A baby boomer’s most profound loss

It’s not unusual to go through it, not at the ages we’ve all reached, but that doesn’t make it easier. We’re talking about the deaths of our parents. And Terri Kirby Erickson of Pfafftown, North Carolina, is willing to talk about it candidly, in this touching piece she wrote for BoomerCafé. It’s called, Facing the loss of our parents.

When the father I adored died of kidney failure on March 5th this year, my mother and I were heartbroken. It was not an easy death, but he approached the end with courage and his usual sense of humor. In fact, Dad was joking around with the staff at Hospice— despite having to fight for every breath— until he could speak no more.

Terri’s parents at their engagement when they were young.

I have always been close to my parents, but the death of my brother back in 1980, when he was only twenty, forged an unbreakable bond between my parents and me.

So, having my mother near as we mourned my father, her high school sweetheart and husband of sixty-three years, helped me to make peace with his passing, which was truly a release from years of suffering. And I tried to do the same for her.

For six months after Dad’s death, if I wasn’t on the phone with Mom, I was with her. I did my best to help the kindest, most wonderful mother in the world, weather this agonizing separation from the love of her life. And my daughter did her part to be there for her beloved “Gran.”

In early September, however, I tried to reach my mother but her land line was busy for over an hour. I called her cell too, but it rang and rang. So I decided to drive to her house and make sure she was okay.

Terri’s parents.

What I found there will haunt me for the rest of my life.

My beautiful mother was lying on the ground beside her front porch, eyes closed and breathing like my father in the hours before he died. I fell to my knees, crying “Mommy! What happened?” as if I were four-years-old, then immediately called 911.

Terri with her mother.

I remember little of the next few hours— the ride in the ambulance, my mother being transported to ICU. I called my husband, my daughter’s fiancé (who drove to her work and brought her to the hospital), and my uncle, who all came to the hospital themselves.

Terri Erickson

At 10:46 p.m., with my husband and me by her side, my mother’s heart stopped beating. It was and continues to be a moment of anguish and complete disbelief. She had been in excellent health. But the “spontaneous brain bleed” that ended her life was, according to the attending physicians, “catastrophic” and “not survivable.”

More than a month after her death, I am still in shock. This morning I awoke with tears on my face, crying for my mother even in sleep. I miss her with an ache that never seems to end or even diminish.

Every boomer either has or will lose our parents and others we love. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do. Yet somehow, we find the strength and courage to go on. Eventually, because I am my parents’ daughter, I will do the same.

For today though, the pain is paramount, and the future without my mom and dad still looks like a sad and lonely place.

8 Comments

  1. Terri, I am so sorry and I completely understand your pain. As sudden and tragic death at any age is so much harder to comprehend, I’ve experienced my fair share.

    I lost both parents 32 days apart, 6 years yesterday (15th), and they left no will… just 5 kids who don’t get along and one hell of a mess. There is still no closure.

    So, while you work through this most painful process of adjusting to your “new normal”, it’s important to remember how very lucky you are to have great memories of wonderful parents because so many others don’t.

    If you need to talk with someone who gets it, I give Boomer Cafe permission to provide you my email addy and I am also in NC, north of Fayetteville.

    Blessings to you, Terri,
    gywn

    1. Hi Gwyn…thank you so much for your kind offer of support, and your compassionate comments. I’m so sorry for the loss of your parents, also. With warm regards, Terri

  2. I’m sorry for your losses. I think we will always miss our parents and it is a tribute to them that we will. I hope you regain some peace and equilibrium as time passes. They would want you to live as fully as you can.

  3. Terri, I relate to your feelings deeply. Two years ago my dad passed away at the age of 100. I knew I was fortunate to have had him with me that long and yet I felt like a lost orphan.

    1. Thank you, Lucy. I’m so sorry about your dad’s passing. And I feel like an orphan, too. I know how much it hurts. With warm regards, Terri

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