Thinking of Death on New Year’s Eve Morning. (In Remembrance)

Last night, an “Urgent Request” came from Hospice House, that they were short staffed today, and beds were full– That someone was needed for the 8am-12pm shift today. I am still home recovering and had given up my shifts there for the next two weeks. Without thinking, I called and said, I’ll be there. As I looked at the calendar, I realized that I will be working on the 2nd anniversary of Mom’s death. The Social Worker asked kindly, “are you sure you want to do that?” I am. I can think of no more peaceful place to be, no better way to honor my mother, than to be there today for someone else who may need some support. Hospice gave me, my mother, my sister, and our family so much, two years ago. It is an honor and a personal blessing to return that today. So, I am re-sharing this post, in memory of my Mom– who lost her battle with Huntington’s Disease, two years ago today.

I wrote this post the morning my mother died, two years ago. I drove home, and couldn’t bring myself to go in my house… yet. I knew that when I stepped inside, the spell would be broken. The spell that was cast, sitting for more than 3 days beside my mother, as she died. I’d been called in two days before (after having been there for three full months, every day, and having spent the previous 24 hours beside her), and hadn’t left Hospice House. So that cold morning, two years ago, after having said goodbye to her, I wasn’t ready to go into my house and let her go.  So I sat in my car and wrote this post. It was still dark out, very silent, and cold, that morning. Sitting there, I felt so many things and needed to put them in words. This post was written without edits or filters… it’s what was happening in those moments and hours just after losing my mother.

This morning, I woke at 4:30. Call that what you will, after reading this. I believe she is with me. This morning, I sat in my dark living room, the lights of our tree shining. She loved the Christmas tree. Loved it. I listened to Peter Gabriel, and held her close. I still grieve. I grieve all the things that were stolen from us. I grieve the life she lost to HD. I grieve that my children don’t remember the wonderfully funny, dynamic woman she once was.  I grieve that she died so young, and missed so many things. I grieve that there are so many things I can never ask her, that I wish I had. I grieve what this disease will continue to take from me. I miss her. Still.


At 4:00 A.M., exactly, the nurse came into my mother’s room, again. I had a barely slept, tossing and turning, listening to Mom. I was dozing when she came in. I was frustrated to be disturbed again. Mom had begun moaning and I was trying to let her struggle, let her rage and just be there. However, they suggested lorazapam to calm her and I said yes. Then, I asked the nurse to leave and not return. I went over to hold Mom’s hand and it had grown cold. Despite her difficult breathing and horrible previous 48 hrs, her hands and feet had stayed so very hot. Burning up. Suddenly they were cold. She was now breathing quickly, moaning and staring off.

I pulled my computer over and put on one of her favorite songs: My Heart Will Go On. She and my daughter watched Titanic many times together, and the song always held meaning. It came out just when my grandmother, Mom’s mother, died and we all felt it was so lovely. Of course, over time it was over played and made silly at times, but in Mom’s dark room, holding her hand, it was beautiful. I felt my daughter there too, in the memory. I played Can You Feel the Love Tonight. And I kept holding her hand. I told her I was there, that it was ok to leave me, over and over. I said some of the very things she’d hated before:  ”It will all be ok,” “We love you,” “K and I are here,” “Mea and Doby (her beloved pugs) are waiting for you, they’re going to lick your face over and over,” “Grandma and Bubbie are there, to hold you,” and, her breath began to slow; she stopped moaning.

I pulled up a picture of my sister’s dog, Lottie, who Mom loved and held the picture where she could conceivably see it. She was staring off, but I held it up none the less. I told her that I love her, that my sister and brother love her, that we all love her, and that I know she loves me. She smiled. Her mouth clearly turned up and she smiled, faintly. Her breathing grew slower and slower and I kept one hand on her heart and the other holding her hand, debating when to go wake my sister. As I got up, I sensed that I was feeling her last breath, and I walked to the other room to get my sister. When we got back to the bed, she was gone. She was so very still, her eyes still open.

My sister and I got into bed with her, as we have for weeks and weeks and we held her. We cried and held each other, but we held our mother hardest. We laid with her until we were done crying. Then, we sat on the bench beside her bed for a while… talking and thinking, sharing our thoughts, until we were ready to open the door and tell the staff.

Once we did, they called the funeral home and then brought in a bowl of lavender water. I put some special lavender oil in the water, that I’d been rubbing on her for weeks, that she liked. And then, two of the staff and I bathed her body. I washed her whole, small body down and removed the Angel necklace that I’d put on her 48 hrs ago. It was given to me by my aunts, out of love… something we each have and put on whenever one of us in the circle is in need. My aunts have all worn their angels for us this week, but I wanted my Mom to wear mine. I took it off her and back around my own neck.

When they came to take her, they covered her in the quilt that she got when she arrived. At the door, they stopped and we surrounded her small body. My sister and I held hands, my sister crying, I held her tightly, and reached a hand to touch our mother’s chest one last time.  As I stood with one hand on my mother, and my other hand holding my sister’s, they rang a bell three times, slowly. We each touched Mom; I kissed her one last time and they took her away. I immediately wrote her name and a heart on a slip of paper, placed it in the Chris Moench prayer wheel, near the entrance and gave it a good spin.

I gathered my things and left Hospice House. It felt so strange to finally walk out. There in the parking lot, a thick layer of ice covered my entire car and it sparkled like a million diamonds. It was incredibly beautiful. When I turned my car on, Norah Jones’Don’t Know Why was playing. The lyrics to that song were on the first page of my manuscript, in it’s original version. I believe in symbols, in signs, in mystery… the diamonds, the 4:00 wake up (the exact time they called two days earlier), the song, they mean something to me. I drove home, but I wanted to sit here in my car, just a little longer. I put on Peter Gabriel’s I Grieve, watching the beautiful Christmas lights on my house, and  ”Missing what’s gone… life carries on…. Love carries on.” Thank you Peter for singing to me again, on this morning when I am finally at Peace.   “It was only one hour ago, it was all so different then. Nothing yet has really sunk in; looks like it always did… I grieve. It’s so hard to move on, still loving what’s gone, they say love carries on, and on, and on…”

Also read:

What Doesn’t Kill You, Just Beats the Shit Out of You:

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Awareness, Beauty, Blog, Blogging, Can't sleep, Death, Death of parent, Dying, Huntington's Disease, Mothers, Music, Musings, My world, Relationships, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Thinking of Death on New Year’s Eve Morning. (In Remembrance)

  1. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I’m not sure what to say, but I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to go to hospice today to honor them and your mother. It feels right to me, too, that you should go. Take care, Dawn.


  2. Thinking of you. Take care of yourself– as much as you want to give to others, put your health first. Love your resolutions! Go for it!


  3. So beautiful!! Thanks for sharing this rocking testament to the eternal power of love. My Dad died this past July and I well understand these times of loss and grace. Love never dies.


  4. Sue RIchardson says:

    Beautiful…thank you!


  5. Thank you so much for sharing those painful beautiful moments.
    You are passing on the love that your mom fostered in you – perhaps you don’t always feel so…but you are exceptionally courageous.
    I’ll look forward to seeing you in the New Year – may yours be filled with sunshine, even on the cloudiest of days…and light, even in the darkest of nights.


    • Thanks so much Vivian. I really appreciate you taking the time for this post; it means a lot. I’ve appreciated all of your kind support and thoughtful comments over this past year. Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2014 as well. xo


  6. What a tough day for you. I’m still sorry for your loss, but so glad you could be with your Mom when she passed. In some ways, with my mother taking her own life, I feel robbed of being able to be with her at her end. But then again, bipolar’s a bitch. I hope your day today is more sweet than bitter. And here’s to a much better 2014. (I hope you’re feeling much better).


    • I think today will be very healing. I agree, I feel very blessed to have been there with my mother when she died. It was deeply meaningful then, and just as meaningful to be here, where she died, today. I feel such sadness at your loss. It is a desperate and difficult thing when someone takes their life, but the pain and loss they leave behind is equally hard. Holding you in my thoughts today, too. Hugs.

      As for my health, it’s improving. I’m suppose to be resting for another 2-3 wks, but this seemed like a message that couldn’t be ignored. 😉 Thanks for your kind thoughts Happy New Year!


  7. Mike Lince says:

    There you go reaching straight into my heart again. Nobody gets to the heart of the matter like you do, Dawn. I did not know you when you first wrote this moving piece, and I am grateful for the chance to read it now thanks to your reblog. I hope your hospice volunteer time today proves to be helpful in your healing. Be well my friend. Happy New Year! – Mike


    • Thanks Mike. Yes, these few posts in December 2011 were very powerful time. I was here, at Hospice, every day; I was trying to submit my novel to a publisher who was taking open submissions; I had 2 exchange students living with us, and the very night my mother died, my husband ended up needing emergency surgery… it was surreal! When I left here that morning, on my way to the synagogue to stand before 100+ people, and do a reading for a dear friend, my head was swimming… today, it’s a peaceful way to remember my mother. Healing, in the least. Happy New Year, indeed. dawn


  8. Dear Dawn, it is 6am. New Years Day, I am sitting in my bed crying from reading your post this morning. Your story triggers memories of my own, sitting with my dad as he died and this week I cleaned out a cupboard at home and discovered he had kept the sympathy cards from my mothers death 30 years ago. I decided that as so many of the people who had written those cards were themselves deceased now I would shred the cards and fed them to my worms. I did that because my mother was a bit of a gardener, and she would like to think that those heartfelt memories expressed about her all those years ago could now to put to some use. Its sounds in some callous but it was also another way in which i could let go of her even though so many years have passed. My mother was 57, she died suddenly one evening. Like you I am sorry so many of my children and now her great children never had a chance to know her.
    This response is a little self indulgent I know but I guess I am trying to say I do connect with your story and that it has served to make me remember my own mother.
    My best wishes to you in 2014.


    • Michael, thank you so much for sharing this very personal, very heart felt remembrance. I’m touched that my writing moved you so much; though I feel badly that you are sitting there alone, crying. It is such a huge transition, no matter how old we are, to let our parents go. Painful, inevitable… a ball of emotions and thoughts go into it. I think it’s wonderful that you shred the cards and fed them to the garden… not single “callous” nor “self-indulgent” word in this comment. Thanks agin for sharing, and I hope you can remember both of your parents with only tenderness. d


  9. Just beautiful and unbelievably touching. X


  10. susanissima says:

    Darling Dawn, you are such a model of pushing through pain and of dealing with the challenges that life and death place along your path. You are truly a survivor, and reading this open-wounded and precious account of your mom’s death is an experience I’ll never forget. Your words are a great comfort. Thank you for sharing them.


  11. Pingback: Thinking of Death on New Year’s Eve Morning. (In Remembrance) | ugiridharaprasad

  12. DeDivahDeals says:

    Yes, it wasn’t until I started putting away the Christmas ornaments when I came across the last card from my grandmother and the “Gloria” angel that the tears began to flow. In rememberance of my sister and grandmother – May God bless you and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


    • I’m so sorry for your loss. Your sister must have been very young? How special that you saved the card from your grandmother; it will always bring comfort, and memories. Thoughts of comfort to you, and thank you for reading and sharing. Happy New Year.


      • DeDivahDeals says:

        Thank you, yes, I lost my sister, Gloria in 1992, she was only 29. My grandmother passed at the age of 98 in 2009. The holidays are still hard no matter how long or how short the time has been, but am blessed with many happy memories. I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year!


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