This is an emotional, personal post. I’m not sure when I’ll return to my travelogues, especially considering current events. Just a heads up!
On Thursday, March 12th, I learned that my sweet mother passed away. It still doesn’t feel real; the news was completely unexpected. We have had to postpone her services due to a variety of factors so I wanted to write something that documents what happened along with my feelings. Everything is so jumbled up right now.
I last saw Mom on Monday the 9th. I had recently returned from a trip to Illinois for work and brought some bronchitis back with me. Due to Mom’s weakened state (still recovering from her back surgery/pneumonia at the end of 2019) I didn’t want to chance getting her sick. Still, she insisted she come over and bring a few packs of Stacker B12 pills. For the last several months, she has sworn by these things. Samantha went out to meet her in the driveway; I waved to her from the dining room window. She was smiling, happy to be doing something to make her son feel better.
On Wednesday, I called her to tell her I was feeling better. She didn’t answer. A little unusual, but not totally out of the ordinary. I called again Thursday. When there was again no answer, I became worried. I messaged her neighbor, J.B., and asked him if he could check on her for me. Twelve minutes later, my phone rang. Before I even answered it, I knew.
Mom was gone.
Just like Dad. Gone without a chance to say goodbye.
I found Samantha in the other room, squeaked out the news and sobbed.
But there was work to do.
We got into the car and drove to her home on the north edge of Tulsa. Police and paramedics were on the scene. Other neighbors had gathered next to her porch, crying. Over the next hour or so the picture came together. Mom was fine on Tuesday; her friend Vicky had seen her that afternoon and others had talked to her that evening on the phone. That night, Mom went to sleep…and never woke up. No signs of any distress; she went peacefully, whatever the cause was.
Then, of course, I had to make the calls. I got through to my younger brother, Tyler, at his work in Cushing. I contacted Mom’s immediate family. After each conversation, it took all of my willpower to keep it together for the next one. There were people I needed to engage that I didn’t have contact information for. The time blurs together now…but eventually the authorities wrapped up their work. Mom’s body was taken. And we were left with an empty house.
Even though Mom and I had talked about getting her affairs in order, we never gave it the priority we should have. Tyler and I had a general idea of what she wanted. Imagine my relief when we found a small notebook that outlined a few things she wanted to happen when she was gone. It was incomplete and hadn’t been touched in about a year, but it confirmed that we were doing right by her.
Mom wanted to be cremated and placed with her folks in Barnsdall. We contacted the family church, set up the service, and announced it. I wrote her obituary and gathered photos. Tyler picked out some music representative of Mom’s eclectic taste. Considering the situation, everything was moving smoothly.
The World, however, had other plans.
The third week of March will long be remembered as the week that everything shut down. The delayed emergency response to the coronavirus on US soil finally began rolling in earnest. Gatherings were limited to ten or less people. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms, and other places were ordered closed to protect our most vulnerable citizens from infection. Churches started scaling back services and going online. It became clear that we had to make a very tough decision.
Several people that wanted to come to Mom’s funeral had already said they couldn’t come. I was concerned for the elderly friends and family that would be clustered together in mourning. The preacher had a sudden family development that would prevent him from officiating the service. You might think that all of this information would make the decision less difficult, but it didn’t.
So we postponed the service. We’re not sure for how long. The situation is changing hourly with this virus, but one thing is very clear: it’s going to be a while before things get back to normal.
Now, we get what closure we can from the things that are within our control. Cleaning Mom’s house, donating items to causes she cared about, keeping a few items that will serve as small tributes to her. Taking care of her affairs. Knowing she is not in pain any longer. Taking care of ourselves in this scary time.
But I miss her. More than words can express. She was so incredibly supportive, all the time. I’m still writing my speech for her service as if it were going to happen on Monday. I’m still putting together her photo tribute. I’m keeping her ashes in a special place, until we can all get together and celebrate her life.