The Cook Awakening


April 13, 2015
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Seasonal Change

I’ve been experiencing waves of grief, missing my mother the last few days. It was a little bewildering. Then, I realized I’m passing through the beginning of the season of anniversaries leading up to her death.

She passed away on August 23rd, 2012. One of those that didn’t make it through that tumultuous year. You probably know a few. Seemed like every few weeks I spoke to someone who’d just lost a loved one.

Near the end

Near the end

Her passing didn’t come out of the blue, though. Not really.

She moved to Portland from Northern California the day before her 76th birthday, on April 5th. Three years and a week ago, now. It was not an easy time. Moving never is, granted. But, at 76 years old, uprooting is extremely taxing. She was understandably anxious.

I did my best to make things easier for her. She was obviously struggling to keep details straight. We’d learn later that she scored very high on a test a social worker gave her for dementia, but all I knew then was that she was losing papers and forgetting things she intended to do. So, good little “helper” that I am, I tried to take care of her – called the phone company and the cable company to get her service hooked up, buy her favorite things at the grocery store (that was hard – Coca Cola is not easy for me to put in my shopping cart!)

She got angry. I was hurt. It was a mess.

In retrospect, seeing her decline over the following four and a half months, and then her peaceful passing – I can see that I facilitated her quick demise. This is not an entirely easy thing to live with. It’s clear to me that when she was living alone, with someone only checking in on her every few days, the effort it took to “keep her life together” – pay the bills, do the shopping, feed the cat, etc. – kept her as alert and productive as she could reasonably be, given her mental and physical decline. From the outside it didn’t look like she was doing very well. The bills were often paid late, she spent more money than she really had on food and incidentals. But, she had to make an effort. That effort kept her in her body. It was stressful for her, we could see that she was uncomfortable and felt like she was scrambling a lot to keep up. But, I sense now, it served a purpose.

She was in pain and fatigued most of the time. She’d been living with Lupus for many years, and was on serious medication. When someone took the time to talk to her about how she wanted to spend her final years, she was very clear – she did NOT want to live a long time. She was uncomfortable, she was embarrassed by her body (the medication had side effects including extreme weight gain), and she didn’t feel that she had much joy in her life besides her grandchildren, her cat, and eating her favorite foods.

I know this, as I feel these waves of grief and remorse passing through me. With very good intentions, I took over the tasks that were helping her to stay here. And, she finally just relaxed so much that she slipped out of her body. I watched it happen, bewildered, and lucid, all at the same time.

She denied that she was dying until the very end. I realized that it wasn’t my job to convince her about anything.

Part of me found it all very frustrating. I wanted her to be conscious of this important process she was going through! Or, I wanted her to want to feel better, to be willing to change her eating habits so she could experience better quality of life. I could help her! Why couldn’t she see that? This is what I did for a living!

Part of me knew that I was just playing a role in the last months of my mother’s life. We all knew this would be her final home. We just assumed we were talking about years, not months. But, when she stopped drinking water and couldn’t manage to eat more than two small bites of anything at a time; when she fell, and I brought her, complaining bitterly, to the ER, to find that her ailment was dehydration….

I had the insight within two weeks of her coming to Portland, “Oh! My mother came to Portland to die.” It was so clear. And, everything I did to try to help her get better, just hastened her on her way.

Even as my tears flowed today, as the regret coalesced in my heart and I wondered if I “should have done something differently” – I knew that I couldn’t have. Byron Katie has been known to say on more than one occasion, “How do you know if something is supposed to be happening? Iiiiiiiit’s happening!”

My mother knew what was true for her. She didn’t want to drag out her discomfort. In the haze of her illness and medicated state, in her creeping dementia, I don’t think she was capable of acting on that decision directly, consciously. So, I stepped in, semi-unwittingly, and helped her to give up the way she was longing to give up.

This is a blessed mystery to me. That I can weep and feel the regret of having participated in my mother leaving her body, and simultaneously know that it was exactly what I was meant to do.

It’s springtime, and in the back yard, where she spent her last months in the cottage we built for her, the tulips are just beginning to fade. The lilacs are close to blooming. The rose bushes are bursting with buds. She commented on her first walk through the yard to her little house, “Oh! The flowers! The colors!” Almost exactly three years ago.

Oh! The flowers!

Oh! The flowers!

This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2015 at 10:29 pm and is filed under Life on Life's Terms, Seasonal Change. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


7 Responses to “Mom”

  1. Ashara Says:

    Oh sister. I hear you. I hear you. Hugs. And tears.

  2. Gwenn Says:

    Beautiful, painful and real, Durga! My heart is opened by reading this.

  3. Durga Fuller Says:


  4. Tom Says:

    Beautiful, Honey.
    I’m glad you had the opportunity to feel this and to write it. Moving through this season of anniversaries.

  5. Bro Says:

    I love you. I love that you wrote this.

  6. Durga Fuller Says:

    Love you, bro.

  7. Denise Says:


    Such a beautiful tribute to the nooks and crannies that are revealed when we loose someone from this life. Revel in the bittersweet, a relationship with self that continues to reveal the ways that we love ourselves and others.

    Thank you for sharing this.
    Love you.

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