April 21 - Good-bye, Darling

I didn’t think much about it in 1978 when I heard the words, “Good-bye, Darling,” as I left the hospital at midnight after having spent another day there with my mother. I have often wondered why, since she had been suffering with lung cancer and other serious complications, including a severe heart attack and a stroke that had left her right side paralyzed.

It was my honor to sit with her daily, bringing her chocolate milkshakes which toward the end she would forget she had wanted to drink… but she never forgot that she wanted me to bring them to her! Sometimes we would talk; sometimes we would sit in the silence of love. That day, we sat with the lights dimmed, and she was resting peacefully. My children and husband had come to visit, and we were all leaving together. I was so reluctant for her to be by herself, but the others convinced me I had to get some rest to be strong enough to support her through the rest of her journey. As we walked down the hall, I turned and blew her a kiss. “Good-night, Mother, see you in the morning!” I said.

“Good-bye, Darling,” was her reply.

She had never called me “darling” before in my entire life, and she had never said “good-bye” when I left the hospital. Something felt different as I walked to my car, but I wasn’t sure just what it was. It seems to me that she must have felt it too because at 5:00 AM the next morning, her doctor called and told me, “Your mother got her wish.”

“What does that mean?” I asked from my half-awakened state.

“Your mother died this morning,” he said.

“Got her wish?” I asked incredulously. “How on earth could you say that?”

“She isn’t suffering anymore,” he said to me…but I didn’t buy it. I was enraged and heartbroken, all at the same time. I had lost my mother... and my father had died seventeen years before. I was a thirty-five -yearold orphan. I felt all alone. I sobbed as if my heart were broken, and, looking back, I actually think it was.

In addition, my marriage was in trouble which added to my torment. It had suffered the strains of her illness, his infidelity, and my drinking. Shortly thereafter, my husband left, and I was totally alone. I plummeted down the dark abyss of substance abuse and alcoholism, and I didn’t know how to get out. I felt hopeless, helpless, and powerless. “What did I do to deserve this?” I asked over and over again.

I suffered from “telephone-itis,” which often can be caused by someone being depressed and drinking too much. I would call my mother’s doctor in the middle of the night, asking what her final days were like… over and over again.I would call my ex-mother-in-law and ask her what had happened to her son that he would treat me like this. I finally got it right and prayed for help; soon the troops arrived.

First a friend confronted me about my drinking. Then a few days later I got over my hurt and anger, and I called a hospital and two other friends who made certain that I checked myself in by driving me there. Soon I found myself in a twelve-step meeting with people all around offering their support.

“You just lean on us anytime,” they exclaimed. “Someday soon others will be leaning on you, but now it is your turn.” Boy, was that ever a foreign concept to me.

For the last several years of my drinking, my mother had been gravely concerned. It would have meant the world to her if I had been able to stop before she died. But I did not. I had to hurt some more before I was able to recognize my addictive patterns and begin to desire sobriety more than I did the temporary relief provided by alcohol.

It is one of my greatest regrets, that she did not know that I was going to get to be me again.

So I write this to you today, dear mother, to let you know that I have heard you in my own timing, and I wish it could have been in yours. I write this hors-d’oeuvre today in hopes that others will read it and be inspired…that in the celebration of your life they will put down the addictive substance sooner than they might have otherwise and will be able then to pursue the real thing. I do this in hopes that their mothers andor fathers will get to see their own children be themselves again.

Good-bye, my darling mother…good-bye, darling…for now.

Are there those in your life that would love to know that you have stopped using your addictive substance or habit? What would it mean to them if you were to discover how to do this? Would you take a step today to make that happen? Even if it is only for a month…just to start...could you make that promise...today?

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