We all need somebody to lean on

Me and MomWhen I was 25, a month after I got married, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack at age 62. The family and friends who gathered in my mom’s house were all in shock, moving in slow motion, none of us knowing where to sit, what to say, how to be.

Through all that, my best friend Debbie quietly kept the house running. Each day the mourners streamed through the house. Each night as we headed to bed, we would realize that the dishes were done, the house was straightened up, the day’s bedlam turned to neatness and order. In those days of shutting down and falling apart, Debbie silently held up the floor so that we had somewhere solid to step.

That was 30+ years ago. Three days ago, my 90 year-old mom’s struggle with ALS came to an end, as she rejoined my dad after all these years. Her decision that it was time for hospice led quickly to her deciding it was ok to loosen her hold on this world. She went from walking herself to breakfast Tuesday morning to gone by the wee hours of Thursday.

Mom’s last few days were a whirlwind of hospice and nursing care, as her rapid decline took all of us by surprise. The hospice admitting nurse noted on Tuesday that Rose was in pretty good shape. The hospice nurse 24 hours later was explaining what to expect at each stage of her dying. Within hours, she was gone.

I slept about 4 of her last 48 hours, coordinating her care, sitting with her, helping her walk that last part of her journey. By 7am the morning after she passed, I was finally able to curl up in my own bed.

That’s when it started.

Dimitri quietly made the funeral arrangements, coordinating transport from Tucson to New York where she would join my dad. Lizzie and Nanette met at mom’s assisted living apartment, to assess next steps for collecting her things and moving stuff back to her house. Dimitri sent notes to our friends and colleagues to let them know what had happened and began working on the memorial website to honor her life.

My daughter and my best friends, holding up the floor so that I would have somewhere solid to step, all while I slept.

Today – Day 3 – I finally awoke at my normal hour. And as I try to wrap my arms around the web of logistical tasks that follow one’s departure from this earth, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for those gifts of love, spanning the years from Debbie’s quiet presence to Dimitri’s and Nanette’s and Lizzie’s quiet presence now.

Gratitude so deep it has melted me. Overpowering gratitude. That is all.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong,
and I’ll be your friend.
I’ll help you carry on…

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In honor and memory of Rose Gottlieb 1924 – 2013. Rest peacefully, Mom. I love you.


5 Responses to We all need somebody to lean on

  1. My deepest sympathies on the loss of your mother, Hildy. This post punctuates the truth that many of us are rediscovering: human kindness and interconnectedness are more valuable than any material object.

  2. Diane – yes, yes. And thank you for your sympathies.
    Joey – I’ve been thinking about you so much since my mom passed – thinking about your own loss, and the strength it takes to just keep going. Sending you much love as well.

  3. From time to time a person needs a Debbie in their life. and when you dont have a Debbie,
    then you have to be a Debbie yourself..

    Yes, We have a Debbie, shes my one and only Sister.. Without her all family history would have been lost, so we are all indebted to her..

    Some can move at the speed of light, others, a quiet constant pace, but they fill the void between the richness and the GAP – in a way that makes it all seem like one everlasting continum.
    The GAP of course being when a family becomes totally separated, with no contact, no addresses, and it can happen So Very Easily..
    So keep your family close, and Love em all Regardless..


  4. Beautiful, Tony. Thank you for that, especially that last line. Love them regardless.