My mom passed away. When I last posted, just over a month ago, she had been admitted to the hospital after a series of strokes. In hindsight, her final illness was not a long one – two and a half weeks. But while it was unfolding, we were all over the map in terms of prognosis and hope. Even in the final week, I remember being convinced that she was turning around for the better. In the last days, however, it was so clear that no improvement was going to happen, and our best hope was for a peaceful end.

Much to be grateful for

Although it was a time of huge loss and exhausting intensity, I am struck by how much beauty there was in it, and by how much I have to be grateful for.

Most obviously, I’m grateful that Mom lived a long life. She died on her 93rd birthday. And she lived well until the end. Her wonderful trip to Italy in September now takes on iconic proportions.

Mom was at peace with death. When I told her, after the first of her strokes, how sad my eldest was about it, she said, “Tell her I’ve lived a long life. I’ve been very lucky, very blessed. If this is an introduction to death, it’s nothing to be sad about.”

Mom had loved ones by her side through her time in the hospital. My sister who lives out west flew to Ottawa as soon as Mom was hospitalized, and we were all able to maintain a fairly constant vigil. Mom’s fourteen grand-children and two great-grandchildren had a chance to visit – most in person, two via phone. At the very end, she was surrounded by all five of her children as well as one grandchild.

I was treated with great compassion at work. “Do what you need to do. Take the time you need,” the school’s leadership team told me again and again. One day when a colleague asked me how I was doing, I said it was tough and then dryly told her that I was blowing it as Prudence Debtfree. I had no time to grocery shop or cook, and I was eating all of  my meals at the Tim Horton’s in the hospital. Two days later, there were 3 Tim Horton’s gift cards in my mailbox totaling $250. I was moved to tears! I will love my colleagues forever for that kind, kind gesture!

Friends have rallied around with meals, treats, visits, cards, and messages of support. And I was touched by the number of friends who showed up at Mom’s service.

Her memorial service was wonderful. Mom was always very engaged in her community, and although she was predeceased by so many people in her life, the church was packed. It was really uplifting to hug and shake hands with person after person after person who loved her.

I want to be more like my mom

Mom had an enormous capacity for contentment and joy. I remember feeling sad for her when she had to leave her condo in the spring of this year and move into a retirement residence. She had valued her independence, but once the move was made, she was entirely happy in her new home. Her months there were good months.

And in the hospital, that same default to contentment and joy stayed with her. It was a staggering blessing. As the most basic abilities left her, even when she couldn’t speak her love, she lavished it upon us. I will cherish memories of her fixing her eyes on a particular grandchild, and then watching that grandchild light up in the glow of her smile. What a gift!

Love and joy. The first fruits of the Spirit. They were the wellspring of Mom’s abundant life. If you can take 7 minutes to listen to this reflection that she gave in church at the age of 90, “From Loneliness to Abundance”, you’ll get an idea of what it is we have lost – and what it is we’ve been given.

Image courtesy of Max Pixel


Join the Conversation


  1. My deepest condolences to you and your family. I’ve been thinking of you a had a feeling with your extended absence. Reading the previous stories of your mom, and listening to her reflection I can tell she lived a fulfilled life. So happy to know she got to take the trip to Italy and enjoy so much gelato. God bless.

    1. Thank you so much, Brian. She was fulfilled, and she came alive with the simple (like gelato) just as much as with the big adventures life had to offer. (And why am I not surprised that yours is the first comment? Much appreciated : )

  2. What a wonderful tribute to your mother! When we lose a loved one, it really makes us re-evaluate our lives and what is meaningful to us. After listening to your mother’s talk, it is obvious how you have inherited her gift of words and the ability to influence and inspire others. You are a lucky woman. Sending you my love and condolences.

    1. That’s a very kind compliment, Val! I would indeed be lucky to have inherited any trait of my mom’s. And you’re right about re-evaluation. I feel like I’m in the midst of it now. Thank you for your condolences, Val.

  3. Very nicely said. It brings great joy and eases the sense of loss when there is laughter and applause at a celebration of life. Your mom was very special, like a second mom to so many, especially the ‘teeny boppers’. What you’ll keep is her legacy when you look around the room at family gatherings. Very special. <3

    1. So nice to have your comment here, Heather! And thank you so much for being there at Mom’s service -which really was a celebration. I too was taken aback by the applause after Paul’s eulogy. I’d never witnessed that before (except at Princess Diana’s funeral). I think we’ll recognize a multi-faceted legacy in the years ahead, and like you, I think it will be very special. Thanks, my friend.

  4. My heartfelt condolences Ruth. No matter what our age, losing our mother is a painful experience that causes a permanent hole in our heart. Your mom seems like a wonderful mother and she leaves behind many, many great memories for you and your extended family. She was a true role model and has produced wonderful children. Now she is enjoying her rewards in heaven.
    Blessings to you and yours.

    1. Thank you, Nancy. It has been painful – despite her old age – and despite the ages of her children (all in our 50s and 60s now). She remained a significant part of our lives right up until the end, and the loss is very real. You’re right about the great memories though – and they keep springing up. I look forward to seeing her again when the time comes.

  5. Ruth, I am so sorry for your loss. Contentment and joy are a powerful legacy for your mother to leave you. It is truly a blessing to be able to find gratitude at this time and for you to share it with all of us. May the memories of your mother be a great comfort to you and your family.

    1. What a lovely comment, Gary.We are comforted by many great memories, and I think we all feel a draw towards embracing that powerful legacy. Thank you so much.

  6. I’ve been trying to think of just the right thing to say to you Ruth. Having gone through this so recently myself, you’d think I might know exactly what you need to hear. But alas, you don’t need to hear anything. You just need to be heard. Being heard got me through more nights than anything else. I’m here for you Ruth. Anytime. God’s most excellent blessings on you, your Mom, and your family. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

    1. “You just need to be heard.” What a good insight! It’s true that I’ve found it therapeutic to talk about my mom – especially about her last months – and that double truth that we were all very lucky, but it was still very hard. Thank you, Kay..

  7. My deepest condolences, Ruth. I’ve been thinking of you a lot this past month and hoping you’d get a few more years with your wonderful mom. No matter when it happens, losing an amazing person like your mother feels far too soon, for us, even though she was content with a well lived life. She’s inspired so many who haven’t even met her, myself included, so her memory and legacy will live on for a few more generations.
    Love and joy. May we all honor her memory by living in those, both.

    1. OK, you’ve made me weepy, Revanche. Thank you so much – both for thinking of me during my “absence”, and for understanding and appreciating my mom. I know that she would be very moved by your comment – as I am.

  8. It is not easy to lose one’s mom, no matter the circumstances. You have my heartfelt sympathies.

    That said, a graceful exit from the world, filled with love, is a gift for all…both the dying and the loved ones left behind. I am grateful that your mom got to experience that, and I’m glad you see the joy as well as the grief. Godspeed.

  9. Oh Ruth, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. She sounds like a wonderful person and reading that tribute about her definitely brought tears to my eyes. May the Lord bless you and your family through this first holiday season without your mother.


    1. Thank you, Mackenzie. My mom’s 2nd great-grandchild was born when she was hospitalized, and she got to see her several times. The circle of life was certainly a comfort for all. And on that note, let me congratulate you on the birth of your 2nd baby girl. I look forward to hearing more about her : )

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