Losing Mom on my Wedding Day

 How One Man Found Hope and Healing after the Death of his Mother 

No matter what your age, when your parent dies, your world is turned upside down.  Whether the death was sudden or expected, hearing the news or being there with your mom or dad in their final moments is a shock.  Life is no longer the same without one of the chief people in your life who has known you the longest, shaped who you are and been there for life’s ups and downs.

I’d like to share a moving mother-son story from one of OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center’s Associate Board members. Mike Peebler, an actor living in Los Angeles, shares the powerful story of his mother Pat Peebler’s final years and how he memorializes her to this day:

I grew up in Houston, Texas, and am blessed to have had a wonderful mother with whom I was always close.  Our relationship changed entirely when, in 2005 at the age of 58, my mom was diagnosed with one of the deadliest of cancers: small cell lung cancer.  Treatment began by removing the lower lobe of her lung, followed by several rounds of brutally intense chemo.  As we approached the two year mark without recurrence, we began to hope she had actually beaten the odds.  But in 2008 she collapsed, and a scan revealed the cancer had metastasized to her brain.  The treatments that followed were harrowing, but Mom was one tough lady.  She endured two brain surgeries, radiation and more chemo.  After the second brain surgery her quality of life deteriorated and her care become more involved.

In December of 2009, at Mom’s last good Christmas, I got engaged (much to my mom’s delight), and set the wedding date for Nov. 6, 2010.  The last year of her life, she was determined to make it to my wedding.  During the engagement we also learned that my fiancée was pregnant, which further inspired my mother to fight, but she was slipping.

As our wedding approached, it became clear that she would not be able to attend.  She was fading rapidly in October of that year, but my mom vowed to survive until my wedding—and she did.  The entire ceremony and reception were Skyped to my mom lying in her bed at home.  She watched us say our vows and celebrate at the reception with two of her closest friends at her bedside.  As the night drew to a close we said goodbye and they turned off the feed.  She peacefully died 5 minutes later.

The timing of my mom’s death was her final generous gift.  Refusing to have my wedding clouded by her death, she passed at a time when I was surrounded by loved ones who supported me the next morning when I learned.  My wife and I extended our Hawaiian honeymoon to almost a month, and I relied heavily on her and times of intense introspection (mostly hiking alone) to heal.

When my daughter was born it was clear to me that Mom’s spirit was alive and well in my little girl, and I was grateful that my mom knew about the baby before she passed.  Through our family and holiday traditions, I keep her memory alive.

Last Spring, my family traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to spread my mom’s ashes from a boat at the famous arch where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean meet—a special place my mother treasured and requested her remains to be.  My family will be returning again this year to remember Mom and I imagine this will become a tradition.

Every person is different in how they choose to memorialize their loved ones.  How do you celebrate the memory of your parent?  Below are a few ideas that many of OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center’s members have embraced:

  • Look through photo albums.  Invite your family members and friends to listen and join you in sharing memories and stories about your parent
  • Spend time reflecting on the traits and life lessons given to you by your parent. What are some of those characteristics, values, and ways of being in the world that you treasure? How do you uphold or carry on their goals and ideals?
  • Write out a letter or a poem to your parent, and then keep it in a special place
  • Wear something of his or hers
  • Cook, bake or eat foods he or she relished
  • Go somewhere or do an activity he or she enjoyed
  • Listen to his or her favorite music or songs
  • Visit the cemetery, light a candle or place flowers near your parent’s picture, urn or grave

It’s normal to feel sadness and other physical, emotional and spiritual reactions even years after the death of a parent.  I encourage you to share your feelings with your siblings, friends, and family members and find ways to support one another as you remember your mom or dad. 

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