Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

About My Mom

A warning to readers: This is a very personal, family-related post. If you came here looking for gardening info, then you might not be interested in reading this post.

Still here? Good. Give me a big hug.

Some of you may remember my series of family-related posts from a couple of months ago, when I visited my mom in Massachusetts to celebrate her 90th birthday. We all had a good time, and at the party we managed to surprise her with a bagpipe player.

Well, my mom passed away on Christmas Day, December 25, 2011, at the Kaplan Hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, surrounded by family members that she loved. I wasn't there, unfortunately, although I have no doubt that she loved me, and that she knew I loved her too.

Despite the fact that she never smoked a single day of her life, she had been suffering from COPD for a few years now. She awoke one night a couple of weeks before Christmas, unable to breathe, and asked my brother-in-law to take her to the hospital. She was there for a couple of weeks, while they tried to adjust the many medicines that she was taking. She was given a choice of going to rehab or to a local hospice to try to recuperate. Finally, she requested that they send her to the hospice. I truly thought she would be there for only a few days, and would be home again with my sister perhaps by Christmas Day.

But instead, her condition declined. My sister called me here in Washington to let me know she was not getting better. But my mind rebelled. I thought she would rally, and I didn't want to believe the worst. I was in shock. I felt paralyzed. Maybe I should have gotten on a plane immediately. But I didn't, and I wasn't there when she passed.

My mom, Margaret (Withers) Scott, exploring a garden. I think she looks about three years old here.

My mom didn't believe in making a fuss about anything. You know how sometimes people talk of someone's temper having a short fuse? Well, I'm not sure my mom's temper even had a fuse. She seldom talked of her own feelings -- in fact, she was the type who denied having them. I spoke with my brother-in-law while I was at my sister's sorting my mom's things, and he mentioned that whenever she went with them to Bible study, and the talk turned to how she felt, she would always speak in the third person. "Well, people sometimes feel..." Never "I feel..." That was her way of distancing herself from her own anger, doubt, fear, even love. And she seldom if ever asked how other people felt. I don't think she wanted to know, but not because she didn't care. Because it would have brought her own feelings too close to the surface.

I don't know if that was a result of her upbringing, or her nature. I do know I am like her, except for the temper part. I have a very long fuse, but when it goes, it really explodes over something that appears to be minor. I do remember once -- when I was being a typical moody teenager -- my dad saying that he wished I was more even-tempered like her.

My mom is on the bottom right, with school friends.

Growing up, sometimes her motherly advice was hard to take, and often contradictory. Here's an example. Both sentences came up in the same conversation. "You're not smart enough to attract a smart man." "Men don't like smart women." I got that advice when I was in my early 20s, and I still don't quite know what to make of it. I think I did attract a smart man, and I don't think he minds that I'm not a dumb blonde (although he would like me to lose some weight).

My mom in a raccoon coat

I found a little slip of paper in one of my mom's dresser drawers, amongst the myriad addresses of friends and other random papers, including some that were completely empty. I don't know where she got it, but she kept it because she thought it was important. Here's what it said.

"Speaking of the tongue, that tiny portion of the human anatomy which is so hard for many people to control, there are a couple of proverbs it would be wise to heed. The first says: 'A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.' A harsh or false word, a confidence revealed, an unkind remark, once expressed cannot be taken back. The second proverb says: 'Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue, to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.' A gently clever bit of good advice!"

It seemed to me that passage epitomized my mom, and was her final piece of motherly advice.

For info about the Kaplan Family Hospice House, click here. By all accounts, they gave great care to my mother in her last days.

For info about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), click here.


And to my dear brother-in-law, if you're reading this (and I know you are), don't worry about my grieving process. It's private, and it's buried deep, but it will surface eventually (this post is part of it). Just take good care of my sister, I know she's stressed right now beyond measure.


  1. Alison,

    Sorry to hear about your mother passing. Sounds like she lived a long and very full life! We lost my grandmother on December 25 around 30 years ago, she died in the hospital and we all had went home before she passed away.

  2. Oh Alison, I'm so sorry. I was wondering if something was going on because you hadn't posted for awhile. I'm glad you were able to celebrate your Mom's birthday, especially when she was feeling better. I can see your resemblance to her.
    I'm sending you a big hug and I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts!

  3. Alison, I am so very sorry for your loss. It is never easy to find a place for this in your heart or mind but, in time, we all find a spot to keep it, that doesn't hurt so bad. - You will be in my thoughts and prayers. xxoo

  4. That slip of paper is priceless, nothing could be more precious and true. I'm so sorry for your loss Alison. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt moment. And yes here's a big hug for you!

  5. We are sorry to hear about your loss. Your mom was a wonderful person. The piece of paper advice is a treasure. Big Hugs.

  6. I am very sorry about your mother. I know she must have been a grand person because from what I have seen you are. You have her smile; it is one that just makes a person feel good.

  7. Dear Alison, know for certain I am enfolding you in the biggest of hugs. This is something I have been dreading every day for years. As you know, my mother is 91 and I know our days together are numbered, and yet, I do not want to face the eventuality.

    The slip of paper your mother kept explained a great deal about her personality and wisdom. What a wonderful quote. (And one I would do well to remember.)

    What a beautiful little girl and young lady she was! My mother doesn't talk about her feelings much either; I suspect it's because of the way things were in her childhood and her marriage. Times were so much different in their lifetimes.

    My sympathy to you dear, dear Alison. This is such a difficult time. We have so much in common.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. Alison, I wish you were next door because I'd come over and give you a big hug. I'm thankful you have warm, memories of your last visit with her. I've not lost a parent yet, but I suspect my process will be similar to the one you are on right now. I wish you peace. Jenni

  9. Alison,
    I too am sorry to hear this news and as always I'm a bit unsure of what to say. You know I lost my grandmother recently, and although she was like a mother to me, I know our relationship was different.

    The sheet of paper is quite insightful. Some of us struggle so hard with holding our tongues, I think our feet slip and we trip all of the time because we're not paying attention to what we're doing. I need to remember that so I will stop falling down stairs.

    Take care of yourself and grieve as you need to grieve; we all understand how different the process can be for each and every one of us.

  10. Alison,
    I'm sorry for your loss. Take care of yourself and focus on all the wonderful times you had with your mother.

  11. Allison, as Jenni said I wish you were next door, I'd be over with a hug and baked goods! I dread this day when it arrives for me. I would like to think I will be as thoughtful and well spoken as you have been, but you've set the bar high. I am so sorry for your pain, but thankful you were recently able to spend time with your mom. No doubt that warm circle of love was still all around her.

  12. I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Alison. I am currently on a blogging break, so it is fortuitous that I chose to check in quickly this morning and hence was able to read this incredibly heartfelt post about your much loved and sorely missed Mother. Your visit to celebrate her 90th birthday along with her and the rest of your family so recently was such a special and happy occasion and I am so glad you had that carefree time together.
    I know how difficult it is to live so far away from family, but especially our Mothers. My parents live in Australia and although still very healthy and fit, I too wonder about the time when the inevitable happens and I won't be there. I like to think I'm strong enough to handle it having viewed the great distance between ourselves as a kind of preparation for that eventuality. They emigrated from SA sixteen years ago and in that time, we've seen each other on four separate visits. The last one (almost two years ago) may well have been the last.
    I can only imagine what you're feeling, but I do so hope there is an absence of any sense of guilt at not having been there when her time came to pass on. My thoughts are with you in your time of grieving and coming to terms with the new reality of your lives and I wish you peace and an abiding sense of serenity. With loving hugs. xoxoxo

  13. Alison, I am so sorry to hear of your sad loss.
    Know there are many supporting arms surrounding you with hugs at this sad time.

  14. Allison, I am so sorry to read about your mother.

    I lost my mother somewhat early, almost sixteen years ago and even though time has been kind in bringing me a certain peace, there are times when I still miss her fiercely. I, too, have a little note (written to my husband and me) that I treasure, especially precious because it accompanied a garden journal she gave us when we moved into our first house and garden.

    I'm sending you a warm hug, with my positive thoughts for your healing. I know your garden will help you heal, too.

  15. Oh Alison~Great big hugs! So sorry for your loss.
    I lost my mom at 23, 8 yrs ago.
    I have found nothing said ever helps much, so I will enjoy some silence with you.

  16. Oh dear Alison, I am so sorry. I remember you visiting for her 90th, so happy you had a great celebration then. She sounds like a sweet woman who was well loved. I see your smile in her picture with the fur coat. Know your heart is breaking and it will take a while for you to move forward. I would think writing this post helped. It is a lovely tribute. big hugs.

  17. Hi Alison, I'm so sorry about your mother. How sad that she didn't recover from the COPD. You wrote a wonderful piece, honoring her. It seems like our parents' generation were very careful with their emotions. I suppose it's because they grew up in a different era. Sad. I love your photos. She was very pretty. Please accept a big hug from me.

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  19. Hi Alison, I am very sorry to learn about your Mom. "But my mind rebelled"- I think I know exactly what it means. It's when you can't do anything, because doing something will mean that you accepted the worst. It happened to me in 1993.
    In the school picture, your Mom looks like you. I believe that mothers somehow continue their life in their daughters. I also think that mothers's best wish is their children to be happy. So, the best what we can do - be happy, do not let our mothers down.

  20. I don't know how I missed this post...and am so sorry to hear of your mom's passing. I honestly don't think it matters how old we are, or how much we think we are prepare, it is always hard to deal with the passing of a parent. It will be 10 years since my mother passed away this coming Christmas...and honestly, not a day goes by that I don't think of her a bit...even if it's just in passing. It sounds like she was an interesting person...I'm always amazed at how we can live with our parents for so long...and yet, there is still so much of them that remains a mystery to us. I'm just grateful for the time I had with her...and for all the good memories I have. Big Hugs here from Portland.

  21. While enjoying some time on pinterest, I found myself linked to your blog. For the first time, I have actually sat down and gone page by page without stopping. I have been in awe of the joy and the beauty on each page of your blog. It wasn't until I got to this page that I stopped and had to step away.

    Like you, I have a December birthday... the 10th. And like you, my mother passed away just a few days after my birthday last year. I am trying so hard not to cry while typing this. I miss her so much. She was more than just my mother, she was my best friend... the best friend I ever had.

    I had moved back in with my parents about 4 years ago so I could help take care of my dad, who has issues with his kidneys and numerous other ailments. Then shortly after, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (triple negative). She managed to make it through... but her cancer returned last year. Because it attacked her liver, lungs and bones, there was little hope they could give her. My father and I did all we could to make her comfortable in her last few months. It certainly wasn't easy.

    I look back on my birthday with a mix of happiness and a lot of sadness. I am happy because she was with me. While I had to cook the birthday lasagna and cake for myself... it didn't bother me. She couldn't eat it, but she did manage to get down a little bit of tomato soup, which I fed her because she was too weak to hold a spoon.

    I should apologize, this is far too depressing. I guess the real point I wanted to get to is this... my mother loved roses, but my dad doesn't. We had one rose in the garden that my mother received from her father (who also passed away last year). My dad, reluctantly, allowed me to start working a real rose garden. While I have always enjoyed gardening... this garden is something special to me. I have actually begun to work on making my own garden art. It will be a garden my mother would have loved.

    Anyway, I will end it here. Thank you so much for your wonderful and inspirational blog!



Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.