The Call Came to Pack for a Funeral. But How Could I?

Doris Wilkinson - 1929-2007

We all have those memories when moments seem frozen in time and are forever etched in our minds.  It’s an event that sticks with you for the rest of your life and you can recall exactly where you were, what you were doing, and often what you were wearing.

The 9/11 attacks…a marriage proposal…the birth of a baby…the Virginia Tech tragedy…moving day in your very first house…your first night in a college dorm…the first day on a new job…and so many more. Both good and bad times can become branded and etched in our brains.

My Moment

One of those moments crept into my mind today as I was going about  my daily activities. Without warning – and certainly without encouragement – I recalled exactly where I was 4 years ago today at this moment. My phone rang that day and my world changed forever. The call to hurry “home” (3 hours away) as quickly as possible if I wanted to say good-bye to my mother made my world stop.

Yes, she had suffered from slowly progressive ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. And yes, she had heart disease. And yes, the doctors had told us she was getting much worse.

But the call was as unexpected as if we expected nothing would ever happen to her.

I remember pulling out my suitcase and placing it slowly on the bed, as I looked around the room fighting to hold back the stinging tears. I knew I had to pack but I couldn’t get my head and thoughts together. What should I pack? How long would I be there? Was it still raining and cool? And then the dread became overwhelming as I realized I needed to pack clothes for a funeral.

Pack for a funeral?

But how could I do that?

My mother was still alive and I was going to see her. In my heart of hearts, I knew this would be my last trip to see her though. It would be the last time I would pack up and head out for a visit with my mother. The last time I would hold her hand, feel her soft skin, and tell her I love her. It would be the last time I would drive the distance alone, knowing that the drive back would be the loneliest trip of my life. But packing clothes for her funeral seemed impossible at this moment in time.

By the time I arrived by her bedside, she was quietly sleeping and hadn’t spoken in hours. I remember nestling her hair and rubbing her hand and feeling like a child again. I remember wanting her to wrap her arms around me and comfort me, but instead, I found myself wrapping my arms around her to comfort her. The wonderful feeling of her soft skin against my face and the slow steady breathing was comforting — and frightening — because I was afraid every breath was the last.

My sisters and I stayed for hours and made beds on the chairs and floor in the room where she slept. A pot of coffee was brewing and replenished throughout the night as we sat and talked about our childhood and the wonderful times we shared. We laughed and cried — and cried some more.

The next day, our mother took her last breath and that moment is still etched in my mind. Although it has healed some over the past four years, it is still a bit raw and painful, and I relive it every year on this day.

Moments Forever Etched

Moments are forever etched in our minds during good times and bad. The memories of that single phone call and the last seconds I had with my mother are such moments. Even though they are painful I still try to hold on to them for some odd reason.

The day my mother died, it had been drizzling rain all morning long and it was cloudy and overcast. The forecast was for continued rain, clouds, and unseasonably cool temperatures. It was a dark and dreary day in so many ways.

As we all left to take care of the heavy  burden of responsibilities and duties ahead for the coming days, I stepped out of the front door heading to my car. But to my amazement, an incredible moment occurred that is now etched on my mind and frozen in time.

As I pushed the door of the nursing home open and looked up into the sky, the most incredible, miraculous sunbeams literally burst between two massive clouds. The sun’s rays shone brightly as I headed toward my car before quickly disappearing behind the clouds as quickly as they had emerged. The most fascinating feeling of calm and reverence raced through my mind and body — and I knew.

This was the moment I would remember forever that is deeply etched into my mind and frozen in time — the moment when my mother lit up the heavens as she entered the gates.

I miss you mom.


Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.