15 August 2012

“She died peacefully in her sleep.”

I’ve imagined hearing those words for a long time about my mother. I’ve wanted to hear those words. Frankly, anyone who loves a friend or family member or spouse should want to hear those words.

I woke up to those words this morning. Racing against my mother’s failing strength and will, the cumulative delays of travel kept me from reaching her side before she died.

I have no remorse, guilt, or regret at not being at her side when VJC died. For the last five years, we’ve agreed that every time we said good-bye might well be the last time we would see each other. Living in where we did, with lives that we loved, meant that it would take extraordinary luck to be in the same place at the moment of her death. Having said good-bye last Thursday, and spoken on Sunday afternoon, there was no sense of anything left unsaid by either of us. We touched, we connected, we parted physically, but never emotionally or spiritually.

For every time my mother asked and cadged at moving from Oregon to Washington, DC to be closer to Graham and me (and the prompts were frequent, unrealistic, and not intended to produce any result but more frequent visits to her), fear of being alone at the moment of her death was not ever discussed or hinted at as a reason to move closer. Both Virginia and I knew that regardless of the cause, her natural death was likely to happen quietly and without us being present.

Virginia’s death happened as we both thought it would: it was quiet, peaceful, and painless.

Given her dementia and lung cancer, a quiet, peaceful, and painless death could not be guaranteed. I’m grateful to the medical and social support team from Silverton Hospital, Willamette Valley Hospice, and Mt. Angel Towers who worked with both Virginia and me – and with whom Virginia occasionally crossed swords – and who made the last six months of my mother’s life as safe, secure, and satisfying as possible. Their effort and compassion and skill allowed me to keep living as my mother was dying.

My grieving began in February, and felt strained and extended as I previously wrote. With my mother’s death, I can now grieve in earnest, knowing she is at rest and at peace. And I will grieve, but at the same time am truly grateful that my mother is at rest and peace, on her terms, surrounded by spirits of friends and family who have preceded her in death.

Rest in peace, Virginia Jean Kuehner Fusick Cory.

June 7th, 1923 – August 15th, 2012.

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