Monday, April 5, 2021

My Mom Gave Me Life, and Death

It is time to revive my blog. My last entry was on December 17, 2020. 

As many of you know, my mom passed away on March 26, 2021, just after her 91st birthday. She had many years of living life to the fullest. We will cherish those memories of her forever.

Susan, Mom, Frank, Janyce 
in Mom's apartment (March 2021)

She fell on February 27 and fractured her pelvis in three places. Legacy Meridian Park Hospital was her first stop after she fell. From there, she was transferred to Legacy Emanuel Trauma Center in downtown Portland, Oregon. Orthopedists consulted on her treatment. Our family and mom did not want her to be operated on. The doctors concurred that there was too much risk involved in surgery at her age.

Mom was transported back to her apartment at her assisted living facility where she was to be on strict bed rest. If you know my mom, that didn't go over well. All she wanted to do was get up and walk.

Hospice took over her care. Janyce and I decided to keep Mom company 24/7. We alternated days and spent the last month in her one-bedroom apartment. She was in a hospital bed in her living room and we slept in her bedroom. On alternate days, we took off and spent the night at Jan's place. I'm so glad we did that because Mom would yell our names in the middle of the night and we were there to help her with whatever she needed. The assisted living facility did not provide that level of care. 

Bob came to Portland for four nights. I stayed in a hotel with him on my off nights. He stayed a partial night with me in Mom's room one night. He went back to the hotel to sleep around 11 p.m. Mom passed away at 2 a.m. and he walked back to the assisted living facility and spent the rest of the night. I appreciated his comfort and compassion. My son, Michael, visited his grandma one afternoon. I am so thankful he got to see her while she was still somewhat coherent!

After Mom passed, Bob, Michael, and Randall helped move Mom's possessions out of her apartment. They were so much help and Janyce and I were glad they were there. We had breakfast one morning at Elmer's Pancake House, a family favorite.

In a tribute to Mom, I would like to give you memories of the person she was. When we were young, she made clothes for us. Her entries of bread, decorated cakes, and pies won many ribbons at county fairs. She painted, sketched, did beadwork, sewed, and did calligraphy. She was the artist in our family. 

She took us to parks to play, entered us in summer craft programs, and our house was fun central in our neighborhood. We would make forts, play crash bikes, and have great birthday parties. 

Our family took trips to the desert, to the mountains, to the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Dad would take us kids fishing and Mom would sketch and paint. It was probably the most peace and quiet she had while we were growing up. Every once in a while, Dad would rent a pull-behind trailer and we'd go camping and hiking in the mountains. I remember trips to the Alabama Hills, Mammoth Lake, Crowley Lake, Mono Lake, Devils Postpile, and Mt. Lassen.

When we were a little bit older ages 8-14, our parents bought a small cabin in Idyllwild, California. That was so much fun! The three of us kids would hike trails in the woods for hours on end and explore the mountains. There were awesome views of Tahquitz Rock. We caught lizards and found scorpions. We tried to dam up the little creek that ran next to our property, but that didn't work too well. I remember one time we found a small cave under a rock and we thought maybe it was a bear den or home to a mountain lion. We slithered into the opening and looked around. It's probably a good thing we never found out what lived there! In the winter we had two to three feet of snow and went tobogganing. 

After I finished middle school, our parents moved us to Oregon from Southern California. For me, it was the best thing we ever did. I never felt like I fit in with the surfer crowd. Once we moved to the countryside in Newberg, Oregon, I met friends my age just riding my bike around that summer. When I started ninth grade (still junior high in Oregon), I already had friends.

Life was good in Oregon. We lived on a five-acre farm six miles from Newberg. A large part of the property became our vegetable garden. That was wonderful to have fresh lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, strawberries, green beans, rhubarb, zucchini, etc. Janyce and I learned how to can fruits, vegetables, and applesauce.

In addition, our farm had a couple of barns. One was modified to make a chicken coop with an outside fenced-in yard for the chickens. The other barn was for our Suffolk sheep. We also raised turkeys and, for a time, quail and pheasants.

In the summer, we'd take our sleeping bags and sleep under the stars in our yard. We'd fall asleep watching shooting stars and listening to the foxes yip. A beautiful family of red foxes lived under our back barn. They never bothered our chickens, but we did see a chicken from somewhere else that they had brought back. The foxes had beautiful, curious little kits who we would watch endlessly. They were so adorable. We also usually had cats and a dog around.

My main point is, Mom and Dad provided endless opportunities for us to learn and live life to the fullest. When we lived in Oregon, we kids worked picking strawberries, blackberries, boysenberries, blackcaps, blueberries, and pole beans. We had to use our earnings to buy our own school supplies and clothes. That taught us the value of hard work, budgeting, and the responsibility of getting ready for our ride to our bus in the morning (Mom packed lunches for us and drove us to the pick-up point).

Fast forward 53 years and Mom had aged to 90. She passed away at 91. Her Celebration of Life service will be Monday, April 12.

Here is a poem I wrote in her honor:

My Mom Gave Me Life, and Death
by Susan Alton

A new cry upon the earth;
my mom gave birth.
I squawk
I walk
I talk.

She taught me about others, 
my mother.
At the playground, I caught a glimpse
of other imps.
She kissed my cuts,
I drove her nuts.
She healed my hurts,
I grew in spurts.

As a prepubescent adolescent emerged,
over and over, our emotions were purged.
She became a teacher, preacher,
screecher, and beseecher.
Somehow, I survived and thrived.

I moved away for a life of my own.
My, how I thought I had grown.

Life's lessons were hard,
my innocence was jarred.
At times, I had no support;
I lost my friendly cohort.

I had three marriages:
one ugly, one healing, one best
that put my mother to the test.

We didn't see eye-to-eye on a belief
that caused her to experience grief.

She taught us well; how to read, cook,
get along (?!), enjoy life, and party.
Her laughter and enthusiasm were hearty.
One of the things I liked best? She was art-y.

The years have rolled on
through seasons and time.
I have seen my mom in her prime, 
and sublime.

Dad was sick for many years
which caused in us tears and fears.
Hospice stepped in at the end of his life
which gave great relief to me and Mom, his wife.

Now, it's Mom's turn to be hurt and in sorrow,
not knowing if she'll have a tomorrow.
My sister, brother, and I are all in a dither,
as we sadly watch our dear mother wither.

Again, we have hospice to thank for her care
as Janyce and I are actively there.

The breadth of her life
and the depth of her feeling,
cuts us like a knife
to see it unreeling.

Hallucinations, anger, moments of peace,
our family knows her pain will soon cease.
Loss of appetite, indignity, sleeplessness, pain;
whenever these end, will be her gain.

A new cry upon the earth
about my mom who gave me birth...
She is not yet leaving,
but I am actively grieving.
Tears flow freely,
I'm not okay, really.

This isn't the way she wanted her end-of-life to be;
she wished to die in her sleep, peacefully.

Life doesn't always go as planned, 
that's one of life's lessons I understand.

She's my best friend
to the very end.
And with her last breath,
she'll teach me death.

[NOTE: Written Saturday, March 20, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mom is 91 years young. Mom passed away on March 26, 2021.]

Copyright © 2021, Susan Alton

Please do not share this poem on Facebook or other social media. Thank you.


  1. Very well put Eulogy to your Mom. We learn so much from them that even now we miss their knowledge and compassion.
    Our Deepest Condolences.

    1. Thank you, Rick and Kathy. That is so true. It's amazing how what they taught us!

  2. Reading your wonderful tribute to your mom brings tears to my eyes, again. Love you.

  3. Susan, your poem is lovely. This post is a glimpse into a wonderful, well lived life. Thank you for sharing.


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