one. Emotionally, I lean more toward indifference in matters related to my mother except for the odd thought as to whether she is living or dead. That sounds pretty awful even me, but there it is.

  5. I know I’ve said this before, but your mother and my father were cut from the same cloth. I haven’t spoken to my father since February of 2001 and it always seems so strange when I see posts on FB or news media articles about Father’s Day…I think “I wonder how it must feel to celebrate that day and have a father who loves you”.

    My father’s mother (my grandmother) is still alive and coherent and she and I talk frequently — that’s the only way I know my father is still alive (she talks to him regularly). If my grandmother were not alive I would be scanning obituaries, like you, trying to determine if he’d passed away.

    I also dream about him, and like this dream, the dreams are manipulative and narcissistic – and I always awaken grateful that I don’t have to interact with him and grateful that he’s no longer in my life.

    Believe me when I say I’m so empathetic. And I completely understand. I don’t know if there will ever be peace or closure, because I’ve mainly already had to grieve him as if he were dead. But I do know that there will always be unanswered questions, which is frustrating. Hope you’re able to find some peace after this dream.

    • Sarah, I remember very well the story of your father and I feel for you as one who understands misery in having a narcissistic parent. Mother’s Day was always painful until I became a mother myself and I was able to associate it with a more positive emotion. Time and distance have helped as well. The more time passes, the more opportunity I have to love and be loved by people who remain constant in my life and that does bring a bit of peace to my melancholy heart. I hope you are able to find peace as well. Thanks so much for sharing your story and your thoughts.

    • Stacia, thanks so much for your kind comments regarding my writing. It’s rare that I think I’ve communicated my thoughts as well as I’d like and I think that stops me from submitting work for publication. It’s reassuring to hear that you like the way I tell my story and it’s funny you mention the printer and putting my story in print … I did consider that might be the significance of the printer. 🙂

  6. This makes me so sad, for your mother. As I started reading, I assumed she was already dead. It was heartbreaking to realize she’s alive, she’s just cut herself off from her daughters. It’s so hard for me to understand why anyone would throw away a treasure chest as if it were garbage. I’m glad for your sake that it’s no longer an aching wound, but I’m so sad that you’ve experienced mother-rejection and so sad for her that she doesn’t know her amazing daughter anymore.

  7. Elizabeth, the sense I got very strongly reading your story was that the printer was for you to help her tell *her* story…she, unrepentant top the last on the surface of it, yet somewhere underneath her very asking is a sort of olive branch. Just a gut feel: that she really *is* dying, has reached out to you and wants your help. Although you get no thanks for it, she still wants it. Call me fully of silliness if you like, (and some do) but that is my sense….

  8. This was so sad and must have been hard to share and yet I hope you found some peace sharing it as you have such a caring understanding group of people here.
    I had a lot of problems growing up there was a kind of parental rejection that I could not accept and which hurt so much I could not forgive them.
    I have learnt since that to accept the limitations and shortcomings of our parents and to forgive them is the best thing for us, the only way to heal. I don’t think i hold anything against them now and though my mum is is not like I am to my kids, I can accept it now accept her as who she is and love her despite the times she says hurtful things which are hard to understand. I have understood that hurtful words come from a heart that is full of hurt and there is no point rejecting that. The person who hurts others is not a happy person. Also closing the door on the ones who love you is not a way to find happiness. I don’t know what makes a mother reject her offspring. I only know what I am able to do that is to forgive and love, not for her but for my own peace of mind.
    I don’t know your whole story so would never offer advice anyway it is not my place, but this is my experience that I wished to share. I do feel though that there is a message in the dream either from your mother reaching out or from your own sub conscious.

  9. Dear Elizabeth .. I don’t have a story like yours .. my heart goes out to you. Sending you a big big hug,. I have two sons, and I hate it when they are not in contact with me.The eldest one is all the time, but the youngest just likes to be left alone, and then I wonder if he is ok, so I check in with him with a little text to see what happens. he does have Aspergers syndrome and likes to be left alone sometimes and it is all or nothing with him. I understand about you dreaming as you would if your sisters birthday is around the same time too. Take care Love Anne xx

  10. This was a very painful post to read; I have not spoken to my mother since May 2011 and am not sure I ever will again. I try to pretend this is not deeply hurtful (she is 76, in a nursing home with some dementia and a “friend” who loathes me and has very carefully replaced me in my mother’s affections) but there are days I just cry. Sorry that you have faced this. My late stepmother wasn’t much nicer. I am very grateful for my loving friends and husband, who know this story.

  11. I can empathize with your words. It is my father, who has no love for his children. After my mother died, I decided it was best to walk away from the unhealthy relationship and be happy with those that do love me and care for my feelings. I have found as much peace as I can with the situation. It hurts to speak with my siblings, even though I have no idea why. I am determined to never have such a relationship with my own daughters. I try very hard to be respectful and loving. There is no perfect love, but I try to remember my actions and my words. Breaking the cycle of a silent parent/child relationship is my goal. Hopefully, I can help my children/grandchildren be better people and understand the true meaning of a healthy relationship. Do not give up, keep thinking positive thoughts and take care of your healthy relationships. ❤

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