Letting go of my mother

Today I took a magical walk with a sea otter. Out in the light spring rain as I was thinking about my mother.

Contemplating what was going to happen to her. 

I’d just visited her a few days prior. 

And I knew in my heart she was not long for this world. 

My son and I had gone to see her in the care facility she was living.

We were shocked by the rapid decline she’d made since our last visit.

Her face looked gaunt and hollow. Her body, frail and weak.

And her skin was ever so pale and delicate.

Deep down some part of me knew that she was finally giving up the fight. 

My mother turns 92 in a few weeks.

I thought she’d live forever. 

jorge-lopez-284336-unsplash mother handsOr at least until 100. 

Her feisty Scottish nature had kept her alive long after many of her siblings and friends had passed away.

Having lived through the Depression and World War II she had a resilient spirit.

But the last few years of her life had been especially difficult for her.

My mother was starting to lose the fight.

Ever since my Dad, the only man she’d ever loved, had passed away.

Despite their sometimes rocky relationship, they’d spent 70 of their 88 years together.

And they’d been devoted to one another. In their own unique and quirky way. Right to the very end. 

Without him by her side, my Mom had been lost.

And lonely.

But I could see that something bigger was happening now.

The light behind my mother’s deep blue eyes was starting to dim. 

Her life force was fading.

My son and I took her out to sit in the warm sun that day.

It was one of her favourite things to do.

To sit with her kids and grandkids. Out in the sunshine.

She would ask us questions. And smile as we told her stories of what we’d been up to. 

But this time was different. 

My mother’s voice was weak.

mother cryingShe had difficulty drinking her water. And no interest in eating her lunch.

When I gave her a piece of dark chocolate she could barely finish it. 

A self-confessed chocoholic, my Mom had always savored these special treats from us.

But not this time.

She hardly spoke. Didn’t ask us the questions she usually did.

And showed little interest in our stories.

She seemed weary. And remote.

Like a piece of her spirit had already left.

So we wrapped her up in a warm blanket and scarf and took her out for a walk.

She quickly closed her eyes. And almost fell asleep in her wheelchair.

She seemed at peace as my son pushed her gently along the neighbourhood paths. 

At one point I looked over and my mother’s head was raised ever so slightly.

Her face gently lifted to the sky.

I had a fleeting image of her spirit flying. Off to a better place. Finally free.

After our walk we dropped her off at her care facility. We kissed her face and said our goodbyes.

Little did I know, it would be the last time my mother would ever kiss her grandson goodbye.

my mother holding my sonThe last time she would look into his beautiful brown eyes and smile.

The very last time she would watch him walk away.

As we drove home that day my son and I talked about our visit.

A wise thirteen year old, he too had sensed the dramatic shift with his Grandma.

He saw that she’d become more tiny and frail.

And that the usual twinkle in her eye was now gone.

With heavy hearts we both agreed that her time on earth was drawing to a close. 

I hardly slept that night as l thought about my mother. 

And all the ups and downs of our relationship over the years.

How she was the one person I’d tried so hard to please. And yet often felt like I hadn’t. 

The one who’s love and acceptance I craved the most in this world. 

Growing up I’d found myself acting as a sort of counselor to her.

I’d listened to her talk about my Dad and their relationship.

I’d tried so hard to help her. To rescue her.

To fix her marriage whenever it seemed broken.

Years later, I realized that counselling my Mom had never been my job. I was never meant for that role.

I thought about how I’d learned to set better boundaries with her.

my mother and meAnd how difficult it had been.

How I’d had to let go of trying to make her happy.

And learn to sit with the guilt I felt when I hadn’t done enough for her.

Or been a ‘good enough’ daughter.

I thought about how I’d finally learned to step back into my own life.

And to let her live hers. 

But mostly I thought about how much I loved my Mom.

 And how very much I would miss her when she was gone. 

There would never be another person on this earth to replace her.

After all, she was my mother.

So today I went out for a rainy walk on the seawall to clear my head.

And to heal my heart.

To say a silent prayer to the Universe about my Mom.

And to ask my Dad’s spirit what I should do. 

Almost immediately I heard these words rise up inside of me: “let go.”

I felt the tears well up in my eyes.

I took a deep breath. And kept on moving. 

I wasn’t ready to let go of my mother.

It was too soon.

Suddenly I spotted a small sea otter swimming in the ocean. 

I’ve always believed that seals (and sea otters) are my animal spirit guide.

A way for me to connect to my soul.

To my inner wisdom.

To the Universe.

So I wasn’t surprised to see the otter only minutes after asking my Dad for guidance. 

Because, like me, my father was a lover of the sea.

His reverence for nature and all of its creatures was the unmistakable gift he’d shared with me. And my siblings.

It was no surprise that he might send me a sea otter as a sign.

What did surprise me though was that this otter didn’t quickly disappear. Like they usually do.

Instead it swam beside me as I walked silently along.

For ten minutes the otter and I traveled side by side.

He swam in the ocean, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

While I walked alone on the seawall.

Mesmerized by him.

And by the magical journey we were taking together.

Eventually the otter disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface.

And I continued along my way.

Marveling at the beauty of this moment.

And misty spring day.

griefSeagulls and crows hopped along the logs. And other small birds chirped in the rain.

A tall, graceful heron fished quietly on the shoreline.

And I watched and listened, as I walked alone with my thoughts.

When I finally turned around and headed back the way I came, up popped my sea otter. And I again found myself travelling alongside of him as he swam.

It seemed surreal to me.


I silently thanked my Dad for this special moment in nature.

Then just as I turned to go, my sea otter was met by another one.

And suddenly there were two, swimming together in the ocean.

I stood and watched in wonder. 

And thought about my Mom and Dad.

And how much they’d both loved the sea.

Maybe my father was letting me know he was there.

Waiting for my mother.my father and my mother when they were young

And that he would take care of her whenever she was ready to leave this physical plane.

That they would soon frolic in the ocean together.

The same way they had when they’d first met that one special summer long ago. 

I realized in the quiet, misty rain, that my Dad had answered my question.

He and the sea otters had given me the guidance I was seeking.

When my Mom was ready to go, my Dad would be waiting for her.

Now it was time for me to let her go. 

Because no matter what, I knew my Mom was going to be OK.

Kerry xo

(This blog, dedicated to my Mom, was originally posted in May 2017 a few short days after she passed away.)

11 thoughts on “Letting go of my mother”

  1. Kerry, that was beautifully written, it brought tears to my eyes. I think Mom would be very proud of how lovingly you wrote about her final chapter in life…a wonderful tribute to her, on what would have been her 92nd Birthday.

    1. Awe thanks Wend. I hope you’re right…that wherever she is, she’d be proud. She deserved to be honoured for the great woman and mother she was!

  2. Oh Kerry. Such beautiful thoughts and feelings here. Thanks for writing this. The way you described the last while with your precious mom brought back my own experience with my dear mama. Losing a parent is such an amazing, sad, mind bowing, confusing, thoughtful journey. Bless you Kerry in your grieving journey. Much love. Cindy.

    1. Thank you so much Cindy. And you described the grief I’ve felt so well…sad, mind blowing, thought provoking, confusing, etc! It’s a process. One day at a time.

  3. Kerry, as your oldest sibling and only brother, I am so proud of the way you so eloquently wrote of your feelings for our Mom in her last days, and how you captured the sentiment that we all felt, but could not express in words. You are the heart of our family.

  4. Pingback: Finding greater meaning after the loss of a loved one

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