When Death Comes Like the Hungry Bear In Autumn

When death comes

I am writing this beside my mom’s bed. She is dying and her breath grows quieter and quieter. Her face is like a child’s, soft and without a wrinkle.

I was with her just last week and, four days after I left, her brain stopped knowing how to instruct her body to swallow.

My sister and I hug her and tell her we love her and that we are so proud of her. We tell how beautiful she is and how much she is love. We play her Elvis. We gossip with the hospice nurse about which is better, the Clinique or Lancome free gift with purchase, and then the conversation turns to how we die. I learn many meaningful things from these nurses about life – they have watched death closely. Then Mom’s caregivers come in and fuss over her. I drink green juice and coffee with almond milk. My sister’s dog wanders the halls.

We visit with the daughter and nephew in the room next door. Their mother, Irma, is dying, too. We ’ve gotten to know the other people in memory care and learn their stories. Irma’s grandmother and aunt died of Alzheimer’s too and they are all part of a study to try to understand the genetic component of the disease.

I am feeling so many things in the space of one breath: I feel love taking my mom, like a river she is letting herself go into; such an unending love. I sense she knows she is loved, maybe like never before. I feel relief she will be free from Alzheimer’s and I feel the prelude of her absence, the knowing the life that has been Betty Marie is here now and very soon won’t be. I feel immense gratitude for the care hospice is giving her,  my sister, and me… so much, so very much.

I know most of you have been where I am now; sitting with death. I know life will never be the same.

And I know that is okay, too.

How shall we each be open to grief and loss in ways that help us be more alive rather than less? How do we let these passages help us grow instead of stunt us?  

These are good questions to live into together.


The title of this post is from Mary Oliver’s amazing poem When Death Comes. If you have never read it, please do. Here is a passage and some other of my favorites.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Beth Owl - February 19, 2019

Sending deep peace, good grief, shining love. May she evermore dance in grace and beauty in the gentle meadows of the Ancestors… sending deep condolences and comfort to you

Karen - February 20, 2019

Jen, sending you hugs for your grief and prayers to your mom for her journey. Peace to you both. ❤️❤️❤️

Dorothy Read - February 20, 2019

Light and love dear one…..

Marcia Canter - February 20, 2019

I have no words but send you a hug for what you’re going through.

Jennifer Ross - February 20, 2019

Thinking of you… and wondering why Ivam strangely jealous of your time with your Mom..as opposed to a sudden without goodbyes death that was my Dads. May you cherish your goodbyes and wonderful memories. It is never easy no matter what..blessings to you and may you feel the angels watching over you and your Mom

Nancy G. - February 20, 2019

Sending metta for your healing journey through this experience . Such a beautiful and heartfelt post..namaste🙏🏼😍💗

Chris Wenel - February 22, 2019

Very sorry to hear about your mom. I was able to be with my mother when she passed January 7th. The end of this chapter of life is hard. Wishing you strength and happy days ahead.

Marsha Michael - April 22, 2019

Reading this as the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death approaches. She died of Alzheimer’s as did both of her siblings and her Mom…
For Mama, it was her loss of swallowing too – and, at last, the grace of peace she went into.
So familiar is the mindless, comforting chat of the ‘gift with purchase’ exchange… we are all so dang human…

Thank you, as I so often do, for your wise writing…

Leave a Reply: