On Losing a Parent

Rick Mattson Devotion, Uncategorized 40 Comments

I knew this day would come, but I half-denied it. My mom, Tudy (not Trudy) Mattson, always wanted to be young and never accepted the idea of getting old. On the fated day of January 23, a friend remarked to Tudy that she didn’t look well, and suggested she visit the nurse. Mom hopped in her Toyota instead and went for a drive around town.

The next morning she failed to ring the check-in bell required of all residents at the retirement center in Naples, FL, where she lived. They found her in bed, dead at 88 years and nine days old. She’d had no major health concerns. Cause of death was “natural causes,” that is — old age.

As my dad (d. 1991) and various rows of aunts and uncles passed away over the years, I felt myself gradually torn from the fortress of security I’d known, but had taken for granted, in boyhood. With each loss — Uncle Wally, Aunt Donna, etc. — I was forced onto a peninsula of sorts, jutting away from the ancestral mainland. The peninsula became an island when we lost Mom.

Now the island is the mainland for my kids and grandkids. And it’s a place that serves clear notice: my generation is on deck. We’re up next. I’m up next. Just as I begin to enter old age, I’m cut off from the biology of my parents. “Who I came from” is permanently absent, creating a vacant space in my heart as distressing as the immediate grief of losing Tudy.

Sharon and I are sad these days but doing OK. I’m reflecting on how Mom loved ballroom dancing, dolphin-watching at the Naples Pier, joking around with friends and strangers . . . mostly she loved her family.

Mom: I never thought this day would come, even though I knew it would come. That’s the contradiction. With you being gone, I feel displaced from my origins. I can drive back to the town of my boyhood and see where I came to be. I’ll see old friends there, but the invisible presence of you and Dad hidden among them will have vanished. I leave you now in the loving hands of your Maker.

Comments 40

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  1. quite a tribute. brings to mind my own loss of MOM, September 17, 2005. I write something I will share it with you sometimes. You are right, to write, it is very therapeutic.

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  2. Dear Rick, My heart aches with yours and Sharon’s.

    The loss of parents is different from all other losses, because it is personal to the core
    of who we are, and why we are.

    As the saying goes, “Home is a place where you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to go back to.” And now the heart of that home is absent.

    May God comfort you and grant you His peace.

    Love and Prayers, Sharon

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      Thanks, Sharon. It is certainly a strange feeling to have both mom and dad absent. I like that saying; thanks for sharing it.

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  3. I like the island imagery: we find ourselves alone, and forlorn when there is no longer a parent to turn to. I’ve been grateful for siblings to stand beside as the mainland for the next generation. God has prepared us for this role as we trust in His formative work of grace.

    Thanks for sharing this, Rick.

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  4. Rick, my heart goes out to you in your loss. Thanks for putting it into words. It helps to shed light on that experience, even as we know that day will come. May God comfort you and yours.

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  5. May our Lord shepherd you through these days of grief and loss. May he flood your mind with wonderful defining moments with your mom. May we all remember the brevity of life and continue to serve our Lord until we too are ushered home to be with him. God be with you and Sharon and your family. -Pastor Don

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  6. So well written Rick. The pain is real. The comfort is enduring. But life never feels the same after both are in heaven. Praying for you!

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  7. Rick, sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. Your words capture the experience in a helpful way. I’m glad for the God that “watches over our coming and going both now and forever more”

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  8. Rick. So sorry to hear of your mom’s death but we rejoice that we will see her in heaven. It is always difficult to say goodbye.

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  9. Rick – as you know, I am sorry for your loss. I now have lost my real mom and my road mom. Your analogy of the peninsula becoming an island and then the island now becoming the mainland is very profound. I will not forget that.

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      Thanks, Craig. I remember your mom, and what a lovely person she was. And yes, I guess Tudy was your road mom!

  10. Thank you, Rick, for sharing well. What a gift our parents have been. When I found my Dad gone on his kitchen floor I hugged him and blurted out, Thank you Lord, for Dad! I would have liked to have met your Mom! Great picture.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this, Rick. I’m so sorry for your loss – your mom is just incredibly beautiful. I was so drawn to the picture of you two and savored it for some time. I resonate with what you’ve shared here because I lost my dad in October. Though it was several months ago, many aspects of grief are just now beginning for me. I still have a ‘peninsula’ for which I’m grateful. Much love to you and your family, Julie

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      Julie, so nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing about your dad, and for thinking of my family. I still remember wonderful days in NE Ohio!

  12. I am so sorry for the loss of your mom, Rick. This is closer to my heart as well since my dad was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in December. It is hard to imagine the loss of that foundation I have had for so long. Praying God will comfort all of you at this time.

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      Pam, I appreciate the mention of your dad. That is so sad. People are in pain all around us but too often I am oblivious. Sending prayers your way.

  13. Rick, we are saddened with you for your mother’s going to be with Jesus. We are so grateful for that blessed hope we have in Jesus. Your imagery was insightful and encouraging to those of us in your mother’s generation who need to keep praying for the “peninsulas” and their “extensions” until our Lord promotes us off the mainland.
    Ps 116:15

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      Lowell and Lynn, thanks for reaching out. I appreciate it. It’s frightening to me how time marches on and is no respecter of persons. We can only hope in the Lord.

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  14. This is beautiful, Dad. I can see how with all of your family’s older generation gone there would be a little bit of an unsettling feeling that you’ve lost that “fortress of security” of where/who you came from.

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  15. Thanks for sharing these beautiful reflections about the loss of your Mom and what that means going forward. Praying for you to know our Lord’s love and care as you continue to adjust to life without your Mom.

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  16. Rick, thanks for inviting us into your grief. Your beautiful and insightful reflections give fresh language to what this experience is like. It is impossible to be truly prepared for this moment until it happens.

    Your words are especially helpful to me as you and I have travelled similar journeys. Your dad (whom I loved dearly) died in 1991; mine in 1986. Your mom died on January 24; mine on February 6.

    Leaning with you (always) into the Lord, from whom all blessings flow.

    David Lenz

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      Dave, thanks so much for reaching out with those words. I didn’t realize the parallel paths of grief we’ve been on. Hang in there, brother in Christ.

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