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Hatred & hysterectomy

My mom was the black sheep of her family.

When my siblings and I realized she was going to die, probably within days, we agreed to reach out to her siblings. I contacted one of Mom’s aunts and asked her to call Mom’s siblings. I was clear about my expectations:

To avoid drama or negativity and to make sure Mom’s last few days are peaceful, it is absolutely imperative any contact be made through me.

Despite this clearly stated desire to send Mom off in peace, my mom’s younger sister said–on speaker phone to my dying mom–that she wasn’t “ready yet” to talk to Mom, despite that peaceable conversation with Mom was the single permissible purpose for my aunt and uncles to call me:

we, however, do not want to deny the chance to say goodbye if any of her siblings wish it.

My dying mom cringed at her sister’s words before retreating underneath her covers.

I took the phone into another room and said that we were done. “Have a good life, but please have it far from us,” I told her.

Before I hung up, my normally mild youngest sister cursed our aunt with words I’d never before heard her speak.

My aunt did call back and speak kinder words to Mom before she died. The pain on my mom’s face eased as she listened to my aunt and felt, for a moment, forgiven.

I’d had a strange conversation with my aunt before that one. Before I would dare put her on speaker phone with my mom again.

My mom’s doctor had recommended she get a hysterectomy to limit cancer’s spread. Mom rejected this, which my aunt took as my mom being obstinate for the sake of obstinacy.

“It’s not,” I told her, trying to be patient. “She didn’t even believe in transplants or, really, piercings. She thought we were supposed to leave the world the way God made us.”

“Oh. I guess that’s OK, then.”

“I don’t think it really matters what you think.”

I disagreed with my mom on many things over the course of the living years we shared. It didn’t surprise me we would disagree about things over the course of her death, too.

In her place, I believe I would have consented to eighteen hysterectomies if I thought it would save me. Even if eighteen hysterectomies didn’t make sense.

But I never faulted Mom for living or dying in the way she believed was right. I didn’t characterize her as this or that for believing–or living–differently than me. I won’t say I respected her every wish as she died, because I would be lying. I did, however, carefully consider and weigh each deviation from her wishes.

I loathed my aunt for months after my mom’s death. It was my brother in law who reoriented me, asking, “Do you seriously think anyone in their right mind could have said that to a dying woman? Do you really want to waste your time and energy hating someone so clearly sick?”

His words stung, but he was right.

What’s the point in it?

What’s the point in hating someone because they believe differently?

Because they act differently?

Because anything?

Nothing in this world is better for it. Not one thing.

And sometimes, sometimes I just have to walk myself through these memories to remind myself what’s not important.

And, of course, to remember what really is.

Thanks to Victo Dolore for inspiring me to share some less than beautiful moments
to ease the loneliness of seeming to imply life is always beautiful, or tidy.
  1. Katrina
    January 31, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Your brother in law is right. I will say that I strongly believe there are many issues that need to be addressed and people are so off in their mind they are almost impossible to talk to. I love love love you and your siblings and am so happy that you guys were and still are so strong. I think that it was a family of hurt and some dont know how to stop it. Not that the feelings didn’t exist but there needs to be a time that one moves on. You can’t live on hurt forever. If you keep bringing up things that happened 20 years ago or more than the hurt is doing what it does best. You are a great example of moving on. ❤ that’s enough mindless ramble. I hope you get.my point.😉

    • January 31, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      I absolutely do! This post was actually inspired by date day conversation with Anthony. It was such a sweet and lovely day that it made me feel all the more grateful for this life now, including loving, lovely people who point out when I’m holding onto stuff there’s no use keeping. I actually thought of this while in PDX recently. It seemed absurd I could ever have felt ill will toward R. I truly wish she could/will find peace. That’s what makes the world better.

      I am so glad you found my page and led to a different path for this generation. Every time we exchange words, I can feel my mom rejoicing and saying, “Now this, this is getting it right.”

      Love you. Grateful for you.

  2. January 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    What great wisdom from your brother-in-law! Beautiful post. Had tears in my eyes even before the last paragraph. Thank you! 🙂

    • January 31, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      My life is so, so much better for that dude! Medical school is crushing him, but man … the thought of him finishing it and working to heal others lifts me right up! As do your posts. Thank goodness for healers! )

  3. January 31, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Remembering is important for so many reasons… thank you for pointing out the need to remember what’s not important and why that matters in the long run ~

    • January 31, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      It was such a surprising reminder in this context, but after reflection … I think peaceable moments are probably the best to use for affirming that investing in anything else is poor investing.

  4. January 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    your words are always so beautiful even when writing about painful things! Your brother in law is a wise and awesome man!

    • January 31, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      He really is! Some know him for his crassness, but that’s just what’s on the surface. 😀

  5. January 31, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    You did your Mom proud. You did the best you could. The rest is on those crazy ass siblings of her, wherever they are. Nice post.

    • January 31, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Thank you. Life has been much less frustrating since I realized I can only control my output. Nothing else! I still have to consciously apply the knowledge to new situations, but it’s a little easier after each round … especially imagining how happy my mom would be to see it all.

  6. terrikurczewski
    January 31, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Excellent post. Yep. Hate is like holding a coal and expecting the other person to burn (something like that). I’m sure you still make your mama proud.

    • January 31, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      That is the perfect analogy. It feels so powerful, but it’s illusory.

      Also … last night I dreamed of my mom for only maybe the fourth time since she died. She had her best yard sale ever, in Hollywood instead of home, and people were recognizing her brilliance. I couldn’t find her near the end of the dream, but I felt her into awakening. Maybe that’s where (the drive for) this post came from.

      • terrikurczewski
        January 31, 2015 at 6:24 pm

        She was definitely thinking of you :))

  7. January 31, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    My mother was estranged from her family. To the extent that she told us that they were dead. Dead to her they were. Sadly we didn’t find out that it was a lie until her sibling was also dead.
    I have so many questions – which can never be answered. Just the same, silence (cruel as it can be) shows more respect than attacking someone who is leaving us…
    Your brother in law is right, but my anger would have burned hot just the same.

    • January 31, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      I’m sorry you missed out on your opportunity to connect. 😦

      I was really beat earlier this week and frustrated with something Li’l D had done. I opted for momentary silence while collecting my thoughts.

      After I’d cooled after, he wanted to know why I’d been so quiet. I explained that sometimes heated moments lead us to say things that can’t be unsaid and that aren’t even necessarily true/to the right person, so I take a few minutes for quiet when that’s a risk. Or try to take a moment, in any case … sometimes I’m already ankle deep in sharing my mind before I realize where I’m at. The joys of being human, eh?

  8. January 31, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Realistically, this happens to many families, I have witnessed so many families in the same scenario. My only sibling wasn’t so good to me, I came to the right age understanding all her lies and troubles she had caused me and my parents. But I don’t want to go as far as hating her to the point of forgetting the fact that she is my sister.

    • January 31, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      After my mom died, I actually had the only significant disagreement I’ve had with my siblings to date. It was terrible. Fortunately, a childhood home can only be disposed of once, and we made final choices conscious of what we didn’t want the future to look like for our generation.

      Also fortunately, one of my cousins found my blog and created another connection between members of this generation. Now she and her siblings are online friends with me and mine, and it’s a reality I rejoice pretty much on the daily … even if I don’t get around to saying it every day.

      • January 31, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        That’s great. Blood is still thicker than water and even after each life we still have to end it peacefully, at least we have to try.

  9. January 31, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about that.

    • January 31, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      The good news here is that she did end of saying loving words to my mom. I’ve heard enough to know it didn’t have to be that way, so I do remain grateful my aunt stepped up to grant my mom that final bit of peace. That’s the part I take with me now.

  10. February 1, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Memory at times clarifies, at other times simply wraps a blanket around us and reminds us we were loved and continue to be loved. I think you are fortunate to be able to unwind what binds you to the past in hurtful ways.

    As always you clear paths for so many of us. I love you. ❤

  11. cardamone5
    February 1, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Right on. You can’t change what others say/do. You can only control how you receive their actions/words/presence. You are a better person for putting this important lesson into practice at such a painful time. Your mom would be proud.


  12. February 1, 2015 at 11:25 am


  13. February 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I love your response—”It doesn’t matter what you think”—and I find myself saying this (at least in my head) every so often. It’s such an important distinction, and one that we’d be much happier for.

    On another note, Deb, I so love your blog and nominated you for a Real Neat Blog Award. I linked to you, too: http://tenthousandhourmama.com/2015/02/02/real-neat-blog-award-and-7-questions/

    Please keep writing!

  14. February 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    You did your mom proud indeed! I hope my children respect my dying wishes some day.You are an amazing daughter.

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