Losing Her

I’ve wondered if I would be able to put the memory of losing my mom into words that are meaningful – not just a rehash of events. But I think it’s helpful for context and important for me in the healing process to try. It feels good sometimes to let yourself get close to the experience again. It can allow you to feel something after what are often temporary bouts of numbness. Tears are a treasure in some moments (I often have to convince my husband of this as I water the couch with my overflowing eyes and he desperately searches for hilarious cat videos to show me on YouTube).

These are the memories that I have. Each of my family members has their own special account of last moments and words and feelings, as true as my own.

I had been traveling India for two months with a best friend in the summer of 2009. We were both, shall we say, riding the wake of romantic trauma, and both feeling equally alive as we moved through one of the most beautiful, overwhelming, countries in the world. Life was good – really, really good. At the end of our trip, some plans changed (for no really good reason except fate perhaps) and we decided to head back to Canada a week early. I thank God for the extra week I had to spend with my mom.

As I passed through the doors of the airport, there she was – already crying of course (she used to say that she wore turtle necks because they collect tears better) – and the moment that I hugged her and she told me I looked beautiful is one that I will hold dearly to my heart forever. It’s the picture of what I hope will happen again someday.

Two weeks later, in the unfortunate setting of a closest-friend’s bridal shower, my mom gave a toast to the bride and then quietly walked away, not wanting to cause a stir. She was always stubborn in terms of going to the doctor or letting people know when something was wrong. I found her sitting in the hallway with her friend, a nurse, and I knew something wasn’t right. She had a headache that progressively grew worse, and as we were about to gather her things and take her to the clinic, it seemed as though somebody clicked a fast forward button. Her condition deteriorated quickly and she began to pass through a series of painful symptoms. The ambulance was coming. I held Mom’s face and instructed her repeatedly to look at me – she was losing focus. It felt like an eternity. By the time the paramedics arrived I simply sat beside her and held her to my side, as she had given in to closed eyes.

They told me in the ambulance it could be a stroke. That was hopeful, I thought, because people get better from strokes all the time.

They pushed her into emergency and left us for a few seconds while they processed things. Mom I said into her ear, I’m right here beside you. It caught me off guard that her eyelids opened a crack and a soft moan escaped her lips. She heard.

I sat in “The Room”, that some of you may be familiar with – the one that looks so nice, you know things are bad. Should I tell my family to come?   I asked. I had no idea who was on their way. That may be a good idea…  They’ll probably want to be here, the nurse told me. The doctor came in and said it looked like there may be some bleeding in the brain. An aneurysm. It doesn’t look good… He said in a gentle but matter-of-fact tone. Where is my family? They don’t know that things aren’t looking good! I didn’t particularly want to see them find out.

Family and then close friends began to file in, the room was so full of love when they told us that she wouldn’t be waking up again. What a strange concept… Why can’t she just wake up?! If she’s breathing, how can she be gone? Seeing my family members stand around her bed is something that probably won’t ever feel real to me. And that’s okay. Our bodies know when to administer small doses of numbness when we need them. As a trusted friend of mine advised me, your body only lets you feel things in pieces (thank goodness).

We took our time to say goodbye, at least fifty people came and went from her bedside through the night and the following day. Then, with a final rub of her foot and kiss on her eyebrow, I said goodbye. Oh to let yourself drive away by choice from somebody you love…

In the midst of everything, I experienced a level of human love from people that you only really get to know when you are in such a situation. There are many people in my life that deserve a rack full of medals up in Heaven.

The good news is the story is not over. Life is so gracious – I have laughed hundreds of times in the past two years; I have felt a warm heart; I have watched funny movies and wondered at beautiful things. Life is not over, it is just different. I have so much to learn and so far to grow. This is only the beginning.


38 thoughts on “Losing Her

    1. and ps. thought of you when i listened to this new coldplay song this morning:

      Might have to go where they don’t know my name
      Float all over the world just to see her again
      But I won’t show or feel any pain
      Even though all my armour might rust in the rain
      A simple plot, but I know one day
      Good things are coming our way
      -from {up with the birds} by coldplay

  1. Sometimes all you want to do is laugh and sometimes all you can do is cry. Thankfully we can embrace our memories. Sometimes that is not enough. Good thing we have lovely folk and cute kitten videos!
    Love you.

  2. I love you so much! You are such a special, special person Jennelle. I miss your mom so much. Thank you for writing this. XOXOXOXOX

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was beautiful – like your words, and your heart. In this story is a lesson I often forget, cherish your moments. Thank you for being a teacher.


  4. Everytime I travel that hallway I flashback……. and say a prayer for you and Jen and the family. Thanks for letting me into the “Room” and allowing me to sit vigil.

  5. Nelles,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. Your words always put me at a loss for my own… Your honesty, strength, and the way you choose to embrace life is inspiring to me. You are beautiful inside and out.
    Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being my best friend – I am a better person for it.
    Your mama is proud of you. I am too.

  6. My goodness, this is so beautifully written! I don’t cry much but my eyes filled up when I read your post. You express your love so well that it overshadows the loss that you have sustained. I am so gald that I got to read this. You are inspiring and I am sure your writing will inspire many others on this journey.
    Hugs, Darlene

  7. Thanks Jennelle for inviting me to read your blog. What an amazing woman you are. Your words are open and honest and your memories are personal and precious. Your Mom was a person who reached out to so many, a gift she has definately passed on to you. You are right! The story is not over, it is only the beginning. Love, Laura

  8. Hi Jennelle… this was a beautiful, painful and powerful read. I stumbled upon it by accident; Angie signed up to follow your blog, but she did it in my name by accident, so when I checked my e-mail, there you were. I’m glad she did. You have a special way of articulating emotions that must be very complex. I hope this writing brings you catharsis, and I look forward to soaking up more of your thoughts. Beautiful job, Jennelle.

  9. I’m reading this while sitting at Starbucks during my lunch break. Not the best time to cry! It is heartbreaking to read and only you can understand how it felt. Your Mom is right…you are an excellent writer and I’m glad you’re sharing this with us. You are sharing something precious.

  10. How you weave your words together is like this beautiful new something growing from the deepest roots upward… I think this blog is going to soar Jennelle! Thanks for sharing your beautiful love. This post has inspired me to treasure the moments with my mom even more. Love you.

  11. Jennelle you have an amazing gift! It’s so great to see that out of such a sad moment in your life, you have managed to come out of it in a positive way. I wish i had known of this when i was living on the Island, I would have loved to have grabbed you, with Adam’s permission and given you a great big hug.

    Its so sad when you lose someone special. My best friend, my older brother was taken away from me three years ago when he took his life. I would love to have your courage to write about my loss. It’s so hard to describe the emptiness I feel with him no longer in my life. But it is a new beginning, its a long journey that i have just begun and there are days when i really struggle. But I know he would not like to see me sad but it is so hard at times. Its very difficult these days to find outlets to grieve the loss of someone and you have provided a precious gift to us all by sharing your experience. Your mother looks like a really beautiful lady and the photos of her on your blog really capture her. I look forward to reading more of your blog andlearn from your experience.

    1. It really is a shame we didn’t know each others’ stories Stew! But I’m glad we can stay connected (and when I come to Ireland I can get that big hug from you!) ;)
      It’s heartbreaking to hear what you have been through, especially since it sounds like you were so close to your brother. So many days there isn’t anything that makes it feel okay… Please feel free to message or email me on those days. I’d love to be an ear. This is also good motivation for me to keep up the blog and make sure I am being transparent, it’s great to know that it makes a difference. Chat with you soon Stew!

  12. I have read this a few times, and as many above spent some time crying after. I miss your mom too. But I am so glad that you have had the courage to write and do it so beautifully. Thanks so much for sharing that with all of us, and letting us cry with you. Such a joy and privilege to have friends. Love you!

  13. Jennelle you’ve just opened a flood gate of tears. I knew I was overdue but didn’t know to expect that. I really enjoyed hearing things from your perspective but also going through the event for myself in such a linier fashon. I’ve been doing some study ( well you know me,studying isn’t really me ) on God the three in one and am reminded so much that He is all about relationship. We will greive to some degree until we see each other again. My heart longs for that day. love you Me

  14. I find myself today taking the time to go back through your posts and I hope that is OK that I am re-reading them and possibly bombarding your email with notifications of new comments. When I read this the first time, I couldn’t bring myself to comment on it because my loss of Zach was still too fresh. It still is fresh but I wanted to tell you how beautiful this post was and that I understand how difficult it must have been for you to write it.

    I didn’t realize, when I first started following your blog, that you had lost your mother so suddenly. It breaks my heart for you. When we lose someone that quickly our brains don’t have time to catch up and we wander zombie-like in a state of utter confusion. But I am so happy for you that you had the chance to say goodbye. What a horrible thing to have to do; I had to say goodbye to my dad 15 years ago after his yearlong battle with cancer but one day you will be so grateful that you had that chance to say goodbye. And I’m also so glad you felt an overwhelming sensation of human love while going through that because I know that is the only thing getting me through. The thought of going through this alone is a dismal and terrifying thought.

    This is a beautiful tribute to your mother.

    1. I don’t mind the comments at all, I love them! :) Thank you for these words, they really made me feel comforted tonight. It’s so strange how sadness and beauty are so intertwined – human lives wouldn’t be the same without either one. Thank you for appreciating the story of my mom :)

  15. What a beautiful mom and story you shared. Even though it might have been the toughest writing ever. I haven’t written in length about my mom’s passing yet. I do think when the time come sit will be part of the healing. My mom passed 8 months ago. It feels like yesterday, except she feels so far away too. Thank you for starting this blog. What a comfort it is for me to find today.

    1. Hi Lisa, I’m so glad that you could find comfort here in some way, and I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through. Every story is different and powerful… I hope that in time the details of your own story will become words that you can put down, I have no doubt they will. I wish you strength and peace and all of the other words that seem so cliche, but that are so necessary. XO

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