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How to Love Your Mother to Death

Ms. Vicki

As many of you readers know, I treasure all the things my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother taught me while I was growing up.

My mother continued to teach me while I cared for her in my home for the past four and a half years. She passed away two weeks ago.

This year, I learned that the most important thing my mother would ever teach me is how to love her to death.

I was holding her in my arms and telling her she would be OK when she took her last two breaths. This was an honor. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of her transition from this life to the next.

There are three other significant things that I learned from my mother the past three months that I would like to pass on to all of you:

I was powerless and I could not change my mother’s date with destiny. I was on an emotional roller coaster as each day she grew weaker and weaker, and I couldn’t do anything to change the situation or the circumstance. I immediately reflected on many people who wrote me letters expressing the same thing: how they were powerless over situations they wanted to change. Suddenly, I understood them better through their letters. I was humbled to learn that what happens to my readers can also happen to me.

You can survive being in a powerless situation.

Teach your children to be givers and nurturers. Taking care of my mother was a family affair. I had the support of my husband and my three sons. My sons would forgo outings with friends, dates, football practice and other events to stay at home and help take care of their grandmother. Surely, I am not the only person who thinks this is a very entitled generation that only wants to receive and never give anything to others -- especially an elderly dying woman. Yet I allowed them to do what my mother taught me: to be a nurturer and give back to others.

I learned to be patient. As women, we tend to have a commanding presence and assume responsibility for everything. This way, we don’t have to wait for anyone or anything. We can do it ourselves and make sure the task is done right to our liking. It may sound strange, but my mother taught me to be patient with her life transition. It was difficult and challenging. She taught me to be patient with the caregivers who helped me care for her because their routines and strategies for care differed from mine. Even in death, she taught me to be patient with those who arranged her travel to her final resting place in Dallas.

As mothers, we never stop teaching our children, in life and in death. This is the first Mother’s Day I will ever spend without my mother. And I am so aware that I am my mother’s daughter -- and I always will be.

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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