A Poet's Life

Mona Bethke

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Death bed confessions…

I’ve often wondered what goes through the mind of a dying person.  When someone is ripped away through an instantaneous occurrence like an accident, there is no time to say goodbye, no time to share that one last thought.  It’s when someone is dying slowly, because of illness or disease that the confessions come into play.

Is it because of guilt?  Does the mind immediately seek understanding or forgiveness for transgressions?  Is it done out of spite?

Between 1979 and 2012 I have seen my mother one time, in 1994.  She, my brother, his wife, and their new baby came to visit and stayed with me for a week.  I hadn’t seen my brother since he was seven years old.  It was wonderful to reconnect, though it was a tense reunion.  Much was unsaid about how our family was torn apart.  It all came down to my father’s actions in 1976, but my brother was too young to remember.  My father lived close by and as is natural my brother wanted to bond with his father.  In doing this, my family was torn apart even more.  After they left, I knew I would never see my mother again.  It was that deep seated, in the gut sensation.

There is an irony to feeling like an orphan when I still have living family.  Anyway, I digress.  Death bed confessions.

I spent 30 years trying to come to terms with events that have occurred in my life.  30 years trying to heal. 30 years trying to under stand. 30 years trying to forgive.  30 years trying to wake up one morning and not feel pain.  Then the phone call came.  Mother.  Sad, crying, lonely.  She was dealing with the death of a close friend.  As a matter of fact she deals with death all of the time in the Assisted Living Facility she calls home.  This one hit her hard.  She has been helping to care for him for 15 years.  I heard my mother cry for the first time.  It tore my heart out and it opened a vulnerable door in me that she walked through to give herself some peace of mind.  The sentence began, “I’m sick…I’m just waiting to die…”  It was the way every phone conversation begins.  I prepared myself for 30 minutes of the same conversation we had every time we talked on the phone.  “Your father did terrible things…”  “I know, Mom.  I remember the beatings he gave me.”  “No, this is something else.”

In my head, I could see myself sitting at my mother’s bedside, holding her hand and telling her that I love her while she drained her mind of everything she felt guilty for, everything she felt I needed to know before she took her last breath.  I could see myself, hear myself screaming, “No, no, don’t tell me.  I won’t know what to do with it.  I already laid it all to rest.  Why do you think I need to know these things?”

I know I won’t have a problem processing what she told me.  I’ll deal with it as I have the past 30 years.  I’m actually planning a funeral, a burial at sea, because none of it matters anymore.

I do however have to live with a new question.  Did she tell me because she needed to shed her own guilt and show her love for me, or was that common statement I’ve heard through the years, “You’re just like your father,” the real foundation of her actions?  Then the question arose, does she hate my father enough to get even with him through sacrificing me?

That is all.

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