Nashua’s Tess George stopped by the StoryCorps Mobile booth last June with her friend Sandy Bothmer. Tess’s mother was confined to her bed in the final months of her life, and Tess provided care during that time. Tess remembers the months being fraught with meaning.
Tess: And I want to tell you about this one day, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this before, but it was so cool. My mom used to need me constantly. And I got into the habit of saying, “OK, not right now. Just give me a minute,” because I couldn’t leave. If I left the room I would have to talk to her. If I went in to the kitchen, I would have to keep calling back to her. So, this one day I thought to myself, “You know what? I’m just going to give her myself completely. I’m not going to resist it. She has my full attention, every second of the day. I’m making it harder by trying to get a few minutes to myself." So this day, it was fall, but she couldn’t really go outside. But I opened the windows, I went outside and I got all these leaves. I gathered them in a basket, and I came in and I poured them all over her. And I was saying, “it’s fall! It’s fall!” So she was laughing, then I went out and dug up all these mums. And I brought them in to the house and put them all around her room. And then, all those leaves, I taped them all over the ceiling. The whole room was filled with leaves. And then I gave her a massage. At the end of that day, she said to me, “thank you for today.” Then the next day, she was agitated. And the nurse had said that sometimes that happens right before people die. So my sister- in-law said, “I think your mother wants to die and you’re not letting her go. And she can’t go because you’re hanging on to her.” Sandy: Did you feel that was the case at that point? Tess: I though I was OK with it, because I’d been there for six months and I knew that this was happening and everything. So my mom woke up for a short time and I said, “I want you to know that it’s OK with me if you need to go.” So she said, “I don’t ever want you to think of me as a quitter.” And so I said,” Well, you’re not quitting, you’re just graciously accepting what has to be. You’re not quitting.” And then she said, “I want you to know that you’ve been a very good mother to me.” I think she knew I was her daughter, but I think she was saying something to me.