We all have secrets. Some of us keep secrets from our spouses – the fact that your credit card balances aren’t quite as low as you claimed, or maybe the fact that you were engaged to someone else before you met them. But what about secrets that would be appreciated, or even cherished, by someone else… but you decide to keep them to yourself. Have you ever been selfish with a memory?
As my husband has been receiving updates from his step-mother and watching his father suffer what is probably his last battle with a lifetime habit of cigarette-smoking, we have talked about his feelings and how I can support him through the child’s journey he’ll be taking as his dad goes through treatment. One evening we reflected on my mom’s cancer battle, and he suddenly said “There’s something I haven’t told you before.” Obviously, in other circumstances, I might worry about this statement, but in context I simply wondered what he could be referring to.
His tears welled up a little as he confided a secret he’s kept for over 3 years. The night before mom died, as my siblings and I wrapped up an evening spent laughing (loudly) and telling stories in her hospice room, we each said our good-nights to her and headed out the door. Rick was the last to bend over her and give her a kiss, and he told her he loved her. She was heavily medicated to relieve the seizures she was experiencing due to her brain tumor, and had not been responsive or able to communicate for a couple of days. We were hopeful that she was able to hear us, but unfortunately we didn’t get to hear what she may have wanted to say to us. But when my husband said goodbye, she responded to him. He doesn’t recall recognizing any words, but she mumbled. She recognized that he was communicating with her, and she let him know.
Mom was probably the closest thing to a real mother that my husband had, but they had only a short time together – almost exactly 6 years. She was never one to mince words, nor did she hold back when heaping praise. She took Rick in when he moved here, unemployed and broke, from Colorado to marry her daughter and be her grand-daughters’ step-dad. They had so much in common it was kind of funny. I used to joke that he married me for her.
We left my youngest brother with mom that night to spend the night in the room with her, and around 6 a.m. he let the rest of us know that she had died in the night. I suppose I could be upset that my husband never told me about that night. Some people would be, I’m sure. I mean, she was my mother, afterall. I certainly would have enjoyed knowing that she recognized him. But, I know she thought he was pretty great, and I’m so pleased that her effort to say something to him at least confirms that she knew we were there. I hope that she heard our laughter and knew that she had done her job in this lifetime… she raised four children who will care for each other and be there for each other in her absence. She taught us how to remain positive and move forward through difficult times with determination.
I think it’s better that she didn’t respond to me, because I probably would have wanted to make her say something… I would have asked the doctors if perhaps she wasn’t ready to go. I would have hung on, even when it was obvious there was no point. It was time to let go. She said what she needed to say to the person who needed to hear it. I’m glad he has that special memory… but I’m also glad he finally told me about it.