Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan shares a touching story about his mother’s final moments.
- Posted on Mar 20, 2011
I was alone with [my mother] shortly before she died…in an Alzheimer’s unit where she spent her final few years. Her mind was so destroyed that I wasn’t sure there was anything left to call a mother. She hadn’t really spoken in a long while. Time and again, though, a little glimmer of Estelle Rossiter Grinnan would briefly emerge from all the tangled ganglia, a flash of self.
Now, as I sat by her bed, she was very near death. There was nothing at all to be done but feed her an occasional ice chip and push the wisps of pure white hair off her wrinkled forehead. When we moved her into the unit, I’d unearthed St. Jude from a jumble of things in a closet and brought him along, a little worse for wear. His right hand, which had held up two fingers, had been amputated at some point, and a chip in his shock of hair made him look balding. His iconic green cloak was still reasonably well-preserved, however, as was the dab of red on his forehead to indicate the gift of tongues. He now occupied a spot on Mom’s nightstand, just a statue bought many, many years before at a religious gift shop, not a god or a thing imbued with spiritual powers, only ceramic material formed into the image of a man, one statue out of thousands, comfort for the hopeless.
“Remember that game we played, how you used to put St. Jude in my room?” I asked, not expecting an answer. “He’s in your room now, Mom. Checkmate.”
Mom’s eyes came open, as green as grass, and it made me feel overwhelmingly grateful that I could sit here with her, having been sober now a number of years. She’d seen me marry Julee, and she loved her daughter-in-law. These sober years with Mom had been a great blessing in my life. I felt I had unfinished business though.
“I didn’t want you to be alone,” I explained, even as I thought how selfish it was to unburden yourself to the dying. “I don’t know how to say I’m sorry for all the terrible things I put you through. I wasn’t an easy kid, was I?”
The corners of her mouth seemed to curl ever so slightly into a smile. Or at least I wanted to think so.
“I love you,” I said. “I’ve always loved you no matter how I acted and I always knew you loved me even when I didn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine how anyone could. I always knew you did.”
She raised her head slightly, slowly. Her lips moved and she said the last word I would ever hear her say, softly but clearly.