Eulogy of My Mother
My mom died on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm. This is my eulogy for her. I want to start off by saying this should not have happened. It’s not fair and I am in NO WAY ready for this.
To give you a brief timeline of the events, it first started a few months ago. My mom is the strongest person I know but back in April she started having some serious muscle weakness in her legs. It had gotten bad enough that by the end of July she starting seeing a bunch of doctors and was hospitalized. She saw ‘a bunch’ of doctors because none of them could figure out what was causing the issue. She spent most of the time at St. Marks in South Salt Lake and at one point was transferred to a rehab facility, Health South in Sandy, when they thought they had figured in out and were ready for her to start getting better. They were looking at CIDP and a few other possibilities that could be causing the nerve damage that created the limb weakness. In the rehab facility, it had gotten worse so she went back to St. Marks and was eventually transferred to The University of Utah hospital. She has been surrounded by many talented and dedicated medical professionals this whole time but I want to make particular mention of the U of U hospital. Those people are some of the most caring, talented medical staff I could possibly imagine, especially Dr. Tina Burton. They were helpful and caring and worked so hard to figure out this unusual and difficult case even up until the end.
The end. It’s crazy how the end of a story can change how you re-examine every detail leading up to it. I say that because until that Sunday morning, I truly believed she was going to make it out of this. The week leading up to her death, the nerve damage had ascended into her lungs and she needed to be put on a respirator. They had figured out she had some sort of vasculitis but still could find what was the root cause. Also that week her kidneys shut down so she had to be on dialysis as well. She was awake and responding Thursday night (as well as you can with a tube down your throat) but Friday morning the nurses could not get her to respond. They quickly did a brain scan and found that she had a stroke during the night. 2 Strokes, actually. My dad called me that morning and asked if there was any way I could get out of work and head up to the hospital immediately. He then explained the events of the previous few days. At one point, he even said “I’m sorry to give you such crummy news over the phone” but it still had not occurred to me that she could die. She was too strong of a person. She could beat anything. I was more concerned how she was going to learn to live with the damage from the stroke than I was considering her possibility of passing. The one stroke was the common clot kind where a portion of the brain has a loss oxygen and hers was on the back left side which controls the right side of the body and language. She also had a bleeding stroke on the right side of her brain which prevented any of the usual treatments for strokes. They couldn’t treat either side because the treatment for one would worsen the other. We were basically just waiting and hoping her brain wouldn’t swell to a fatal level. Brains always swell after a stroke but stroke survivors’ brains don’t swell beyond that tipping point. By this time they had also narrowed down the instigating issue to a blood disease. It could be cancer but there are tons of blood diseases so we just had to wait for the results which were likely not to get back until Monday and that would only tell us what it is not solve the issues she’d been through.
Then comes Sunday morning. All day Friday and Saturday, it was just waiting; waiting for results, checking the periodic MRIs, etc. My dad’s call Sunday late morning was to let me know our options. The damage from the stroke was severe and she had to be on life support for multiple issues that had nothing to do with the stroke. So we could decide to take her off life support or they were willing to do another MRI but let us know, it would likely just confirmed our decision to let her go. This is the moment it all became real to me. Anger, depression, fear, sadness, grief, all sharing the same space in my heart, I collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain, sobbing uncontrollably. This was it. She was going to die.
We, of course, opted for the MRI. Much of my extended family met at the hospital at 7 pm to meet with the doctors and discuss the results of the last MRI. We all gathered in a room with a projector and the doctors showed us that the damaged part of the brain had increased. So not only is it likely she’d never speak again but the cognitive language part was not damaged and she could hear you speak and likely recognize your voice but would not be able to understand what you are saying. Any of you who know my mother knows that this would never be the kind of life she’d want to live. To forever be unable to express your thoughts and feelings would be unbearably frustrating. Plus, that minute chance of waking to an awful life is completely aside from all the other things trying to kill her. After the doctors explained everything and answered all our questions, they excused themselves and we then went around the room and each gave our opinion of what we should do. It was unanimous that we all believed she wouldn’t want to hang on like this and that her spirit has likely already left her body. My dad then invited each of us to say goodbye if we’d like and he told the doctor of our wishes. Her respiratory support and blood pressure medication were removed at 9:45 pm. A bunch of us decided to be present during this procedure and through the end. They brought in some chairs and we all sat around my mom, holding her hands, massaging her feet and telling her how much we love her in shouts and whispers. All our conversations revolved around loving and/or funny stories of mom, her life, and her character. There were sobbing tears, joyful tears, and even somber laughter as we shared this sacred moment with each other. She struggled to breathe as her heartbeat, blood pressure, and oxygen levels slowly dropped until past 11 pm. The last few minutes, her decline increased quickly and the last beat of her heart was at 11:08 pm.
The second definition of eulogy is “high praise”. My mom was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met and she and I had a very special, unique connection…like everyone else. That was the thing with my mom. No matter what your relation to her was, she had an innate ability to make you feel special. When you needed her, you were the only person in her world and she would stop at nothing to solve your issue. Those who know me would all generally describe me as independent and I’ve always had pride in that but in reality, I am just a offshoot of her. From my father, I was given the tools for success (discipline, respect for hard work, etc.) but from my mom I learned strength, perseverance, and the importance of following your heart. I’m not an independent soaring eagle, I’m just a kite whose string has been cut.
My mom had a deep love for music. This was the foundation on which I have built my entire life. Though our definition of what constitutes as ‘good’ music may have varied, pursuit in a music filled life is something we shared deeply. When I was young and lived at home, I understand why it was difficult to get on board with my career aspirations but as I got older, wiser, and my songwriting style/tastes softened, she really came around to my dream/vision. One of the best memories of playing music was the first time I saw my mom singing along at a concert to one of my original songs. That’s always a grand moment looking out from the stage and watching an audience member sing your words but when I saw my mom do it, it was magical. Not only did she love that song (Beat) but in a single moment, it was like she confirmed her support of my work and proved that all the early opposition was due to her not wanting me to choose such a difficult path and had nothing to do with whether or not she believed in me and my talents.
In the last couple of years I’ve also dived head first into filmmaking. It was my mother who initial pushed for me to pursue that. She saw how passionate I was about film and specially music in film that many times she suggested I look into it. So when the opportunity to work with UnknownProphet Picturespresented itself, I already had the confidence to accept. She had such an amazing ability to inspire progress and self confidence.
My mom had what I call a “reward laugh” where her laugh was so endearing that pursuing it became the most worthy endeavor every time she was around. She had a unique but well developed sense of humor. Making her laugh was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’m sad how little I got to visit her the last month of her life but I’m happy to say the last time I saw her conscious, I did make her chuckle.
Her love of evergreen (Christmas) trees is something she definitely passed down. I will forever think of her whenever I see evergreens. My birthday is in a month but I’m most worried how I’m going to get through Christmas this year. Christmas was my mom’s thing. Between the Festival of Trees and the dozens of family traditions during that time of year, I can’t imagine Christmas without her.
In those first moments of me accepting the news, the biggest tears were definitely shed about what the future holds. If I ever marry and have kids, they will have never known the greatest person in my life. I don’t believe you can really know me without having met my mom. She was such a huge part of my life. I also she many tears for the thousands of people she would have affected the lives of beyond my family. Her love had such a long, immeasurable reach. I am angry. This was too soon. Everyone seems to be relying on the adage that everything happens for a reason and it’s supposed to happen when it does but eff that. This was not supposed to happen. She had so much more life to live. I don’t think I’ve ever understand the why here.
To end on a lighter note, however, I am happy I got to witness such a sacred moment in my life and the life of my siblings. We’ve always been pretty close. I mean, we’ve been spread across the country physically but our reunions are always very dear. There’s a line in an Avett Brothers song that kept coming to me the day my mom died. It’s called “Murder in the City” and it’s instructions to the family of these 2 brothers should the occasion arise of their death. It sounds gruesome but it’s actually very beautiful. The last verse is:
If I get murdered in the city
Go read the letter in my desk
Don't bother with all my belongings
Pay attention to the list
Make sure my sister knows I love her
Make sure my mother knows the same
Always remember there was nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name
Always remember there was nothing worth sharing
Like the love that let us share our name
Though the song is not directly about my situation, that phrase “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name” has never made so much sense to me.