This week I share an article I wrote a while back about losing my mom while she’s still here. So much has changed in her life in the last couple of years, so this is a tribute to her.

Tonight I am weeping and grieving the fact that I am losing my mom. Bit-by-bit, her memory is slipping and guys, it is breaking my heart. This is a love letter to my mom. 

Losing my mom: this is a photo of my mom with my oldest brother, and a throwback photo of me holding my daughter in the same pose
My mom holding my oldest brother, and a throwback photo of me holding my daughter.

The next time I go visit my mom, I think I will ask her to climb into my lap so I can cradle and hold her – rock her and tell her that everything will be okay. She is so small now, so childlike and I have become the mother to a frightened girl who is trying so hard to be good, to remember what she should be doing. But she can’t remember.

She still remembers who we are, mostly.  I noticed something hard, though, when she left the sixth message for me and she said, “Hi, this is Gaye,” and not, “Hi, this is your mama,” like she has done for years. After I had a daughter of my own, hearing my own mama refer to herself with that word touched me in a way I did not expect, as if I finally understand now what her love for me has meant all these years. All these thoughts were triggered by thinking of that word, “mama.”

But now I’m losing my mom. I think by the time she recorded the message she had forgotten who she was calling, that I am her little girl and she is my my mama. So she slipped into the formal tone as though she were calling the bank.

Related: Writing a personal history, journal ideas, and why it’s important

Before losing my mom to old age, I thought of her prime as in her 60s
My mom in what I think of as her prime

Losing my mom gradually

This is what it is like to be losing my mom bit-by-bit over time in a such an imperceptible way at first that I almost forgot what she used to be like when she was young and beautiful and was taking care of everybody. I was reminded not long ago when I saw her in a professionally produced video by the business she co-founded with my dad. The film crew interviewed members of the family and her part was always one of my favorites. She said, “Every time we would get discouraged and think ‘why are we doing this,’ someone would write us a letter and say, ‘Please don’t ever stop making these products.’ Then we would remember why we are in business.”

Related: Give mom a life story interview

I think my mama was never better than in that video at that age, in her late 50s. I was in high school then, and the business she and my dad started was finally doing well. Her kids were growing up and she was enjoying the fruits of her labors. She was vibrant and attractive at that age, articulate and warm. My mother has always been such a nice person, and now even as her memory slips away, she has not become unpleasant. She has not lost her loving nature, but is just more childlike and in need of mothering herself.

As I am losing my mom to dementia, I think of how she has always been like the sea reassuring me. Here I am walking with her by the ocean 15 years ago.
My mom and I walking by the sea 15 years ago

Today I needed to center myself and began to meditate when an image of floating in the sea came to me. Then, thoughts of my mother came to mind and overpowered me. That is what prompted me to write this tribute.

To me, the sea has always been mother, and the mountains are like father. The sea is where I go to rest, to be accepted and loved just the way I am.  The rhythmic waves rock my soul still and say, hush, hush, hush. The mountains are my place of big ideas, inspiration and broad vision. The mountains are the place where my dad brought our family to inspire awe in us. He took me on hard hikes to show me what I was capable of. As a toddler he helped me catch fish “all by myself” to learn what I could do. But by the sea, I feel that everything I am meant to become, I already am. The mountains inspire me to do, but the sea just reminds me to be. At the sea, I remember that I am connected to my mother, and to all the mothers before us, all the way back to the sea.

That idea of just being and not trying so hard to do everything is a powerful one. In my own life, my own mom has always acted as though I am just right just the way I am. Sure, I get that moms are like that and not to get too grandiose about it. But on the other hand, I also believe she is onto something. We are all complete just the way we are. We feel compelled to grow and reach new heights, yet at the same time our souls are perfect just the way we are.

I’m also mindful of how my mother treated me like the sun and stars, but she wasn’t always so gentle with herself. She once confessed to me that she dreaded Mother’s Day because it made her feel inadequate.

Related: My mom confessed, “I dreaded Mother’s Day.” 

Losing my mom, becoming the mom

I wish I knew how to juggle this phase with my mom when taking over her bills and doctor appointments, having a young child of my own, and a growing business are eating my lunch. I know she won’t be here forever, and there may come a time when she is here but not here, lost. The logistics of the work too often make it hard to just be with her, and I feel guilty about that.

Still, right now, I reflect on the fact that right before I started my business I had one of the most poignant conversations with my mom of my whole life. She had already started to decline in many ways and was not the same as when that video was filmed.  But when I really needed her advice, she emerged from the fog to speak to me with clarity and wisdom. It hadn’t been long since I had found a letter from my dad in a box of silly notes (here is a video I made after finding the letter), also telling me what I needed to hear. But somehow, I also needed my mother’s blessing, too.

Book cover for Every Essential Element
This is the book my mom and I wrote together about her epic love story with my dad, and their family business saga.

We were driving to the funeral of my aunt, my dad’s last living sibling and I told her I wanted to talk to her about something. I felt her perk up. I felt her totally focus on me and what I was saying in a way she had not been able to do in years. I told her I was thinking of leaving my day job to tell people’s stories full time, like when we wrote her life story. I laid out the logic and then asked what she thought. With full presence of mind she said, “I think if your dad were here he would say to go for it.” Then I asked, “But what do you think?” She paused, looking for the right words and she said the words I needed to hear, “I think if you didn’t try, you would always regret it.”

Related: Remembering my dad

Before losing my mom to dementia, we wrote her story. Here she is standing by a stream in the back country when we got away for a weekend to write her story.
My mom one weekend when we went away to write her story. I cherish this memory.

Thank you, Mom

Thank you Mom, for always believing in me, for being my cheerleader. For being the person in life who against all better judgment, believes I am just right the way I am. I hope I can repay a tiny bit of what you gave to me by taking care of you now. I know I act frantic a lot of the time because I’m just trying to keep it together in the same way you were trying to keep it together when I was little. But I want you to know that it feels like a profound privilege to help take care of you now, to tell you that it is going to be okay.

I am so sorry you can’t remember, and that I can only imagine how frustrating it must feel to not be able to take care of everyone and everything. I want to tell you that I see how hard you are trying. I have told you, of course, but you forget. I guess I should tell you every day for the rest of your life how much I love you and how grateful I am. I am not exaggerating when I say that I believe everything I am is because you believed in me. I wish I could take care of you in the way I know you wanted to take care of me as a child, reassuring me and giving me everything I need to feel safe as you rock me to sleep. Hush, hush. Hush.

Related: What this photo says about grief and a mother’s support

If you like the idea of telling a loved-one’s story (like my mom and I did) or your own, download my all-time favorite question prompts here:

Rhonda Lauritzen head shot 2023

Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. Rhonda lives to hear and write about people’s lives. She believes that when you tell your story, it changes the ending., She and her husband Milan restored an 1890 Victorian in Ogden. She especially enjoys unplugging in nature. Check out her books: How to Storyboard, and Every Essential Element. Most recently she was the writing coach of bestselling author, Rob A. Gentile, who wrote Quarks of Light, A Near-Death Experience: What I Saw That Opened My Heart.


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12 thoughts on “On gradually losing my mom: She is the sea and she says hush, hush, hush

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  • December 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Oh this brought me to tears. So beautifully written and yet heartbreaking at the same time. X

    • December 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Sophie, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, it was very emotional for me to write, but I do remind myself that even as hard as it is now, I’m one of the luckiest girls on Earth to have been born to my mom.

  • December 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal experience. I lost my mom two years ago to cancer, and I remember the point when I stopped praying that the chemo would work and she would get better and started praying “Just let her go so she can be herself again.” It’s hard, but I consistently feel that she is happy now. ❤️

    • December 5, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      Jennifer, so you have been there. I am sorry you lost your mom so young. Thank you for sharing your experience and for taking a minute to connect about this.

  • November 20, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Rhonda, thank you for the outpouring of your soul, beautifully written from the heart. Sometimes the perfect words just come and we must leave them as is, unedited and pure. You were inspired when you wrote this and there are moments when this happens and it is best to leave it alone. This piece touched my heart as I too, take care of my mom in her aging years. Beautiful! Thank you!

    • November 20, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Thank you, Claudia. You know those feelings well of caring for your mom and wishing you could make everything okay for her. As a fellow writer, I also appreciate your encouragement. It felt liberating to just let fingers fly on this one, courtesy of our Richard Paul Evans writing group!

  • November 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    Rhonda, this is some of your best yet. Don’t be afraid, I know you better for it, and that is the goal!

    • November 20, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      John thank you so much. Your comment and encouragement means a great deal to me, especially as I felt out of the comfort zone to publish an unfiltered and unedited piece. That said, it was also liberating to let go and let the fingers fly. Your note helps me believe in the magic.

Comments are closed.

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