The Brilliant, yet Ghoulish, Request from my Mom

adamsfamilyIn the week following my father’s death, my mom is just plain mean. I learned a while ago that my Mom goes mean when she is scared or feels like she has no control over what is happening. We tried to quickly figure out how to help my Mom understand and give her reminders for recent events and what was coming.

One of my brothers was handling most of the daily visits and wrote up a summary of events and dates so she could have all the information available. We just needed her to remember to look on the refrigerator or dig through one of the many piles in which we left a copy of the summary.

The thing that helped the most was the photograph my Mom insisted we take right after my father died. All of us (me, my siblings and Mom) were at his bedside. My Mom asks if one of us has a camera so we can take a picture of us with our now deceased Dad. We decide that we will fulfill our Mom’s request but are all very reticent to have this picture taken.The Nurse comes in and shares that our request is not that strange and takes several shots using the camera on my phone.

These pictures are the saddest and most unusual family portrait. I know how much my Mom loves pictures and I print out two copies for my brother to share with Mom. She tapes them to her bureau mirror in the bedroom.

My Mom has been calling at night and asking “Where is your Father” or “Why didn’t you tell me your Father died?” in a very mean and accusatory tone.  I would gently walk my Mom through the timing, direct her to the summary on the refrigerator and the picture on her bureau. The information calms my Mom. She doesn’t remember and has to reabsorb this loss many times each day.

I would have never thought to take a picture, but have found that picture so helpful. My Mom understands the loss — and can see that we were all there to say goodbye together. Comforted. 

6 thoughts on “The Brilliant, yet Ghoulish, Request from my Mom

  1. My Dad has a photo of my Mother’s grave stone by his chair. His name is on it and he talks about it. He tells everyone that is where he is headed.
    Little hard to hear to me but centering to him.

  2. Kay, I think you definitely did the right thing to help comfort your mom. My mom always got meaner the more scared she was – sort of a push-pull reaction is the best way to describe it: needing me, but trying to push me away to confirm her worst fears that she’d be left alone when she needed to most.

    My niece, who lived the first six years of her life with Daddy and Mama and in many ways considered them her parents, asked me to take a picture of Mama when she was in her death sleep (she didn’t want me to think that was weird – I didn’t) and email it to her and then asked me to take a picture of Daddy and Mama’s headstone (again, not wanting me to think that was weird – again, I didn’t) and email it to her. It comforted her and it comforted me.

    1. OK – So this is one of the best things I’ve heard and what a wonderful way to phrase it. I’m not such a fan of the picture by the bedside, but we did take one of my Dad at the viewing. While my brother still shivers at the thought, the image of my Dad in peace was very comforting to me. Thank you.

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