Apr 19, 2007

Letting Her Go

Valerie J. Steimle

April of 2004, my mother found out she had pancreatic cancer and was ready to fight for her life. It was caught early on as a very small tumor so we all thought she had a chance. But as we rang in the New Year that January, we started having our doubts.

The end of February came with surgery and the realization that she didn’t have long. My weekly 40 minute drive increased to 3 days a week and I really looked forward to my visits. I enjoyed doing laundry, cleaning house and changing the sheets. It gave me a purpose and my mother and I could talk. She chose the topics of discussion only mentioning once that she didn’t know how long she had and she didn’t want people feeling sorry for her. I ended each visit with “I love you”.

It’s difficult trying to cheer someone up when they know they are leaving soon, but I managed to succeed one time when I came with a dress I was planning to wear to the Stake Gold and Green Ball. I wanted to make some adjustments on the dress and she immediately popped up out of bed and started searching for jewelry to match my outfit. She had once worked for Tiffany’s in New York back in the 1950’s and she had a great eye and appreciation for jewelry. She insisted I pick something from her collection to match my dress. We had jewelry boxes and drawers all over the bed and I finally found a match.

My brother (aka. The “Joseph” of the family) flew in from Utah to spend the week. We all thought my mother would brighten up with him there, but it never happened. Three days later she left us and it was over. We were all glad it was quick and the suffering was minimal but it still surprises me that it happened.

There was no viewing, no open casket, no long winded church service. Only a simple gravesite program with the dedication of the grave and a short review of her life by me and it was done. It was easier for all of us that way.

Nothing prepares you for the actual occurrence. You can talk to all the people you know about losing a loved one but nothing prepares you for not having them there. In the days between the actual passing and the gravesite service I kept asking myself, “What is she doing now?” “Who is she visiting with and what is she talking about.” I just can’t pick up the phone and call her when ever I wanted as I did in the past. I just had to let her go. As it is with the rest of us, we have to let our loved ones go when the time comes. I know she is happy and that is the best I can hope for.


  1. Thank you for your posting, Valerie. It's funny, isn't it, that no matter how intellectually ready or how gospel-grounded ready you are for your mother's death, the actual void is unsettling. I think it's the lack of ability to communicate. No wonder people turn to seances. I even asked the Lord to take a message to my mother a couple of times. And, I will admit, that every time I've had a book published, I've made sure my aged uncle got one so that, when he passes on and sees my mom, he can tell her. She believed I'd be published, even when I didn't.

  2. That is a funny idea but I wanted to tell my mother to send me family history after she dies because I was at a brick wall. I think she did because I found the small village that her father's family is from in Germany after she passed. Ha. It's funny how we think, isn't it?

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience, Valerie. While I knew I would miss loved ones after they passed, I have always been surprised by just how much I felt when it actually happened. Does that make sense? The littlest things will come to my attention and memories will flood back.

    I have a friend (I'll call her Debbie)who asked her mother to leave buttons in unexpected places, so that when Debbie finds them, she knows her mother is okay. Interestingly enough...Debbie finds buttons, unexpectedly and in odd places, and nearly always when she is struggling the most.

    I know we get help with our family history. I love hearing about stories like yours, Valerie! Thanks, again.


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