In The Blink of an Eye My Mother Was Gone

I started writing a post back on March 9, 2017. The title was Boxes, Boxes, and More Boxes Have Taken Over My Life! . That title still applies, however that no longer seems like a big deal. That post will be published later. Life has a way of throwing you a huge curve ball. Sometimes it is nothing major and easily taken care of with some work. Other times, it is absolutely devastating. I was recently thrown one that I will never forget.

(I apologize in advance. Not only is this long, it may be disturbing to some. It is hard to write, but for some reason I have to.)

On March 28, 2017 I took the day off from work to help my mother move. She was finally moving from the building that she had been in over 30 years. The building had gotten run down. The management had changed. The elevator had not worked since Nov or Dec or 2014. My mom lived on the 5th floor, so this was not convenient at all. I had been trying to get her to move for years. I was SO happy that the day had finally come. She was excited too.

I was there the night before. There was still quite a bit to do. I asked my mom to concentrate on getting the small random things still sitting around on the dressers, tables, etc. taken care of so that when the movers arrived the next morning they could get to the big stuff. I arrived on Tuesday morning at approximately 9:15. My mom was wired, but said that she was tired. This was not unusual. She said this at least 12 times a day each and every day. She said that she had been up all night moving boxes. She told me that she had packed up the old 27″ tube TV by herself. I was like “What??? Why would you do that? That TV did not need to be packed. I could have helped move it. The movers could have moved it without it being put in a box.” But, she had already done it. The movers arrived a few minutes later and we got to work. I organized boxes, packed things that were still sitting around, and tried to maintain order. My mom and I were doing our usual fussing at each other. It was how we communicated. It was taking a while for the movers to get everything going because the elevator was out. By noon, they had moved approximately half of her stuff onto the moving truck.

One of these things was a couch that my mother and I argued about. I found out that day that she purchased the couch in 1976! I was born in 1974. The couch was once a nice midcentury modern piece. But now? It’s crap. The sides and the back are solid oak. It is about 92″ long and extremely heavy. My mom originally wanted to take it to her new place. But, that place is much smaller, so she decided to put it in storage. I wanted the couch to be discarded. When we moved before the couch got very, very beat up, and it was very hard to move. The building has a bad bug problem. They had a stint with bed bugs. No one had sat on it in quite a long time. I was not sure if it is was infested with bugs or what. It just looked bad, it was heavy, and it needed to go. The movers initially had trouble getting the couch out. They tried for around 25 minutes while we watched. I was sure that it would get left behind. But then the boss showed up and whipped the couch out and down the stairs and onto the truck. Now that couch is sitting in her new place staring at me. Ironic, yes? It’s now mine.

At around 12:15 my mom and I were in her room packing up loose stuff and discussing how to get the mirror off of her dresser to prep it for moving. She was sitting in her desk chair. I was facing the other way. I remember her saying “Woo. I am tired.” or something like that. Again, this was not unusual, especially with what was going on. A few moments later I heard her take a strange deep breath. At first I assumed that she had just taken a puff of her asthma inhaler and was sucking it in. But, when I turned around she did not look right. At that moment she fell face first out of her chair onto the floor and a pile of stuff. I starting yelling for help and for someone to call 911. My cell was in the other room and we had already packed up the house phones. One of the movers came in and helped me move her. We called 911 from his phone. I was hysterical. I was frustrated at how the 911 operator could not really understand me. I was trying to talk fast and get all info out so that they could be on their way. I had to repeat myself about 3 times more slowly. Meanwhile my mother’s breathing was very labored. Her eyes were open and fixed. She was only exhaling every 15-10 seconds or so. It seems like it took forever for the paramedics to show. They asked what happened. I explained. They started CPR. They asked me if she was a diabetic. I said not that I know of. I watched for a few minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore and one of them lead me out of the room. I composed myself long enough to find my phone and call my husband and asked him to come to me. They told me that they were going to transport my mother to the hospital and I would have to drive myself because there was not much room in the ambulance and there would be too much going on for me to be in the way.

Just as I rushed downstairs the moving coordinator was arriving to check on things. The movers had filled her in a bit. I was told that they could not just leave my mom’s stuff on the truck. I quickly gave her the key to the new place and the address and apartment number and told her to unload it all there. While talking the paramedics came down with my mom and rushed past me. As soon as I saw the look on her face I broke down.

When I rushed out of the back door of the building a tow truck was there with my truck hitched up. I screamed “Oh no. Not today! My mother is going to the hospital.” Not sure if he fully heard me, but he saw me wildly waving my arms. He said, “Well move it then.” One moment longer and my truck would have been gone and I would have had no way to get to the hospital.

It took what seemed like a century to get there. There were too many red lights and slow drivers. I finally arrived, and parked and rushed inside. I told them why I was there and someone wanted me to wait. I said no and demanded to know what was going on. They had someone take me to the consultation room. Soon after a female minister came in. I said, “Oh no. Why are they having a minister come and see me??” She explained that she was just there to talk, etc. and that she would check on things in a few and let me know how my mom was. She said that they usually stabilize the breathing, clean up the room, etc. and then come and update me. We went back forth with this for an hour. In this time my husband arrived, and my ex-MIL who had become a good friend of my mother arrived to sit with me. We were together when the doctor finally came out to talk to me. At the time the medical term that he rambled off went right over my head. Ventricular something. He said that basically the bottom half of her heart stopped pumping blood. They did everything that they could to get it going again, but nothing worked. He was sorry.

I was completely devastated. I still am really. She was finally moving to a better building. The day had finally come, but she did not make it. It’s just not fair. Even though she was 71, I thought of this as a new chapter in her life. She was FINALLY doing something to better herself, getting out of that building that had become a hell-hole.

I’m angry. Very angry. I have gone through the stages.. hysterical grief, shock, more grief, now I am angry. My moods come and go. For the most part I know that I have to live and get things done. But why?? Why did this happen? And why when it did?? The timing of death is never good, but why wasn’t she allowed to move?? I was there though. I’m glad that she was not alone. They say that she did move on to a better place, and I have to believe that. But, I still have to ask why. 🙁 We were JUST talking moments before.

It’s been 3 weeks and at some points functioning has just been hard. I have not been able to concentrate on work. I have a long list of things that should have been done. I still have not done most of them. Things were already hectic before she passed, but now? There is a whole new level of stress and feelings that I cannot shake. They say that it will get better with time. I have to believe that and push through. Not a minute of a day goes by that I do not think about her. I cannot forget the look on her face. I cannot help but think and wonder if I could have done something differently beforehand. I’ll be left with those feelings while I try to handle everything that needs to be handled.

Her service was nice. There was a good turnout, although I was not able to contact everyone that I wanted to contact. It was hard. I had some of her old address books, but a lot of information was outdated. But, thanks to the wonders of Facebook I did find a couple of people that I knew had to be there.

When my friend Sidney’s mom passed, I believe she called it something like “getting used to her new normal.” I now understand what she means. Several moments have gone by when I have thought about calling to tell her something. I’m constantly looking at my phone and wondering if it’s going to ring. All kinds of things around my house remind me of her. And I still have to sort through her stuff. I just have to take it day by day, right?

Kris McDonald is Chicago mom to 2 sets of twins, photography nut, gadget addict, travel addict, and tech blogger who has worked in IT for over 16 years. Kris figured out a while ago that she was destined to be really busy (hence the 2 sets of twins), and she has found peace with that. Read More
  • Renee Townsend

    I can’t imagine what you’re feeling or going through. I was talking to a buddy recently about mothers and loss, and how I’m completely unprepared for that kind of loss, though I know logically it’ll happen one day. You have my sympathies.

  • Shonda Parnell

    Hey Kris being honest it will never fade we all just learn to adjust which sometimes can be so hard when you are use to seeing and talking to that most precious love one. You just take your time it will heal and you will feel better but knowing she is in a better place will give you comfort find something that soothes you in memory of her. Losing my grandma was hard still hard but I find writing is my comfort and I was quite surprised finding me laughing sometimes crying but I get some sort of relief. I tell her everything and to be honest some of my question was answered that’s what works for me but, of course you have to find your own way. I can’t say I know the feeling haven’t been through losing my mom but I know how it felt losing my grandma and grandfather I still feel it but in such away I can except and adjusted but there is always those feelings when you see their face in that moment will not be forgotten. Hang in there much love to you and your family may your strength get stronger minute by minute…

  • Ra’Nesha Wilson

    Sending love and hugs your way.

  • tannawings

    Kris, my deepest condolences… love the story of your Mom. The pictures are wonderful too. Take your time. It is never easy.

  • Kris, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Please be gentle with yourself, and grieve the way that you need to. No one can tell us the proper way – except, not to hurt ourselves more, you know? The frustration that comes with death is something that no one can really know how to handle, and well, yeah, it sucks. Taking it one day at a time sounds SO cliche, but that’s the only way that I can share – and even breaking it down minute by minute. Praying for you.

  • Shelly

    Kris, I pray your strength. I know it was so hard with how things happened. I’m so sorry for your loss. Take all the time you need to grieve in your own way. I think of you often. Big love and hugs to you <3

  • First, your mom was beautiful and you look so much like her.
    Second, I am so sorry that it happened the way that it did. Not that it is ever a “good time” but in chaos, it makes it so much harder emotionally and physically.
    I can’t imagine losing my mommy but I know that day will come and to think about it physically gives me pain.
    I am here for you even though I don’t know what it’s like because someday, I am gonna need you and Sidney and every other person who has joined this club that no one wants to be a member of to lift me up.
    I am here to lift you up.
    Love you, my friend.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss Kris and I’ve been thinking about you. I didn’t realize she passed so suddenly and that you were with her. Really wish you could have shared memories in her new place. So, so sorry it happened this way. Sometimes I stress and worry about when my mom will go – who will be with her? I’m here and she’s in FL. I’m glad you were there with her too. Sending hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  • Oh, no. I am so, so sorry.

  • I am so sorry, sweetheart. The new normal sucks and I don’t know if it ever gets better. What I do know is that none of us would make it without each other and we’re all here. Always.

  • Kris, I think about you and what you are going through every day. My mom said that once my grandmother passed, even the things that used to irritate her, she missed. And my MIL said the same thing after my FIL passed, she now has a new normal which will never be the same as what she thought normal was, but does become normal and ok. Time does have a way of healing, but we never forget. I’m always here if you need me!

  • I’m so very sorry, Kris. You and your loved ones have been on my mind since that day. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. Sending you strength as you navigate this horrible time, and sending hugs too.

  • Cornelia Wright

    I love you, baby girl!

  • My sincere condolences to you and your family.

  • I’m so sorry Kris. How horrible.

  • ckachelmuss

    So sorry again for your loss. I can’t even imagine.