“Sorry to Bother You…”
Within a couple of hours of doing the heartbreakingly most difficult thing in my life, I was in tears, sitting on an airplane, only minutes after take-off from Tampa, Florida.
Through my blurred vision I saw a hand trying to pass me a piece of paper through the gap between the seats in front of me.
“Sorry to bother you, but I wanted to say I’m really sorry to hear about your mother, but she’ll be in a better place soon. And at least you got to say goodbye.
Keep reading that ‘complex’ book she told you to finish. I am sure it will be worthwhile.
Sincerely, Gabby Tayco (girl in front of you)”
I went to my mother on at 1:PM October 7, 2010, and I was on a mission. I walked into the door of the Hospice and went down the hall to her room. We had spoken deeply and intimately and honestly, the night before. There had been some very positive signs suddenly, and my family were talking about “miracles” and mom leaving the hospice.
But late in the evening on October 6, Anne Regan Waugh wanted none of it. “No more interventions Michael. I am adamant about this – I want to die.” As much as my heart did not want to hear my voice say this, I replied, “mom, I love you and don’t want you to go, but if this is what your wishes are, then you have to be just as adamant with everyone else as you are with me now.”
She nodded, closed her eyes as we held hands, and she fell asleep. We agreed we would have our goodbye the next day.
What does a Son do when he knows he is going to see his mother for the last time? As a small child, right up through my adult years, I would always write my mother a handmade birthday (or just about any other occasion) card, which would include a stick drawing of my mother, with a gun, shooting bullets at brooms and buckets. My caption would always read: “Dear Mom, shoot the work down.”
My mother raised 7 children, and on her birthdays as a child, the best present I thought she could ever have, was her not having to work like a slave for the day.
So, I dressed in a new suit, my Sunday best, and went to the flower shop, bought some flowers, fancy English chocolate and a card. The last bit of preparation was to stop at a hair salon to get a haircut. (Back in August my mother said to me “don’t let your hair go, like Michael Douglas has.”)
A Time for Peace
At 1: PM I was at the hospice, standing in front of her, with my father and two siblings in the room. My mother’s eyes lit up. “Oh Michael, you look so handsome!” I told her I went out and got a haircut, just for her. I had not brought in the flowers and chocolate yet, so I told her I would be right back. I fumbled with the car rental keys in the parking lot and set off the horns right in front of the hospice. I collected myself and brought the flowers and candy into the room.
There was now also a nurse in the room and my siblings and father were sitting around the bed. Mom said to dad “look at your son – doesn’t he look wonderful?” I said something about wearing “my Sunday best” and how I got the suit just for her.
I took a deep breath and told my mother “it is time to go” and that “we agreed last night that it would be OK now.” She simply nodded and said softly, but firmly, “yes Michael”
I had sensed a change in the room, and that indeed, my mother was adamant with all, sometime before I came into the room.
Everyone softly left the room, and so I moved up close and sat down and held her hand. I brought the flowers up to her nose to smell them and told her how the chocolates were from England. I took the card out of this bouquet of flowers and took another breath and read it to her.
You really CAN shoot the work down now. I love you more than all knowing, and words.
She smiled softly and seemed to really like the card. We talked for a little while and she asked me if I was going back to Ireland. I told her my plans to marry Trish, substitute teach in Virginia and get the business going in the spring. This reminded me of an Irish proverb I read that very morning. I told her that the proverb was “he who is lucky in the morning, is lucky in the evening too.” I told her how she was lucky in the morning of her life, having survived a fall from a tenement building in Harlem as an infant, and everything else that happened in her early years of the Depression. “And now at the age of 80, you are lucky to have all her family with her and so many people near and far who love you.”
She took her own deep breath and said “Michael, you have been an inspiration. I don’t know what I would have done without you the last few months in the hospital. All your readings, the meditations and prayers…” She then said “you were always a joy to me and you always livened my life.”
I said how I loved that through the years, no matter where I was, we would have wonderful long chats on the phone and we always ended them laughing. I said “Mom you gave me the gift of humor and taught me not to take myself or anything else so serious” I told her how I loved always coming back on leave with my daughters to her house and that they always felt safe and loved it there with her.
I then reached into my pocket and took out a little black book called “24 Hours a Day Book” that she sent to me when I was on a ship at the age of 18. I had held onto this book for 33 years, even if I wasn’t sure why she sent it to me back then. But I had been reading these daily reflections, prayers and meditations to her in recent weeks and months from the very book. I said “you knew I had a problem a long time ago mom, and you sent me this book. It may have taken a long time for me to understand, but I know you and this book help save my life.” I then talked to her about Shaun Patrick, the Grandson she never knew, and his mother Kathleen. I asked her to look for them.
Homework from Mom
After some silence she opened her eyes and said, (in a tone of saying goodbye) “Michael- keep reading that book. I know it can be complex but keep reading it and stay with it. You will have a wonderful life. God didn’t carry you this far to drop you now.”
I told my mother that I was very happy and asked her not to worry about me. I told her of a mystic who once said to me “you will always have something good put in front of you.” I said with a smile that I will always be ok and that I have been lucky in the morning and will be lucky in the evening.
We said “I love you” together. She said she will miss me. She said I love you once again, and I said it in return, kissed her forehead and I began to get up. “Tell Aunt Clare (her sister) I love her.”
“We are Square.”
Unbeknownst to me, my brother Jim was standing in the corner of the room. She looked up to him and said “go get your father.” When my father, who I have been estranged from for several years, returned, he stood on the other side of the bed and waited. My mother looked up at him and said, (adamantly,) Donald, I want you to hear this. I don’t know what I would have done without Michael. He did so much for me when I was in these hospitals…the readings…meditations…keeping me company…” She then said sternly, “I want you to shake your son’s hand.” My father put his hand out and we shook. He told me to have a safe trip home.
Finally, he came over to my side of the bed, and said with his Bronx accent, “we are square.”
Jimmy stepped up and shook my hand and said to take care. I began leaving the room and then stopped and smiled…the hardest smile I ever smiled and said to my mother “keep smelling the flowers, read my note and eat all that chocolate.”
She smiled and said “I love you” – “I love you too Mom.”
I left the room and went to the car and held back crying until I was inside. I fought the temptation of going back in there. I knew my mother would have to go through this with so many more, and I was the first, and felt an obligation to say my goodbye with dignity and with the least amount of pain for my mother. I read from my 24 hour book, prayed for strength, and started the car.
I drove away and within a minute I saw “St. Anne’s Church” and went inside to pray. I did some more crying in there and lit a candle for my mother.
As if on auto-pilot, I went to the graves of Kathleen and Shaun Patrick and placed new flowers. I told them to keep an eye out for grandma. I phoned Trish and told her I was on the way to the airport.
A Note from Heaven
When I got on the plane, I sat down, slouched to the side and phoned a close friend from the Bronx.
I began crying and could not stop. I told him about my last goodbye with my mother. I knew he would understand.
The plane was beginning to move on the runway. So, I put away the phone.
We left the ground. I was weeping softly. The plane took off to the North. I was in a trance.
When the planed leveled, I looked up from my prayer book and saw someone’s gentle fingers trying to quietly and discreetly pass me a note through the seats in front of me.
I took the note and opened it:
“Sorry to bother you…”
Yes Mother, God always will always place something or someone good in front of me.
In memory of Anne Catherine Regan Waugh 1930-2010
I love you Mom and I take that complex book everywhere I go.