She's Gone - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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She's Gone

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Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2017 6:11 pm | Updated: 4:47 pm, Thu Nov 16, 2017.

   I got the call today while I was sitting at my desk at work.  It was my brother.  “Sissy, Mom passed away a little while ago.”  Tears came and my voice was immediately filled with loud, choking sobs.  I knew this was coming but I just couldn’t face it.  The wonderful people in my office immediately gathered around me and then softly closed my door so I could deal with the many calls I would have to make.

   Daddy has been gone since 2000 but now Mom too?  Yes, my mother, Marian Alice Hollenbach, age 89 years, 308 days old was gone.  She would have turned 90 on December 27th of this year.  The last of four siblings to pass away.  My heart is broken.

   If you read my column, you know I have had a hard time dealing with my Mom’s deterioration since we moved her to Florida in January.  Her short-term memory had failed and repetitious questions became the norm.  Her tiny body began to fail her as years of smoking and a bad heart took its toll.  I know many of you have gone through this as well because I received hugs out of nowhere from people who read my column and evidently know what this feeling was like.

   As I look at it now, I realize God gave me a gift in my mother’s failing health.  We moved mother in with my brother Robert in Cape Coral in January.  He bought a new home with her in mind where she had her own suite area with her own bathroom.  It was perfect.  Mother spent days in the pool, sunning and evenings dancing and dining with friends.  She ate things she would have never eaten before and tried as many new things as she could.  Robert was the perfect caretaker even though he has gone through a triple bypass himself.  When mother’s mind began to falter, I told Robert, “You know, Mom is having the time of her life.  She may not remember it but she certainly is having a wonderful time!”  This was all thanks to him.

   When my Mom needed more care after several hospitalizations, I know it was hard for all of us to admit that she needed to be placed.  Robert toured many facilities and then had me tour them as well.  He picked the top of the line and once placed, he visited Mom every single day.  If he couldn’t go, he made sure his friends did.

   What gift did God give me?  He gave me the gift of being able to visit my Mom every few weeks so that I could spend time with her.  The move to Florida was my blessing.  In the past, I tried to make it to Pennsylvania at least once a year to visit but that was hard.  Since January, I have been able to make visits as often as I could and spend time and talk with Mom.  We looked at pictures and talked about the old times.  Our children were able to visit their “Nana” with their spouses and their children.  Oh, she loved the little ones.

   Several times during Mom’s decline, she looked at me and said, “Sissy I’m sorry you have to go through this with me.”  What?  I wasn’t sorry I had to do this.  It was my pleasure.  As I stood her up in the bathroom to clean her up, she said, “I’m sorry you have to take care of me and wipe me.”  I laughed and told her she changed many of my diapers so now it was my turn.  Wiping, cleaning, talking, laughing, answering those repetitious questions and yes crying...spending time with her…this was my blessing and I thank God for giving me this time.  My brother Jay, still in Pennsylvania, stated that he felt bad he couldn’t see Mom as often.  I explained to him that for years he was always there with her and now it was my time.  Yes, often on the way home from those visits I cried all the way across Alligator Alley. 

   Mr. Wonderful, our granddaughter Avery and myself visited my Mom on our way back from Tampa two weeks ago.  The last time I saw her.   I’ll never forget as we were leaving she asked for a candy and little Avery (5) opened a Hershey’s kiss, looked at Mom and then said, “OK but don’t bite my finger Nana!”  She laughed.

   As I write this, tears are streaming down my face soaking my shirt but I don’t care. This dying process has been a journey that has been filled with good and bad.  Tuesday we will fly to Pennsylvania to say good-bye to my Mom.  It will be hard, but I know she will always be with me. 

   Thank you for allowing me to share the most difficult journey I have faced.  I just may need a hug when I return.  Death is inevitable.  Everyone has to do it, but at times…I still want my Mom.

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