Mama's Last Days on This Bitter Earth

This post is dedicated to my late mother, who lost a vicious battle to breast cancer. Mom left us too soon, December 2007, to be exact. She loved life and her family, but we could tell that she was ready to go. In fact, while at home with my youngest sister in California, “on her last night at home,” she said to my sister, ( I think it’s time)! And my sister said to us (mom’s other two daughters), ” I think you all need to come now!”


Silly me, though I’d rush there to the hospital and sit and talk with mom… But to my surprise, mom was not even aware that I was there. She was tubed up, in intensive care, and she felt cool to the touch. But mom’s eyeballs were moving underneath her eyelid.

“Surely I thought; she must hear me.” I gently rubbed her head and softly spoke to her, telling her that I was there and trying to fight back the tears. I held her hand, and she looked so different, “as if she had already transitioned without our permission,” even before I could say goodbye! Soon there was nothing to do but go home and prepare to come back the next day to have the talk that I longed to have with her. I don’t really know what I wanted to talk about.

I felt compelled to have a conversation with her. I needed to hear her voice, see her eyes, and see her smile. Now, this was all going down on a Friday night. I had flown in from Atlanta, and my oldest sister had arrived earlier after flying in from Chicago. Again that was on a Friday night, about midnight to be exact. Since mom was in intensive care, we could head straight to the hospital and see her that night.

My sister’s youngest sister, who lives in California, had cared for mom since she became ill. She is actually the youngest sister, but it seems that she is my big sister. I hate that I was so far away when mom took sick. I wish that I could have helped my sister more. All of these things were going through my head, and I only had one night for them to pass through because, by Saturday night (the next night), mom had passed away.

Well, mom and all her three daughters were very close. This includes me. Before mom passed away, she used to tell me that they called her the miracle lady at the hospital where she was treated for her cancer. This was because mom had been given approximately five years to live but was still here eleven years later. She said that doctors don’t always know when God will be calling you home.

Mom kept her suffering to herself, and she never revealed what stage of cancer her body was in. Yet, she said things were laced with clues, and I’m sad to say that I missed many of them. Even though it’s been two years, I still hurt deep down inside. I always wonder if she could hear me when I stood over her bed and gently stroked her head and whispered words of love and hope…I want to know if she knew I was there?

I didn’t want to see her go, but it hurt too much to see her stay. To see a vibrant, healthy, and loving woman transition from a life filled with love to the one that’s riddled with pain and despair is not a pretty picture! Mom was always such a positive and passionate person.

She never complained during her 12 year battle with breast cancer. Now don’t get it confused. I’m not saying that mom didn’t struggle or go through bouts of pain. I’m just saying that she never complained. Instead, she found some good amid her distress. Mom made her journey bearable for all of us, and she knew exactly what she was doing. This still amazes me.’ Just as most mothers are, mom was protective of our sense of vulnerability.

She knew that we wouldn’t do well, knowing that she was suffering emotionally and physically. But she was because I remembered times when she would sit in the dining room chair and stare out of the window as if she had a million things on her mind. Often she’d be bouncing her leg and slightly rubbing her hands together as she hummed a song.

Two years later, I found myself wondering about what she may have been thinking about! But it’s too late…I can’t ask her now, and I didn’t ask her then! Over the last two or three years prior t her passing, she had mentioned several times; that if it was her tome to go back then, she was ready! She started telling us things like, ( we needed to get out of debt and don’t keep reaching for things) because you didn’t need all of that to be content in life.

Mom said she didn’t mind going if it was her time since the world had so rough. And would only continue to worsen because people had lost their way. I no longer knew what was important in life. Mom’s been right about all of those things, but I wonder what made her tell us those things at that time in her life? She had to know that her time was near, and knowing that made her want to leave us with something more valuable than money. She seemed to keep feeding us wisdom unceasingly, and she did it as though she was passing it down for us to pass it on to our children.

For 15 years, mom laughed, cried, loved, and encouraged those who shared breast cancer diagnosis, a destiny no one looks forward to traveling. I guess I never really got it until the very end, and because of that, I still cry inside.’ You see, I never thought that breast cancer commanded such supremacy…but it does, and yet, there’s no cure!

And now I’m feeling a little guilty because I failed to mention that dad passed away 6 months after mom. He had prostate cancer. We loved dad dearly too, and I couldn’t get through a post about each of them at the same time…But not mentioning dad makes it seem as if he wasn’t as important as a mom, and that’s not the case!


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