Journey’s End

The long journey that began a year and a half ago ended suddenly this morning.

The Swedish ringtone sounded four times after I dialed the number I had dialed the same time every morning for several years as well as every weekend afternoon, the number I knew would suddenly become meaningless any time as my mother’s disease progressed.

A strange voice answered and in one instant I was orphaned at age fifty-eight, never having said a final good bye. My last words had been “get a good night’s sleep and I’ll call you when I wake up in the morning”.

Hers had been “I am content, take care of yourself”. She was ready, even if I was not.

I have lost count of how many deaths I have attended as a physician, but it is always with an eery swiftness that the moment passes, no matter how long the wait has been.

Instantly the moment is gone, the chance to say the words we wanted to have said. Instantly the feeling of loss overwhelms us as we are hurled from one way of existing to another, just like our loved one is whisked away from our presence.

Hearing a young Hospice nurse struggle to find the right words to tell me what must have happened before she arrived for her scheduled visit, I realized what had happened with the speed of my imagination as her words continued to form in slow motion. Through the receiver, across three thousand miles of frigid ocean and across a time difference of half a day I gathered up the pieces of my mother’s last hours on this earth.

Somehow, I knew it would end like this. I knew it the day my father died and I was the one who walked across my home town to tell her, confined to her hospital room across the river. I knew it every time I said good bye on the telephone, that one day the phone would ring and ring, she would not answer and the familiar number wouldn’t be hers anymore.

I just didn’t know it would be today.

10 Responses to “Journey’s End”

  1. 1 Annika Kramer April 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    I am very sorry for your loss. Having family far away certainly makes days and months such as this even harder. Annika

  2. 2 Christina April 30, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    My deepest condolences. May you swiftly find healing and peace; may your memories soon become a comfort rather than a reminder of loss.

  3. 3 Q. Le April 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Please take care and I wish you the best during this time of mourning and recovery.

  4. 4 Molly Willams May 1, 2012 at 12:26 am

    I’m sorry for the loss of your mother and the lost chances to say goodbye. Though it sounds like you connected and also said goodbye, in a way, every time you spoke with her. Yesterday I visited my mother, 700 miles away in a “memory care” unit, for the first time in a year, for her 76th birthday, so this post especially touches me.

    • 5 acountrydoctorwrites May 1, 2012 at 1:25 am

      The other posts in the category “My Father’s Eyes” are about my father, who died from Alzheimer’s Disease a year and a half ago.

  5. 6 Lisa May 1, 2012 at 1:20 am

    I am very sorry to hear of your loss. It is obvious that your mother meant a great deal to you. You will be in my thoughts.

  6. 7 Diane Morris May 1, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I have been following your blog for a few months. I like your writing style. And I like the ‘Doctors” perspective you give. I am not much into medicine… so I appreciate your perspective. I am so sorry for your loss. Your Mom sounded like a very special lady. I know it is especially hard with all the miles between you. I hope you find comfort in your memories of your family and the times you had together. Life is fleeting!

  7. 8 Robert Hewes May 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    The Japanese poet Narihira wrote in the ManYouShuu:

    I always knew at last
    This road I would walk
    But yesterday I did not know
    It would be

    My consolations, doc.

  8. 9 Wren May 5, 2012 at 4:19 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss, doctor. Take gentle care of yourself, now. Walk in peace.

  9. 10 Kiaye Oliver July 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    country doctor, your writings are so real, so captivating,so inspiring, you are more of a writer than a doctor. As I go through the constant struggles of medical school, your blog gives me the ideal doctor in mind, the ideal medicine. Hippocrates dream you carry.

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