To say that 2018 was a difficult year would be an understatement. When your New Year begins with being abruptly displaced from your home without warning and ends with the loss of a loved one, well words are sorta hard to find.
I spent most of 2018 helping my Mom stay alive. I cannot write much beyond that now- it’s still too new and unreal. I’m still settling into the reality of her being gone and this new year starting without her. I’m still struggling to figure out who I am without her in my life, and what’s next. Most of all I am missing the woman I called Mom.
I want to honor the memory of my Mom here and I hope by sharing this poem I wrote a few days before she died – I did read it to her…and I read it at her Memorial Service on January 3rd. My mom passed December 22nd. The cancer she fought in 2016 returned, in April, and she also had been struggling with another condition called Gastroparesis which actually caused her to have to go back on a feeding tube. It also brought her to the brink of severe malnutrition and closer than many realize to death. Perhaps two weeks at the time.
But mom was no quitter and fought, even while moving at least five times while renovations were completed for her to return home. Even while her health continued to be challenged and her hips gave her trouble enough to be hospitalized. Even while she spent her 75th birthday on January 15th in a hotel room – something that still breaks my heart- we were all in such a state of shock and had to go back into the house (which was flooded with sewer back up) to get clothes and necessities.
Though there was much we could and did thank God for, the difficulties and challenges did cause great pain and uncertainty. It was certainly a longer haul for my mom as her health during this time roller coaster-ed while she tried to maneuver in various living settings outside her norm and awaited insurance company approval on details. IT was stressful to say the least. And it took its toll. My mom finally returned home by June.
Returning home to an unfurnished, albeit new apartment might seem exciting, but my mom’s health was still compromised. She adjusted well and we tried to settle in and move on, but the return her Esophageal cancer, along with her dietary condition and the toll of multiple hospital and nursing home rehab stays encountered along the 2018 journey left her depleted. I watched her fight but getting weary.
In Fall she continued to direct us to things she wanted done – like hanging pictures, and we finally got new furniture for the living room. We were still going through clothes and sometimes daily care took precedence of the other things, but I made the decision to stop working and focus on caring for mom at home. I wish I had done it sooner.
In October my mom was put on Hospice. Her long journey home was coming to a close. I can still see her fighting spirit- in a failing body, and her great frustration at the idea of losing her ability to do the smallest things.
She had a great nurse named Joe, who was just the right match for her. In the final weeks of her life I leaned ever more on the showing up of each member of the Hospice team. I hung on mom’s every breath and hoped for the impossible as we all do when facing endings we know are inevitable. The hardest part is saying goodbye, and who wants to do it? We hate to linger but we hate to move on. It’s the place that is the hardest place to go…but to walk through it, we must become comfortable with the discomfort of our own mortality…and the mortality of those we love.
I’m still processing all the lessons of 2018.The only thing I will say is despite it all, I stand firmly on the ground of my Keeper. Jesus has kept me through it all. My faith was seriously challenged, but in the end, I still stand and say with confidence. I know my Redeemer lives. I will save the deeper lessons for another day.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
– Job 19:25
I said goodbye to mom on the morning of December 22, 2018. Mom wished to be cremated so were able to wait until after the holidays to hold a memorial service in her honor on January 3rd. At that Memorial Service I read the poem I wrote for her during the last week of her life here on earth.
This poem is dedicated to my Mom but I trust it will be an encouragement to all who read it as it was given to me by the Lord, to whom all Praise and Honor and Glory is due.
If you wish to see a glimpse of my Mom’s life her obituary and a tribute video is available HERE: Phyllis DiMarcellis January 15-1943-December 22, 2018.
The Last Love Letter
by Dawn Paoletta
How do we say good-bye
when so much remains left unsaid?
As night falls upon another day
I stand by your hospital bed
tears dampen my cheeks,
and words fill my head.
One thing I know for sure-
Heaven is your cure,
a destination, not a tour
the healing balm for all that ails you…
where Jesus is your Doctor, Healer and Nurse-
Un-doer of The Curse,
and its power
where Christ Himself is King,
of Him alone all Heaven sings
and you too, will join in this choir
I pray you’re not afraid
though in death your beauty fade
for all will be restored by His Glory.
At last a faithful love,
descending from above
will carry you on wings
as white and pure as a dove’s
And He will dry your tears,
put away your fears
and lead you to
your very own mansion…
So though you’ve lingered here,
trust us also to His care-
we’ll be OK, no need to fear-
And though we might have more to say
our words and thoughts yet unconveyed
I’ll write you at your new address
Don’t you worry, no need to stress
for by His sacrifice we are blessed
trusting in His holiness.
Thank you for taking the time to read and honor my mom’s memory with me. I pray that my sharing this story is an encouragement despite the sadness inter-dispersed throughout. I will be sharing some of my grief journey in the days ahead and how journaling and prayer are keeping me afloat as I navigate this strange new land.
I hope you’ll stick around and journey with me!