Most children go through a phase in which they fear losing a parent. My first remembrance with the fear of that loss came after I learned how old my grandmother was when she died and I calculated in my head when my mother might do the same. There was nothing more comforting and assuring than to see the rise and fall of my mother’s chest as she breathed during her nap.
But things changed after my mother had her first stroke. My mother came to visit and brought with her our favorite hamburgers. All of sudden she began dropping her hamburger. I wanted to take her to the hospital, but she insisted on looking good, so instead of getting medical attention, I looked for a beautician. We ended up going to a beautician who agreed to take us. This was my first goodbye.
Following the stroke, the changes were major. Many friends dropped her (for the record stroke is not contagious), and I became her constant support. She refused to learn to write with her left hand, but eventually regained the use of her right hand. My mother, who had always been a social butterfly, began to withdraw into a cocoon. Other maladies began to appear. I said goodbye with each one. I remember preparing for the final goodbye. I cried from work to the hospital. Upon my arrival, she was placed in hospice. Approximately one month after she returned home my mother died. After years of saying goodbye, I said it one last time.