The Passing of a Grand Lady- my Mother
Friday- March 11, 2011- Bonita Springs, Florida
It was sunny and 65 degrees out today, with a slight breeze here in Bonita Springs, Florida. That is relatively cool for a March day in Florida. Mary and I had been out walking this morning, a three mile jaunt to a local coffee emporium to read the Florida weekly. Thoughts of my Mother had been with us since I had spoken with Brother Mike earlier in the week. Mom’s prognosis was not good.
We had already booked a flight into Buffalo for the coming Monday and planned to say goodbye to mom and see what we could do to help Mike out with funeral arrangements. When we got back to our condo in the Spring Run complex, there was a message waiting for me on my cell phone. Mike said that My Mother, Eileen May (Carney) Martin had passed on at 8:50 A.M. this morning. The passing had been peaceful and she had gone to her rest untroubled.
At times like this, hundreds of thoughts and memories careen through your head. At age 62, I had shared the planet with Mom for 2/3 of her 92 plus years. My memories of here are both complex and diverse. For thirty some years, she and most of the family has lived in Southern California. My contacts with all of them had been via brief phone messages and a few assorted funerals and weddings through out the years.
Brother Mike had brought Eileen home to live with him about nine years back. Mike also had helped Eileen transition into a beautiful nursing home in Lewiston, N.Y. where she had lived for the last seven years.
For the first few years, we visited Mom regularly when we were in Buffalo. We brought her a family picture album and showed her the several generations of her family. Some she recognized, some she didn’t. But a few always brought a whisper of recognition to her. Her uncle George Kiesling, my brother Eddy and my uncle Edward always tickled her memories. It may be that the three of them were such unique and outlandish characters that her memory responded to their images. Still, she seemed to enjoy the visual scan of the family.
About two years back, we noticed that mom recogn ized fewer and fewer faces. Even the mention of her mother, Grandma Carney, drew a blank for her. The ravages of the “Long goodbye” were taking their toll. Still, we visited and continued our routine, hoping that somewhere in her consciousness she would know that “her own” were still visiting. Brother Mikes, as her Physician and care giver, visited her much more that we did.I knew she was getting good care.
Always in tragedy, there is dark humor. One bright Saturday morning, we had spent an hour showing Mom all the family photos, and brought her a box of chocolates and a nice sweat suit. She seemed both pleased and happy to spend time with us. We of course felt pleased with ourselves for being able to do a few things to make her happy.
We wheeled her back to her room for her nap. While we were doing so, my sister mary called her from California. My Mom held the phone close to her and whispered that there were
“two people in her room and she didn’t know who the hell they were.”
We smiled ruefully. Even though it burst our dutiful son & daughter in law bubble, we knew that it was the disease that had claimed her and who was talking into the phone, not the Eileen that we knew.
After that, we still visited her regularly, going through the same routine hoping that even just the visits were a pleasant distraction for her. The last year, Mom spent more time sleeping than awake. We never seemed to visit when she was fully awake. We got monosyllabic responses from mom even to such silly questions asking her is she had been skate boarding that morning or out dancing the evening before. Before this, such silliness had at least drawn a questioning look on her face and let us know that the spark of awareness still burned somewhere beneath the haze of Alzheimer's. And now she has passed on to be with dad, at rest at last.
After talking with Brother Mike and trading e-mails with Mary Eileen, we made our arrangements to fly back to the chilled climes of the “Big B” to pay homage to a woman who had given birth to twelve of us, and spent her entire adult life trying to get us all started on life’s journey. We have a lot to thank her for. In this day and age of entitlement where everyone thinks they are owed a life of ease, I can remember that not once did I ever hear my Mother complain about her lot in life, hard as it sometimes was. She gave us a love of reading and learning that has served us all well throughout our lives.
I will think and say more in the days to come about the complex woman that my Mother was, as her passing settles into my consciousness And I will appreciate her even more as the days and years go by.
Vaya Con Dios, Eileen.
Joseph Xavier Martin