You Can Die of a Broken Heart

My Mother died exactly one day less than a year from the day my Dad died. I was 14 years old. My brother, 18 years old, said to me the day before that morning, “We need to be home with Mom tomorrow. Come straight home from school and plan to stay at home the whole night. Tomorrow will be one year since Dad died”.

Around 3 in the afternoon, the school Principal, Mr. Rose came in and whispered to the teacher. She walked with him to my desk. I was writing a report on heart disease because Mom’s Doctor said she had the problem. I was trying to find out what that meant.

My teacher said, “You need to go with Mr. Rose”. I was puzzled, and gathered my books as it was near the end of the school day. Mr. Rose waited patiently and led me out of the room. I wondered if I had done something wrong.

In the Principals office, I saw my older brother with his back to the door, gazing out the window. Mr. Rose left. I stood undecided what I should do as I couldn’t imagine why my brother was there. My brother, turned toward me and bent to pick up a piece of paper he dropped. When he stood up, he was crying!

He choked out, “Mom died today.”

I did not think this was unexpected somehow. After Dad died, Mom had asked me to sleep with her as she did not want to sleep alone. I heard her several times say under here breath so I would not hear, “ take me. Let me die.”

Now I stood, numb and unable respond. My brother was weeping and I just stood there.

For the rest of the time including the funeral, I did not cry because I felt stunned.

Many people thought if two people were married for a long time and one died, the other would follow within year. Whenever I thought of it, I tried to accept this common wisdom I had often heard as a child growing up. I never understood but accepted this as truth as it happened that way with my parents. I was stunned for decades.

Over 50 years later, I am still trying to understand many things. I have had a lot of time alone and had time to think deeply about things in my past. I  now know why my Mom died as she did. My husband died and I had to try to cope. Memories of Mom’s last year kept popping up in my head.

After over 50 years of marriage, my husband died. I was sure my time was up also the same way as my Mother, so I sat and waited for my year to end.  I did not die in the following year and I have had lots of time to think.

I see my Mom clearly for the first time. She was meek and shy. Dad was full of life and loved to laugh. He was her joy. He died and my brother was leaving home to join the military. I was going to leave in very short years also. I can picture her staring at the walls, alone.

No TV back then, she was not a member of any church or organization, she could not work due to health problems, she did not read for pleasure and she had moved from her home to another town to be close to her siblings.

Now I understand why she willed her own death. She was alone without her husband and kids who were leaving to have lives of their own.

At last I can  grieve, deeply with understanding for my Mother who died, lonely and of a broken heart.

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