Dreaming My Dreams by Waylon Jennings is a song that summarizes how Tom feels about his life when reflecting on the passing of his mother.
By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50
I was overwhelmed by the comments I received from our readers in response to the passing last week of my mom, Frances Pardee Blake. I was reminded of how special you all are--compassionate and caring individuals, bonded by dreams of happiness and a passion for life as we tackle the issues of relationships and aging together.
Today's column isn't about Mom, or about me losing a person I loved dearly. It is, however, a little off topic so bear with me this week.
I use her passing only as background for a bigger picture: life, the search for happiness, pursuing dreams, the losses and issues we incur along the way, and the importance of friendship. It's about the good in people we don't always see on the surface.
Over the final couple of months of Mom's life, I was camped out often in Santa Rosa, California, where she lived for 33 years. I met a lot of folks during that time who went from being just people with titles-doctors, caregivers, nurses, neighbors, volunteers, funeral home owners--to people who blossomed with depth of character, caring and warmth. A lot of new people enter your life during an event like this.
One of the promises my brother, sisters and I made to Mom was that we would keep her at her home until the end. A month ago, when I told Dr. Bisbee--her physician of 25 years--that that was our wish, he asked, "Are you prepared to have her die at home?" I gulped and said "yes," realizing he knew her days were numbered. Then he added, "She will pass in dignity, which you are providing for her."
Those words by her doctor were reassuring to us that we were doing the right thing. And during times like that, family members need to be reassured that they are doing the right thing.
Your comments made me realize how many of you have lost one or both parents, a child, or a spouse. Our member Susan sent hugs and said, "My dad died this past May 9; my prayers are with you."
Ruth wrote, "I lost my mother in April at 83. It is so hard." Ruth is still reeling, and yet she took the time to write. As you all did, Ruth drew upon her grief, and her experience, to reassure us that life for us would go on.
Leslie said, "My mother died in May at age 89 of Alzheimer's Disease, and it's affected me much more than I thought it would, and like you, was a relief to both her and me."
And it's not just about losing a parent. It's about losing anyone you loved. Debbie shared, "I lost my husband two years ago. I was 50. I haven't started to date, but the information obtained from your newsletters will be very helpful once I'm ready."
God knows, we have a lot of widows and widowers among our members-they've walked the walk. They know the pain. They know the importance of friendship and helping others.
I also learned that care giving for parents has consumed the time of many of you-and will consume the time of many more. My only advice: seek help as soon as you can.
My brother Bill lives in Dallas, sister Pam in San Diego, sister Chris in Mill Valley (just across the Golden Gate Bridge-yet an hour from Santa Rosa)--and I'm in San Clemente, 450 miles away. We realized we couldn't take care of Mom on our own, neither from a time standpoint, or a professional standpoint. We did our best to administer oxygen and morphine and help her with her personal needs, but it wasn't enough.
So, we turned to Hospice home care for help. I learned quickly that it takes a special person to work in that field. The nurses and aids were so caring of Mom. I found out from your comments that we have Hospice nurses and volunteers among our members. Jan said, "I am a hospice nurse here in Orange County. You and your family gave her a beautiful gift to honor her final wishes to stay in her home, instead of a noisy hospital."
Jan's comments were reassuring to my siblings and me when we needed reassurance.
Connie added, "We lost our Mum on June 3rd and she was in Hospice care as well. They are the true unsung heroes among us," and she is right.
Diane said, "I lost my Mom 2 years ago and we worked with Hospice also. They are a gift."
Liz said, "I have been a hospice volunteer for 10 years and I would have been honored to have met your mom and cared for her." Liz's words summarize the attitude that these Hospice people have. Hospice people strive to make end of life honorable. What incredible individuals.
Other caring people are the Meals On Wheels folks. One volunteer came in and gave Mom a peck on the cheek each time she delivered.
Zoe, one of our members from Glastonbury, England, wrote, "I shall light a candle for her." Think of it, someone I've never met lighting a candle for Mom in England. How powerful is that?
In a time like this, words said aren't what matter. If you have a friend who loses someone, never worry about what to say, just be sure you say it. It was hearing from you that mattered, what you said simply personalized it.
Holly, who worked with me at the restaurant chain Victoria Station 30 years ago, said, "Take a few hours or day, whenever you can steal them and just sit under a tree. It's a huge relief, and a big loss. There's something significant that happens to and with us when our previous generation departs. It's the time we appreciate who we lost, and the significance of whom we still have in our lives."
Holly is right; my partner Greta has been at my side and given me space when she felt I needed it during this ordeal; what a blessing.
John warmed my heart with these words, "I've never met you, but you have contributed to my life through your newsletter and book."
Nancy, another Victoria Station co-worker, emailed, "My Dad is 94 and Mom is 89. I pray when their time comes, that it is peaceful." My response to Nancy, which applies to any of you who has a parent still living, was this:
"It is really important to have them get their assets into a trust, or to include you or a sibling as a trustee on bank accounts, etc, to avoid Probate. Not sure about Florida law, but in Calif., to avoid Probate, real property assets have to be less than $30,000 and total assets less than $100,000."
Also important for those of you with living parents: ensure a good will is written, designating an executor. Insist on that now. Know where the original copies of documents are located. We had Mom put assets into a trust two years ago; wrapping up her estate will be much easier, faster and less costly than going through Probate.
And it's important for us--our generation--to put our estates in order for the benefit of our children and family members.
Final thoughts: Music is a powerful force in our lives, particularly mine. Three years ago, I wrote a memoir that covered eight years of my life during the 1970s, titled, Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? As indicated above, several of our members worked for Victoria Station.
I ended the book with Dreaming My Dreams, a song by the late Waylon Jennings. I hadn't achieved my hoped-for goals at Victoria Station, but it had been an incredible experience and that song summarized my feelings.
It's an eerily, haunting, song, very beautiful, lots of steel guitar, about having a goal in life, but falling a bit short of it. It's about loss and remembrance of a passion you lived for. Now, with Mom's passing, that song has taken on a new meaning for me. The words, "Someday, I'll get over you, but I'll always miss, dreaming my dreams with you," are how I will think about her. Here is a link to it on You Tube, listen to the words closely:
God bless you all. We are in this thing called life together.