Lois Hjelmstad

Lois Hjelmstad.com

Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

For the past eighteen years, I have felt especially sad on Mother's Day. 

Don't get me wrong – my husband and family were wonderful, provided beautiful flowers, poignant cards, a book of exquisite poems by Ted Kooser, a precious little stuffed animal, and took me out to dinner. I loved it.

All of the love and fun, however, did not assuage the sadness I felt on Sunday. My beloved mother died eighteen years ago today and in 1995, May 14 was Mother's Day. 

I am thinking of the day of her death and want to share an excerpt from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret:


May 14—I am grateful I have the presence of mind to get up early and pack everything I’ll need for the Big Spring Piano Recital and Graduation Recital this afternoon. I am thankful that I decide at the last minute to go help Jan [my sister]bathe Mother before Les and I go to the church.


We set everything up; the first program goes beautifully. During the reception between the two concerts, Renée [my sister-in-law]comes to tell us that Mother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. Her respirations are only three per minute. Although I have to desert the five precious girls who are giving their last recital, my only thought is to get to Mom in time.


Joy [our hospice nurse] had told us Friday that we were to keep her comfortable, giving her morphine as often as we noticed retraction. It would, as promised, relieve her sensation of suffocation and the struggling respiration. It is very efficient to give it in tiny amounts at short intervals. Karen [my daughter] prepares the medication; Nick [my physician brother] watches for retraction; I administer the doses. The rest of the family keeps vigil.


It is hard to continue giving morphine, knowing that it might hasten her death, but we have pledged that she will not suffer. Sometimes her teeth are clenched shut and I agonize that I am forcing her.


From 4:00 in the afternoon until 11:58, my eyes never leave her face and I am taking her pulse as it gradually fades, then stops. Her eyes are open, but she isn’t looking at us— her gaze focuses beyond us, and it is clear that she sees that which we cannot.


And so, on this Mother’s Day, my beloved mother dies. I gently close her mouth and hold her chin in place until it stays. I tuck the covers around her. She looks more peaceful than she has for eleven weeks—maybe more peaceful than she ever has.


We wait in silent good-bye, hearts breaking, until 2:35 a.m. when two men from the crematory come to take her body. They wrap her in a white sheet, twist the ends shut, and carry her out.


Dear God, I have no mother.



10 Responses

  1. Oh, Lois, what can I say? The loss of one’s mother changes a person profoundly doesn’t it? You quite literally enter a different realm of your life.

    I’m sorry your loss came on Mother’s Day. There’s something bittersweet and beautiful about that too, though.

    “Dear God, I have no mother,” those words are stunningly descriptive about how this passage feels. Thanks for writing. Hugs.

  2. Lois, this is heart-breakingly poignant. I felt tears and pain reading this. “Dear God, I have no mother.” Hauntingly beautiful. My thoughts are with you.

  3. dear lois,

    i am so very sorry for the pain that resides in your heart for the loss of your dear mother. i know that this mother’s day, which marked the date she died, must have been especially difficult, even though your family honored you in such lovely ways. i am glad that you could write about it so that so many people who love and admire you could offer support, and silently thank your sweet mom for giving us you.

    much love, XOXO

    karen, TC

  4. Oh, Lois, this imagery just renders my heart. My mother has been gone almost nine years and I still miss her so. Then, when my father died three years later, I became orphaned. May your heart be comforted by all the dear memories you have of this beloved woman. xox

  5. Thanks for your kind comment, Jan. My dad also died three years after my mother. And it was fifteen years ago yesterday. And then I was orphaned, too – a sad and different stage of life.

  6. Oh Lois. I understand your pain. I truly do. Those of us who are motherless daughters have a tight bond, brought on by the worst circumstance. Your writing sears my heart. What a lovely and heartbreaking tribute to your sweet mama.

  7. Thank you all for your comments. You are dear friends. And I want to let you know that my “mother” book, The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, is FREE today (May 7) and tomorrow. I really want all of you to have it, especially my friends across the sea and this is the chance.

    If you have a Kindle you can download to it, but if you don’t, you can download to your computer. So everyone can have it free.

    Just go to http://www.ow.ly/vfH8E right away.

    Love, Lois

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