Dear Mom: Don’t Die. Ever.

Moms. I need mine. She is 85 years old. And while all signs signal time is running out, I’m no nearer to gracefully letting her go than I was decades ago.

A colleague and friend of mine, who recently lost her mother to a rapid-fire cancer, said: “I’ll be driving down the road and think, ‘I need to tell my mom about something.’ I’ll start to call her and then I remember I can’t. She’s no longer one call away. She’s gone.”

I’ve feared my mother’s death ever since my dad died when I was 16. I learned then that the people you love most do indeed die. You can be standing beside them one day and the next day, they’re six feet under, beyond your reach. Much like a tornado, it happens without warning, tearing away the roof over you, leaving you without ground beneath your feet, ripping apart every certainty.

Crazily, my mom lives across the street, just a newspaper throw away. She hasn’t always been nearby but thankfully, as my child was entering her teenage years and ever busier, my husband kindly moved my aging mother, his mother-in-law, across the street.

That alone could be a frightening thought for many a soul – family close as a Frisbee toss. But the thing about my mom, she never has been needy, or nosy. She is an independent soul, still working today, doing what she loves.

She is and always has been, as cliche as it sounds, young at heart. But in the last few years, she suddenly has become old, or maybe only recently I’ve been able to see it or accept it. She no longer can out-walk me, now barely able to walk a lap around our neighborhood park. Her tight, curly hair that never has grown longer than her ears is growing ever thin. I see in her eyes, of late, a little weariness of this life, tired of growing and getting old.

For someone with her stamina and energy, I’m certain it is difficult for her to put on her brakes, and yet she is unable to stop the slowing down that comes with aging.

As I try to come to grips with the inevitable, I know eventually I will have to face it one way or another. And still, I resist. There’s still so much living for her to do: high school and college graduations to attend, theatrical performances to watch, great grand babies to be born.

I remember as my dad was dying, I whispered a prayer under my breath as I watched him struggle to stay with us. It was simply: “End his pain. As much as I want him to stay, I don’t want him to be in pain anymore.” It was the only farewell I could bid. Within weeks, he died.

My mother: she’s the spitfire I can’t bear to lose.

There are only a handful of people on this planet who if they died, I’m not certain I could breathe. They seem essential. My mom, undoubtedly, is one of them. For all our differences, for all our hardheadedness, for all that lies between us, she has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.

Moms are never not needed, no matter how old.

At times, through the years, when she could barely muster the will to live after my dad died and again in more recent years as she suffered and recovered from several bouts of heart trouble, I’ve repeated emphatically to her: “Do not die on me.”

But what I really mean and what I’d like to say: “Don’t die. Ever.”