A cursed course reaches an end


I just got home from spending the day with my family following my mother’s funeral services Saturday morning.
I quickly dumped the tie and sweater vest that is rapidly becoming my go to formal kit. I sent a few messages and sat down at my computer. I owe you all a Sunday morning story. I won’t let you down.
I think there was a movie at one point where Dennis Quaid gets killed in some accident and his spirit finds a way to talk to his kid through a H.A.M. radio.
I thought the story was feel-good yarn, but not much more than that.
After this past week I’m wondering if there isn’t something to spirits riding satellite waves.
My mother passed away Tuesday night at 8 p.m. after I spent about 40 minutes in her ear walking her to the brink. Mom was always strong and a bit stubborn. Despite telling me to get her to hospice care and relieve her pain in peace and dignity, I think having all the family around made her fight a bit.
I told her very quietly in a conversation that started with just her and me and a few people sitting around her room, that her work was done. She could rest now. I told her she could be proud of the legacy she was leaving behind and know that I would take care of everything.
I told her not to be afraid in this horrifying moment. I whispered in her ear that relief she was seeking was just moments away. I told her that her husband and granddaughter, my daughter, were waiting for her in a kingdom of peace and love.
“It’s okay to go, mom. We got this. Don’t be afraid others are waiting for you, and in what will seem like moments in Heaven, we will be with you.”
She started to twitch, fighting for every second with us. I looked up and somehow at some point my entire family had gathered around her bed. I kept talking very quietly just to her and they sat and watched. I heard sniffles and a few cries, and I just kept up our muffled conversation.
Then I heard a few gasps as mom used every ounce of strength she had left to lift her eyelids just a slit. She was there with us in her final moments.
“I can see you,” I said. “I know you are here and we’re all here with you. It’s okay to go. It’s okay to let go.”
She closed her eyes again. They were wet. She fought through some breathing and made a squeak of a noise that broke me. My first tears since she got sick 18 months ago. And then she just stopped. The nurse immediately said her heart had stopped beating. I didn’t know a nurse was even in the room.
I dripped some tears on the pillow next two her, turned and put my boots on and headed out into the frigid, dark night. Forgot about everyone in the room, including my daughter, who was grieving heavily, got into the truck and headed out with no real plan.
When I got in the truck and pulled out of the Southeast Iowa Regional Hospice House in West Burlington, I turned on the radio. If you read this regularly you know I’ve been tinkering with country music lately. I swear, the song "Wind Beneath My Wings" was playing by some country dude I can’t remember, but it started right when I turned on the radio. I just let the tears come. I called my wife, who was at my home battling COVID, and she talked with me through the Bluetooth, through the tears.
On the way to her visitation Saturday, the Sirius station played Kenny Roger’s "You Decorated My Life", and Patty Lovelace sang something about mending a broken heart. I know the randomness of what I’m saying, but I’m just going to accept it as the mind creating a way to deal with heavy emotion. We grab at whatever’s there. For some it’s alcohol, others drugs or friends, or family, or even music. In a few days I’ll be alone again with all my family flying back to their own homes around the country. Those same friends and music will be my crutch as I find a way to deal with not going to mom’s to take her dinner, or play Euchre, or go to the casino.
I know everyone deals with death as part of life. I have to say this one feels more natural to me and I’m a little desensitized to the grief. But more than that I think it’s the time mom and I spent together, not just over the past 55 years, but specifically the past 18 months. At hospitals, doctors' offices and even Mayo Clinic. Through procedures and being with the doctors and gathering all kinds of information and data, I thought I was preparing her for additional time. More than the 6-12 months the doctors gave us in May.
“We can do better than that,” I told her. Just the way I told Kelsey we would get her through to the next medical breakthrough. I told Kels we get through it.
I’m 0-2. Think I’ll just keep my mouth shut going forward.
I hope Mom keeps coming to me through the satellite radio. If it’s not her, I’m sure going to think it is. God Speed, Mom. I got this, but that's Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Commentary, death, mom, funeral, opinion, Beside the Point, Chuck Vandenberg, editorial, sorrow, suffering, pain,


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