Death & Dying, Life & Living, Poetry

dying with my mom

19288880 - heaven gate

My mother died on August 17, 2016. Like all deaths, hers was paradoxically unexpected. I didn’t want her to die. I knew she couldn’t live forever.

I had been thinking/fearing/anticipating/regretting/hoping for her death for months. I didn’t want to be there. I had never been with someone while they were actively dying. What would it be like? How would she be? What would I do? How would I feel? Would I be brave enough to watch her go?

At the same time, I desperately wanted to be there, alone with her, when she “went.” After a decade of being her care partner in various ways , I wanted to share her last moments/passage/death/birth/transition. It would be a crowning act of intimacy in the circle of our lives: she had been present when I took my first breath; it seemed right I should witness her last.

This poem is about our final moments together in this life/space/place. Being with her was a gift, a blessing and privilege I couldn’t have imagined. I’m so thankful it happened as it did.


here we go

a poem by punkie © 2016 Susan Macaulay

Listen here:

here we go

a rasping rattle
in your chest
takes me by surprise

i thought we’d have
more time to share
before our last goodbyes

you suck the air
i stroke your hair
and hold your hand in mine

oh-two pumps in
your nostrils thin
your nose is cold and white

your eyes unseeing
and human being
will soon be left behind

“i love you mom,
go home,” i say
your answer is divine

compassion deepens
in changing seasons
i urge you to move on:

“gran awaits
at heaven’s gates
it’s time now to be gone”

your breathing slows
my love still flows
i hope you see the dawn

your heart is still
my tears now spill
your skin grows pale and wan

a body lays
where once you played
not hither now but yon

i cry alone
stripped to the bone
i miss your voice in song

pray look for me
one day to see
we’re not apart for long

© 2016 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share the links widely, but please do not reprint or reblog or copy and paste my poems into other social media without my permission. Thank you.

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66 thoughts on “dying with my mom”

  1. Susan, I am so sorry to hear your news and am thinking of you at this time. It is a two edged sword, you want them to be at peace but you are losing that important person from your life. Tears are pouring down my face as I write this. I did it with Mum and Dad as well as John’s mother and I have to face it with John.

    I feel Mum and Dad with me and talk to them all the time. I have no doubt they are here.

    I love the poem, thank you so much


  2. Beautiful poem. Tears are flowing for you and all of us. Susan, thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I have felt your heart


  3. Susan, I pray your comfort and peace. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem and all of your other inspirations. I’ve cared for my mom 16 years, and I’ve often asked those same questions. What a peaceful, heartfelt description of her home going.


  4. Lovely poem. And it really captures the intimacy of watching someone die. As we now plan my mother’s memorial celebration (for next month), so many feelings bubble up to the surface to be released. Thanks for putting some of the emotions into your poem.


  5. Beautifully said Susan. You have always written about your mum so beautifully. I have loved reading about your journey with your mum and hope to read more if you use your writing to help you to grieve. I hope you feel and find comfort in the love and support of so many people across the globe as you experience with the sadness of loss and the joy of remembering.


    1. Thanks Geraldine and yes, it’s wonderful to be receiving a flood of heartwarming messages from around the world and to know sharing our journey has impacted so many in such deep and meaningful ways. I will continue to write share and advocate.


  6. Thinking of you, and thanking you for your inspiring posts that have helped so many families traveling their own Alzheimers’ journey


  7. I’m imagining the tears flowing as you wrote that beautiful poem, and the crack that opened up in your heart as you cried. All that love… thank you, Susan, for giving me the beauty of your love to hold onto when I despair.


    1. Yes, you imagined perfectly Lorrie, and yes please, hold on to love in the midst of desperation. As Amy Mullins says, adversity is not something to get past so we can live; it’s the essence of life itself. ❤


  8. Dear Susan, my heart goes out to you at this time. I am so glad for you that you were there to witness your Mom’s passing, as I was when my mother died. I resonate with your feelings. I thank you for sharing those times/videos when your mother sang. I feel like I got to know her and you through your blog. I am so grateful that you shared this with the “world.” Your Mom will still be with you in ways now that you never imagined.


  9. Susan I’m so glad you were there with your mother, as you hoped you would be, in her final moments of life and that you were able to capture and share the experience so beautifully in your poem. My condolences to you for your loss. You are in my thoughts.


  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t usually comment, but have been following your journey with your mom for a while. May God give you the comfort and strength you’ll need in the days ahead. Your poem was beautiful…


  11. All those who have taken this journey with a loved one know the relief and sorrow in your heart. To me it is a privilege to bear witness to a soul going home. So glad you were with your Mom for that. Bless you. Beautiful poem.


  12. That was such a beautiful heart rending poem. I could relate totally to that – my husband died in my arms from pneumonia three years ago, following Alzheimer’s. He was in his nursing home and yes, there was that rattle. I sang How Great Thou Art to him and stroked him. He looked to the ceiling and smiled. His breathing slowed and looked at me and smiled and his fluids from the rattle came out. I didnt know he had gone because he died looking at me!! Immediately his life left, his face went yellow. So, I know the feelings you felt in that final moment. Strange but the silence was loud. Does that make sense? It still feels like yesterday, doesn’t it. Big hugs of comfort to you. I am wanting to publish my poetry. Any advice on how to go about it? Take care, please add me as a friend. Kind regards.


    1. “Strange but the silence was loud. Does that make sense?”

      Perfect sense! And yes, the fluid came out as you say, and her skin went kind of yellow before it turned white.

      I don’t know what to advise you about publishing your poetry; I publish mind here on my own blog. Maybe you should start your own blog…?


  13. “Like all deaths, hers was paradoxically unexpected. (…) I had been thinking/fearing/anticipating/regretting/hoping for her death for months.”

    Susan, I so know this feeling as I too try to prepare myself for the death of my parents, both of whom, as you may remember, are living with dementia. I hope to be with them when the time comes, having already had the privilege of being with my sister when she died at age 44 from a brain aneurysm.

    Your beautiful poem captures those final moments perfectly; the sense of unreality, anguish, incredible intimacy, strange sense of peace, and an odd sensation almost of splitting that allows one to observe and make sense of the clinical signs (“ah, so this is what dying and death look like”) despite the intense emotions.

    I did as you did; held her hand, stroked her hair and tried to channel every last ounce of the love I had/have for her through my body and into hers. I wanted her to take my love with her, wherever she was going. It was probably the purest feeling of love, just love, that I have ever felt. I am holding you and your mom in my heart as I write this, and crying for you both.


    1. “the sense of unreality, anguish, incredible intimacy, strange sense of peace, and an odd sensation almost of splitting that allows one to observe and make sense of the clinical signs (“ah, so this is what dying and death look like”) despite the intense emotions.”

      Yes! Yes! Yes. You have captured it EXACTLY, and added further depth to the words channeled through me and into the poem. I felt all of what you say, but couldn’t quite pin it down. Thank you so much for doing so.


  14. So beautiful and so touching. I cried for you and with you my friend.

    I want you to know that even though I have seen and been there for thousands of deaths, and always grieve at the end of a life no matter what,, the death of both my parents was something I could never prepare for.

    The loss of the 2 people who gave me life, and who I loved more than life itself, was the most unexpectedly brutal experience I have ever experienced, for even me.

    It sucked me into a void of such pain, that for a person so in control always, it threw me around like a helpless puppet.

    I wanted to be there for both and hold the hand of the person I loved so dearly,, and take them over to the other side, not alone.
    I missed dads death by mere minutes, but for mum I was there.

    With mum I did not leave her side. I cared for her for years as her cancer was a lengthy and grueling process compared to how rapid and cruel dads was.
    But it was the greatest privilege of all, to be able to give my parents what they needed through this journey and know that they received the best that could be offered because i was in this field. It was my final gift to them both.

    When I heard the change in mums breathing, on that final night, (as I wouldn’t allow myself to sleep at any time because I was scared of missing that moment), I panicked. And I never panic my friend.

    I felt such fear, and my own breath and heart caught in my throat, because even though I thought I was prepared I didn’t want to let go, or for her to leave me. I didn’t want to lose my mum. I didn’t want to allow this to happening. I kept saying to myself, “no not now. I’m not ready. OMG its happening. I’m not ready. Shit. Please stop. I cant do this. Please, no……………”

    I felt so helpless and unequipped to deal with this.
    I couldn’t help her and I felt a failure.
    I wanted more time. I wanted my mum to hug me and say, “its ok sweetheart” and smile at me as she always did.

    I didn’t feel brave.
    I didn’t feel strong. I was a mess.

    So as her breathing slowed, and I knew I couldn’t change the inevitable, I climbed up into the bed with her, I lay there with her, I held her hand, I stroked her face, whispering through my tears, “I love you mum”, over and over ad over, until she relaxed for the final time, and the last breath was released like a sigh.

    I miss her every single day and not a day goes by that I don’t miss both my wonderful parents.

    Its not easy living without part of your heart………………………………………………………



    1. Oh Leah ❤

      “So as her breathing slowed, and I knew I couldn’t change the inevitable, I climbed up into the bed with her, I lay there with her, I held her hand, I stroked her face, whispering through my tears, “I love you mum”, over and over ad over, until she relaxed for the final time, and the last breath was released like a sigh.”

      In the end were more brave than you ever imagined you could be ❤

      I stand with you in your grief. XOX


  15. So incredibly poignant, Susan. My heart breaks for you… In almost four years, I think I’ve replayed those last moments with my mom a million times. Like you, I had never been with anyone who was actively dying, so I had no idea what to expect or how I would feel. At the end of the day, I’m just so thankful I was there with her. As much as possible, I can relate to the many emotions you’re feeling now. Sending you my love and prayers.


    1. Thanks Ann. Like you, I’m just so grateful I was there until the end and at the end. It leaves me free to live the rest of my life without any regrets. An amazing gift from myself and her to me ❤


    2. I was with my mom when she passed away and it was the worst day of my life. She passed away on May 20, 2017. To this day I miss and love ❤️ her.


      1. Lisa,

        I’m so sorry for your loss. I too miss and love my mom every day. Still,
        for me, it was a great privilege to be with her when she died.

        Love, loss, life, grief, sorrow and joy are all intertwined for me.

        Thanks for sharing your experience ❤


  16. What a wonderful tribute to her last moments on earth. It is a sad journey to watch happen–and also a freeing one when the person going has been ill for a long time. Sometimes I have just prayed for the person to find the sweet release of death…but that doesn’t make it any easier on those left behind. Blessings and love to you- xo Diana


    1. You are right Diana, it doesn’t make it any easier, and thank you so much for your kind thoughts and blessings during which I know is a difficult time for you. Take care of yourself and love your hero until the end ❤


  17. Okay- I just looked here and see where you commented back to me. I DO NOT get those replies to my comments and I NEVER go back to a blog to see if the blogger commented. Sorry, did not know you were replying. Have a good night- xo Diana


  18. Pingback: tears to my eyes

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