I grew up in Poland, the only daughter of WWII survivors. My mom was Lithuanian from a family of six siblings: three strong, brave brothers and three hearty, confident sisters. She married my father, a woodworker, after WWII and settled in Wodj, Poland. My mom was in her late 40’s when I was born. After three sons, she was thrilled to have a girl! She was my momma bear, my rock, always on my side. She protected me and encouraged me that I could do anything that my brothers could. If only she had known how rough they tended to be, I think she would have wrapped me in a bubble! My mom was the one who taught me humanity and showed me the beauty in all that surrounds us despite living under harsh conditions. She instilled in me a sense of curiosity and a love of reading.
On that fateful morning that I lost my mom, we were both trying to be brave for each other. She had been sick with stomach cancer for over a year. I had watched as my vibrant, funny, no nonsense mother disappeared into a shell of herself. I think intuitively we knew the end was approaching but could not say it aloud. I cannot imagine the emotional pain my mom must have felt knowing she was leaving her only daughter, her priceless possession, all too soon. The physical pain she experienced is something I will never forget. When the ambulance workers arrived, she was grey and frail. At that time Poland was a country ravaged by war, under Communist rule and Martial law. It was in the midst of an economic crisis and everything was essential, including medicine. She was dying, so they refused to administer pain killers to ease her suffering. It was devastating to realize that my mom could not be saved.
I was only 14 years of age and struggled to let go of the best thing that I had in my life. We were going to conquer the world together, my mom and me, just as we had done when I was younger. Now it was only me. My father, heartbroken and widowed again, did the best he could to console me, but he checked out. As for my brothers, they had their own lives to lead and were not around much.
Looking back at those heartbreaking, gut wrenching weeks leading up to my mom’s untimely death, I wish we weren’t alone in our pain and that we had hospice to rely on. I wish there had been someone, somewhere to offer help to my mom on how to deal with dying. I wish she had the guidance to a peaceful departure that could have eased some of the emotional pain she carried.
I know that we all have to face that last hour, our last breath, yet it still hurts especially when it is your mom. Moms carry a special place in a daughter’s heart. We count on our mothers to guide us through young adulthood and to be there to celebrate important milestones in our lives. Losing my mom at such a young age had a profound effect on my life. I wish I did not have to carry all that sadness and sorrow, which still weighs heavy on me after all these years. I know if hospice services had been available to me in my time of need, I would have better coped with my mom’s death.
On this Mother’s Day take a moment to honour and remember your mother. Set aside time to reminisce through old photos and celebrate those moments of love and laughter that you shared. People and the time spent with them are precious, so enjoy it all to the fullest.
Some things to ponder:
What memories do you have of your mom when you were a teenager? If you lost your mother at a young age, how did that affect you? Is there anything you regret not saying or doing before your mother passed away? Respectfully submitted, Joanna P.