I began preparing myself for my mother’s departure a long time ago, even before she came to live in our community so that we could support her. Occasional dreams appeared in which I or we (my partner and daughter) had to save my Mom; in those dreams she was called “Little Mommy.”
Often water would be involved. Perhaps she would fall off a dock and we would pull her out of the water. The dreams became even more prophetic before our last trip to India in the fall of 2009 when I dreamed that she disappeared from our bed where she was resting, leaving a pile of garments, only to reappear on a small bed in the same room as a baby. Then the baby also disappeared, leaving behind red satin garments.
That profound dream reminded me of the expression “dust to dust, ashes to ashes” because she was returning to a younger form of herself.

My mother left us in the early morning hours of April 13th; when she heard I was on my way her face changed, her nurse Ray said, and she went. I believe she then felt safe and comforted enough to let go. It was also clear that energetically I was there with her.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said that whoever is supposed to be there when a person dies is present in the room, even if they are not there physically, and I feel this was very much the case. (Most loved ones seem to die when their family is not in the room, from what friends and nurses at Totem Lodge have told me).

Our celebration of Glenys’ life, held on a sunny, hot Saturday afternoon in our home, was joyful and uplifting. It was a simple gathering of friends and family, a reading of e-mails from family and colleagues in Toronto, some storytelling by myself and others who were present, followed by a toast to our mom and a sharing of food.

I believe it reflected the joyful, social person she was. Everyone enjoyed the afternoon, and the next day I imagined Mom “looking down” (a reflection of my childhood Christian upbringing I suppose), clapping her hands and joyfully telling the family and friends with her, “They’re having a party for me!”

It’s been about two months since Mom left us, and the process goes on. Recently, I had two dreams that reflect how I’m integrating her passing into who I am, and into my life. They also represent the circle of life, and the circle of mothers and daughters. When I did a vision board a few weeks ago, (pictures and words on posterboard), I hadn’t planned to, but began it with pictures of my mother and myself, and my daughter and myself, and used phrases such as “full circle” and “strength” and “open arms.”

My first dream, just a dream fragment, had a very young girl, hardly more than a baby, being thrown, more than once, to the curb of a road. For some reason, she was not a three dimensional girl, she was rather flat, but in dreams unusual symbols appear. I motioned to my partner to pick up bits of her clothing, and I gently and lovingly picked her up and held her to my heart. This girl was a part of me, a wounded, grieving part, and I reclaimed her into myself as I dreamed. (Remember, although there are many helpful ways to interpret dreams, the final word is our own, we are the expert on our dreams).

The second dream, a bit longer, took place in a care home, but not the one Mom lived in. The home and the staff seemed generic, and were unknown to me, totally unlike the Totem experience. In the dream, my mother was dying, but then she turned around and improved — so much so that she could speak again (she hadn’t really spoken for a long time). She was going to be sent to the hospital, but then I got the idea of “taking her home” for her last few days. The home wasn’t my current one, however; it was our family home on Lawrence Avenue in Toronto. I was helping her go home. There’s the full circle again.

During Mom’s last week, we all helped her go home, with our visits, our music, and most importantly, our love. Also, and this will no doubt sound weird to some of you, for several weeks before Mom became ill, I craved a pair of large, white, feathery wings to put on – not to worry, they were only going to be worn around the house! (You need to know that I have been enamoured of huge white wings for many years, ever since I saw the several part movie on television called “Mr. Pim” about a man in a small village in England who began to grow beautiful wings.)

As soon as Mom became terminally ill, my desire  for wings disappeared. Again, I think it was a symbolic way of me helping her go home.

How the future will unfold as I find my new place in the world, I cannot predict. As I said to my brother last week after we left the lawyer’s, “It’s the end of an era.” He agreed.

Ellen Besso, MA, MidLife Coach & Eldercare Expert, and author of Surviving Eldercare: Where Their Needs End & Yours Begin


Ellen Besso

Ellen Besso holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology, is a Martha Beck Certified Coach and a Registered Clinical Counselor. She specializes in helping women access their joy and passion as they navigate the challenges of midlife, including caring for their elders. a href=https://www.opentohope.com/2009/09/17/ellen-besso-helping-others-after-loss/>To Listen to Ellen on Open to Hope Radio

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