Who I am.

I write about the landscape of grief, nature, and the wisdom of fools. The author of four books, my essays, poems, and reviews have been published in over 50 journals, including in the Huffington Post and Colorado Review. I’ve won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay prizes, and my work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and named a notable by Best American Essays. My account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with my wife’s death, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. http://www.markliebenow.com.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Last Moments With Mom

            It’s difficult to take care of an aging parent. After years of raising their children, parents find it hard to let their children take care of them. If our parents are near death, we also feel a great silence falling and sense their uneasiness about what is going to happen. The time of dying, and the moments of death, are sacred. They come quickly, and are gone. Be attentive to them.

            Beth Haley, a long-time friend who provided invaluable assistance after my wife died, attended to her mother in her last days. Beth wrote the following. I was moved by her gentle care for her mother and the attention she pays to her own grief. She has graciously allowed me to share her words with you.


            “It has been one month and four days since Mom died. I was oddly sheltered by profound gratitude for the gift of my mother’s 90 years … her love, her grace, her grateful heart in her living and her dying. I was also thankful to accompany mom on the long, homebound journey. It was a privilege to care for her. Not one regret.  

            This past weekend, I transitioned from the most recent memory of mom’s discomfort and dying … and now I am beginning to remember her living and not just her dying. And so the tears begin remembering the living Mom. I was relieved that Mom peacefully died with us seven kids around her. 

            I was consoled helping give Mom her last bath before she was taken to the funeral home. It was so nice to turn her and wash her without pain. She never complained while she was living, but it was easy to tell that she hurt when we moved her. During her last bath (in bed), I turned her and her arm dropped down … it was a moment of thanksgiving. Her body was so relaxed, and no more pain. I just hugged her lifeless body and said, "I’m so glad you don’t hurt, Mom.”

            All the gratitude in my heart has transitioned to raw grief out of nowhere … a faucet of tears has been turned on … grief is joining gratitude … it goes hand in hand … the gift of love … the gift of life … the pain of loss and God’s grace woven in it all.

            Grief is mysteriously unpredictable.”

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