Another Thing to Expect When Your Mother Dies – A Year Later – Life is But a Breath

A year of my life is history; a year my mother was not here to experience the ups and downs of everyday life, the blooms in her gardens, or the thunder of last week’s storms.

Breast cancer claimed her for its statistical rollcall in February 2018, three months short of her 75th birthday.

The day she died I held her hand as her body forced its last desperate breaths in a futile attempt to restart her heart. My own heart, seared with the brand of yet another death, pounding in response.

A year later I wish to share a moment with you.

#16 You may find yourself sitting on the cold concrete floor of your garage. Four sealed, large, white, heavy duty trash compactor bags piled before you. You’ve been through them once already when you filled them from her closet and drawers two months ago.

As you open each bag, you unfold and refold, making three piles:

  • Keep
  • Re-bag for the Hospice Gift & Thrift Store
  • Throw Away

The Keep pile grows steadily, and when it threatens to topple over, you’ll stuff it in a new bag mentally labeled, “for my closet.” Flannel shirts, skirts with a size 6 waist you’ll never fit in, pink fuzzy gloves, colorful socks. A red fleece zip-up sweater.

The Re-bag for Hospice pile grows, too, but faster. Each item too small, not your style, or something you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing or using. The curlers not necessary for your curly hair. Her naturally straight hair, having been wrapped around those curlers hundreds or thousands of times, gone in a breath. Except for one lock tucked away.

When you open the third bag, the odor of her lotion fills your body with bittersweet nostalgia. You are sitting on her t.v. room couch next to her watching a video of some adventure your parents had been on. The lotion perched on the end table next to her. She’s there with you in the garage, but only for a slow breath and now you must move on.

The Throw Away pile grows very slowly and perhaps is the most painful of the piles:

  • A pair of old brown dress shoes, cracked and stiff
  • Pinky fuzzy slippers with worn heels 
  • Underwear that looks new
  • Unpackaged Pantyhose – the packaged ones, which look ancient, are in the Hospice bags. Does anyone wear these anymore? What will happen to them? Like you, she stopped wearing them years ago so, you decide you don’t really care what happens to them.
  • A well-traveled brown purse

Each Throw Away item represents a moment in your mother’s life. How can you throw them away?

You’ll dig into the purse checking for treasures. You’ll find a wad of clean tissues.

You’ll move the underwear to the “for my closet” bag. They are your size, and you wouldn’t mind being caught dead in them.

Four bags has become three. You’ll wonder how long they will continue to live in your garage. You’ll look at your car and think, “a little longer.”

Hours later, you’ll pull on the red fleece sweater as you head out to the movies and when you put your hand in the pocket to stash your gloves, you’ll find another wad of tissues.

Your mother always knew when you’d need a tissue.

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As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my writing journey, or re-blog as your heart and mind desire. I’d love to know you’ve been here!


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6 Replies to “Another Thing to Expect When Your Mother Dies – A Year Later – Life is But a Breath”

  1. Hi Bonnie, my mother also died at 74 of breast cancer. This year it will be 10 years and there is still a lot of stuff in my loft. I’m no longer so attached to it and a lot of it will go no doubt if I get around to clearing the loft, but I definitely remember those piles and the urge to hold onto things.

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  2. Thanks for the stroll down a bitter sweet memory. My Mother passed in 2001. It feels like yesterday. It was, wasn’t it? No, it feels like forever. I still have some of her things that are filled with such sweet memories. I try to be a lady that she was, but to no avail, so I am just me, filled with her eternal LOVE. weep, weep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, my experience of time is so strange in grief, too. I too, try to be like her in certain ways and fall desperately. At the same time, I sense a bit of release from the pressure to be someone or a certain way that I am most definitely not. Thank you for sharing here and being present in the moment with me.


  3. I am so sorry, Bonnie. I can only imagine the pain of losing your mother. I’m very close to my mum, even at 30, and just thinking of not having her here breaks my heart. She’s also got tissues stuffed everywhere, she carries two packets in her handbag ‘just in case anyone needs one’, and one in every pocket. I’ve developed the same habit. Thank you for sharing your memories.  ♥
    Caz xxxx

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