Lois Hjelmstad

Lois Hjelmstad.com

Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

One day, while caring for my mother, the reality of her dying hit me hard. I walked home, weeping, shut myself in my office, and penned my farewell to her:

Farewell, Beloved Mother
What can I say to you, beloved mother,
as you embark on your last journey?

What can I say to you, beautiful friend,
as I watch you leave my horizon?

What can I say to you
as I see your fragile body growing
ever more fragile and shutting down?

Shall I tell you of memories, of minutia?

rocking in your arms by the pot-bellied stove
slender hands stitching my wedding dress
your paintings adorning my walls
grandmothering raised to an art form
sunny afternoons of talk and silence
shopping trips, finding just what you wanted
impeccable grooming, gracious inner beauty
your sweet smile as you listened at recitals

Shall I tell you of my gratitudes?

gift of life from your small body
skills and zest for homemaking
encouragement for my teaching
confidences shared and guarded

What can I say to you, dearest mother
as I see you abandon this dimension?

You have always been beautiful—
you are more beautiful now
you have always been courageous—
you are most courageous now

What can I wish for you, cherished mother,
as you reach toward the new tomorrow?

I trust your journey will be safe
I pray your journey will be peaceful
I know your reward is secure

I have always loved you
I will miss you forever

Farewell, beloved mother
Farewell, beloved friend

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, copyright 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

When I took the poem to her, she tried to read it, but her arms shook so much that she couldn't hold the paper. She covered her face with a tissue and asked me to read it to her. Our sobbing almost drowned out the belch of her oxygen concentrator.

8 Responses

  1. This is so hard for me to read, but so wonderful too. I cannot write poetry like you, but I recently wrote this piece of prose as part of the health activist writing challenge I did last month on my own Mom’s final days.


    It is late November – the days are dark and my mother, who is dying, has been moved to hospice care. The candles flicker in the room, silent but for her labored breathing. Aunts and uncles come and go, bending over her sleeping form, stroking her hair, murmuring prayers. My mother struggles for one last breath, then quietly leaves this world. I hold that precious hand that first held mine, lovingly stroke and kiss the fingers now growing white like an alabaster statue. I feel as if I am falling into a deep hole – the hole in my life where my mother should be and suddenly it occurs to me, I can’t remember the sound of her voice anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *