Sunday, December 12, 2004

My Mom's Death

Just 5 days after putting our house up for sale, we decided to take a trip to Bakersfield for a few days. Our intention was for me to hunt for houses and check out neighborhoods (with the kids) while Chris tried out the commute from my mom's house. We arrived on Sunday evening (Nov 21st) and planned on leaving on Thanksgiving Day to spend Thanksgiving at Chris's parents' house in Whittier and return home from there.
Little did we know that God had other reasons for the timing of our spontaneous trip. We spent several hours with my mom on Sunday night, then the kids and I awoke on Monday morning (Nov 22nd) to find that she'd died in her sleep. She'd been having health problems for a few months, but none of us anticipated that her life would end so suddenly. Over the summer she'd been experiencing difficulty breathing and a lack of energy. After extensive tests, she was put on oxygen and was allowed to return to school this Fall to her teaching position at Longfellow Elementary. Of course, she was very head-strong and stubborn and refused to take the oxygen to school. Her plan was to take sick leave from that Monday Nov 21st through the end of the semester in December, then do her best to make it through the remainder of the school year. She was considering retirement after next summer (when she would have turned 60 years old).
Instead, we had our last conversation that Sunday night. Thankfully, she appeared to have died in her sleep (on her living room couch) and it was likely very peaceful. The kids and I found her the next morning when we woke up, but she'd been gone at least a few hours. I tried to wake her, but I could tell by her appearance that it was too late. The kids spent much of the morning in the car (while the firemen and/or police watched over them) while I contacted the paramedics and coroner, spoke to the police officer and coroner for their reports, etc. My brother Alan and my Aunt Cimarron, Uncle Joe, and cousin Victorio all came by and saw her before she was transported to the coroner's office. Needless to say it was a very difficult day for everyone.
We spent the rest of that week moving her belongings out of her apartment and into a storage unit, and preparing for her memorial service. We took a break on Thanksgiving Day. Chris went home to be with our kids (his parents had picked them up on Monday afternoon and taken them back to Whittier) and my family met for Thanksgiving at Alan's house. Even my sister Victoria was there, because we flew her out from Texas (I hadn't seen her since I was pregnant with Cassidy).
We had a small memorial service for my mom on Saturday, November 27th. Thirteen family members attended. We scattered her ashes near pine trees (her wish) in the Tehachapi mountains, adjacent to the Cesar Chavez Monument area. We played a Santana song (one of her favorites), then scattered the ashes. I handed out roses to each attendant and we all took turns laying them down near the ashes and speaking about my mom. Then I read her philosophy of education and a poem she'd written about herself (both projects from her time at Cal State Bakersfield) and we played a Native American song. We then built a small monument of stones atop the ashes. It was an emotional and heartfelt service, and I think it reflected my mom and her interests well.
I wish I could say with certainty that she is in heaven now, but I cannot. She lived her life in a way that synchronized a lot of different religious beliefs and traditions (Catholicism, New Age, etc.) so I don't know exactly what she chose in the end. What I do know is that she and I recently had several lengthy discussions about faith. I feel that I said everything I could to her about my own beliefs, and of the importance of the Bible and the authenticity of Jesus. I just don't know what conclusions she reached after those discussions.
I will miss her greatly. No matter what she believed or how imperfect our relationship may have been, there is just nothing in the world that can take her place in my heart.
We're still moving to Bakersfield, but it won't be quite the same there without her.


Blogger jackie marie said...

Hi Alexandra,
My name is Jackie and I was searching the internet for a Weight watchers locations near my home in Pomona, Ca when I somehow came across your web page. You have a wonderful family but I couldn't help noticing the posting about you losing your mom.

I lost my mom, in 2002 and she was only 67. She was also raised Catholic but didn't regularly go to chuch becasue of a divorce from my dad so many, many years ago. My mom had a very independent spirit but was a strong and loving woman. She also wanted to be cremated and have her ashes placed at one of her favorite spots. The night before she died I was also at her home unexpectedly and we shared a very intimate conversation about faith, my two children. how proud she was of me as her daughter and as a mom, and how much she loved me. I kissed her goodnight and left, promising her that she would move in with me and my children within two weeks. She passed away that night in her sleep and I found her the next day.

I miss her very, much, and I think of her often. Just reading your posting made me feel a little better tonight. Thanks for shring such a personal experience. Unknowingly you have helped others, namely me. God bless you and your lovely family. Sincerely, Jackie Sapp

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