Two months ago tomorrow I went to my Mom’s house and found that she had died in her bed.
Friday, November 11, 2011 started as normal as ever. Got the kids out the door to school and did some work on the computer, went to the middle school honors assembly that morning as Becca had made Honor Roll and then returned home to do more work and get ready for the weekend – Becca was going to her first school dance that night and I was coordinating drop-off, pick-up and sleep over arrangements with a friend. I checked the phone for messages and saw I had missed a call from my Mom’s next door neighbor but there was no message. I could not figure out why they had called so I dialed the number back. Kathy told me that they hadn’t seen my Mom in 2 days, that her garbage and recycle cans were still at the end of the driveway since Wednesday morning when they saw her take them to the curb, there were also 2 newspapers in front of the house. They had knocked on her door and there was no answer. I told her that I’d be right over since I only live 3 miles away. I tried to call my Mom – no answer.
I got to the house, Kathy was outside waiting for me. I walked in and knew at that moment everything in my life had changed. The smell in the house was that of decay and when I walked into her bedroom I saw that there was no question, she was dead. I had Kathy call 911 and the police and ambulance showed up, the ambulance left and I waited with the police for the coroner’s office while I started calling family and through a lot of tears I talked to one of my brothers and some of my Aunts. I fed my Mom’s dog and gave him water – he was a mess. My husband was in a lunch meeting and could not be reached, and even when I did reach him he was offsite and nowhere near his car to come to the house and be with me. One of my brothers was impossible to reach, his phone went directly to voice mail and his office told me he was not there that day. I answered a ton of questions for the police and waited. My friend Denise came over to the house and waited with me. My husband got there as soon as he could and we waited some more for the coroner to arrive. They came and took her body away and we figured out what we would have to do next.
All indications were that she passed away Wednesday afternoon November 9th, I had spoken to her that morning and so did one of my Aunts, she had scribbled some notes on Wednesday’s paper about her conversation with my Aunt and some things she wanted to do. Every afternoon she would go into her bedroom, lay down, say the rosary and take a little nap – she died in her bed with her rosary in her hands.
My kids loved their Granny very much, just that morning the little girls asked when they’d be able to have another sleep over at her house – they loved doing that. We had called the school and asked them to have the girls go to the after school program that day rather than come home on the bus, we told the school why but not to tell the girls. Next, we had to tell them the news.
The kids attend the same Catholic grade school and church that my brothers and I attended and where my family has been members for nearly 40 years. We stopped by the church office to let them know prior to heading down the school, as soon as I walked in, the church secretary expressed her condolences – word travels fast. Father Estabrook came down to the school with us to tell the girls, I could barely say a word to them, Jason and Fr. Estabrook did the talking – I was pretty talked out from my phone calls with family by that time. We prayed. I will forever be grateful to both of them for being there I don’t know how I would have managed to tell them alone. More tears.
It was getting later in the day and we still had not reached my brother Gregg and I finally talked to my Uncle who lives a couple of miles away from my brother just outside of Pittsburgh. I had already talked to my Uncle earlier in the day as my Mom was his little sister and he decided to just drive over to my brother’s house and let him know. They drove to Cleveland that night and got to my house a few hours later. More tears, some wine, some laughter.
The next days were a whirlwind of family, friends, funeral homes, church, school for the girls, all the things that every family deals with when someone dies. Honoring wishes but being ‘reasonable’ at the same time, making sure that everyone is “happy” with arrangements and decisions is exhausting.
Was she sick? This is a questions I’ve been asked many times. No, she was not sick. She was out running around taking care of things on Tuesday the 8th and we had planned to meet for lunch that day but I had to cancel. She did have undiagnosed heart disease and that is listed as her cause of death but it was not something that was ever so bad in her day to day life that she ever sought care for it.
I am very lucky that my brothers and I get along very well. I hear horror stories of siblings being torn apart when their parents are gone because this one or that one has hurt feelings. I hope that as the process here goes forward we don’t run into any of that but so far, so good. Dealing with banks, IRA’s, accountants, lawyers and more we are all “on the same page”. And I thank my Mom (and Dad) for laying out everything clearly in her will and the trust that was set up to handle the real property (house and vehicle). Gregg took her dog to live with him.
Thanksgiving appeared out of nowhere a week or so after the funeral and as has been the new tradition we hosted at our house it was nice, but sadder without her there. Christmas came and went with big meals and family together again at our place.
Now decisions are being made about what to do with “everything”.
My brothers do not live in town so I have been very busy meeting with appraisers, house inspectors, and an estate sale expert. Next will be an electrician and perhaps a contractor to take care of some of the issues around her house. “Our” house these days as my brothers and I have now found ourselves 1/3 owners each of the house I grew up in.
Looking Backward - Moving Forward
Four years ago yesterday my daughters, our cat and I got off of a plane from Hawaii to come and live with my Mom in her house, we had lived in “paradise” for nearly 6 years and Jason stayed behind to continue to work there for a few months while trying to find a job back here on the mainland. It was too expensive to stay there any longer and we were very fortunate that my Mom never listened to all of the people that told her to get rid of her big house and move into something smaller. This place was waiting for us.
Moving in with her was a transition and kind of stressful for all of us. She had been very used to a nice, quiet, clean, neat, simple house – just her and her dog. I showed up with a 1-1/2 year old, a 3 year old and a nearly 9 year old. Diapers, toys, books, snacks, picky eaters, a cat, a husband 4000 miles away, school, homework, friends, and more. A few months later Jason joined us in her house and we lived that way for a number months until we found a place that we could do a rent-to-own lease purchase option on. As much as we all loved each other I’m quite sure she was very happy to have us out.
We lived only 3 miles away and in the past few years I never went more than a day or two without talking to her and probably not more than a week without stopping by or getting together with her. I got very used to being close by after living out of state for nearly a decade, and we got very used to my kids having Granny time as well. She adored my kids and they loved her dearly. Going to Granny’s house was always high on their list of things they wanted to do. We all miss her very much.
Mom’s house is in a state of transition now, there is a TON of stuff. Generations worth of stuff, even though the house is not even 40 years old. When my Grandmother passed away much of the contents of her house were brought to Ohio and stored in my Mom’s basement. Rooms that were empty when my brothers and I moved out were again filled with furniture and “things”. Now it’s time to clean it out, fix it up and get it ready for the next family to make it a home. My family.
So much more to come – so much to do…