Monday, January 11, 2010. I get a surprise phone call from my brother Tim. “Mom is back in the hospital, we rushed her to the emergency room at St. John Mercy.” When I get to the hospital late Monday afternoon, mom is in her room. She is in severe pain. The doctors have started her on morphine, the diagnosis is undetermined…she is suffering from severe pain in the abdomen.
My mom is the classic ideal patient. No complaints. Whatever the nurse says or does mom is pleasant, complementary, calls her “honey”. I had a conversation with my mom before I left the hospital, it would be my last. Earlier that same morning, I called her to see how she was feeling. “Oh, I’m much better,” she said. Four hours later she was headed to the emergency room. When I left the hospital Monday night it was clear mom needed to rest. She was exhausted and she was still in some pain. As I was leaving the room, I said, “I love you Mom.” She responded, “I love you, too.”
From Tuesday through Sunday my mom fought to live, but it was clear she would not be coming home. Her body was frail, her energy to fight the inevitable was gone. She had slipped from an infection in her intestines to multiple complications within a few days of entering the hospital. Mom passed away Sunday afternoon, January 17, 2010.
The funeral Mass was Wednesday. I was asked to share a few thoughts on behalf of the family. For the record, Ted and Betty Shasserre have six children. Five are now married. There are eighteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Of course, there is nothing that I, or anyone, can say at the funeral to ease the pain or be of comfort to my father or siblings. But, I tried to be upbeat. My mom was a positive person. At all times, in every situation, Mom would seek “the silver lining.” Every family faces difficult times and adverse circumstances. Ours was no exception. And yet, my mom never gave in to “bad times.” She was seldom “down”–never depressed.
Even in the last year of her life, when her poor health and pain from arthritis was obviously taking its toll, she would complain reluctantly. Mom, or Grandma, as she was now referred to, was much more interested in hearing what was going on with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren than discussing her health condition.
Tuesday, before we buried my mother, an out of town friend sent me this poem. It brought me immediate comfort. The words are so positive and uplifting and fitting because they represent the positive thinking of a person filled with faith. Mom was a life long believer in Jesus and His Resurrection and therefore, a long time believer in eternal life. She was filled with faith.
These words read from the altar at her funeral Mass could have easily come from her own voice, with her own inflection, it reads…
I Did Not Die
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow;
I am gentle sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush;
I am the swift uplifting rush;
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there.
I did not die.
I have no doubt my mother, your grandmother, or your friend Betty, is in heaven now. I have found myself calling on her frequently, asking her for help. It has occurred to me, I haven’t given her time to get her coat off…she hasn’t even been able to check out how cool heaven is….take a look around the place. Clearly, my mom’s work is never done.
I know–others will be thinking about her frequently. Others will call on her for help. And, you know what? She won’t mind. She will actually look forward to hearing from you.