Distant Cousins... No More.

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~ I received this note from my cousin, Julie, via Facebook Messenger, while sitting with Mom at the nursing home in her final days. Our families hadn’t been in contact for many years, but Mom spoke often about her older brother, “Linc”, and his loving wife, Sue. I knew the general gist of my cousins’ lives, but not the important details… the emotional stuff that brings families together. Julie changed that with this note and her subsequent attendance at my mother’s memorial service with her brothers, Peter and David. When you finish reading, you’ll understand why Julie and I have vowed to stay in touch and share our lives in the future. ~ Emily


Distant Cousins… No More.

By Julie Stackpole Kingsbury

I read your blog tonight with tears coursing down my cheeks for your Mom is my Aunt Nancy, my aunt that I have not seen in twenty years or more. We exchanged Christmas cards without fail and I heard her “Florida news” from my Uncle Allan from his visits, but no hugs, coffee together or visits at her home. I have missed her life and her living.

When the link that was Linc was broken, we cousins became further scattered to New England gales. I would hear from some that we looked similar, or that your brother’s son resembled mine, but that was the weft of it and I smiled and moved on. 

For the past five years, my Mom had been living in an assisted living center right next door to my medical practice. Each morning I would rush over and awaken her, and each evening kiss her goodnight. Until it changed. A phone call saying she had fallen… Could I come over. She would laugh it off and joke about using her time on the floor to “clean the carpet” or, if out in the yard, to “see if pigeons used toilet paper”. The falls became more frequent and her jokes became more of a cover for her infirmities.

My visits became more frequent, conversations more circuitous and sticky notes provided clues and cues for turning things on and off and tidbits of “things to know”. 

In February, one of my colleagues called and told me it was time for hospice. My brothers were unable,  so I took my deepest breath and said ‘yes’. These past few months have been persistently painful yet agonizingly beautiful for our family. I watched my Mom stop dressing, bathing, sitting up, eating and drinking. The last twelve days and nights I watched her sink further into a place I could not follow. I could wet her lips, comb back her hair from her forehead, hold her hand in mine....but could not hold on to her.

She died the night before Easter at 7:20. She was my mother, my mentor, my role model, my confidante, my history holder, my cheerleader, and my grace. I am ever grateful for the chance to hold her in those last days and hours, yet wish I had not had to bear witness to her ending. But I am Sue’s daughter and she is my mother. So it was as it should have been. 

I miss her more than bearable at times. I rush home to tell her about my day. I pass grape nut ice cream in the market and reach to buy it for her. I think I hear her voice saying how much she loves me. I find her glasses on my bureau. Her absence is palpable.

I write all this because you are now living this. You are a person with whom I should have sixty years of memories to accompany our shared genes. We are cousins who do not know each other. But we share our love for our mothers who shared their histories with each other. The women of an era of tough exteriors and losses who raised us as tough daughters...daughters tough enough to walk our mothers to the edge and beyond.

I wish you peace. I wish you the sense of strength that you can survive this. We will never be the same as we advance to the head of our families. You and I will always look over our shoulders for our Moms. We are both blessed beyond measure to look back over two such wonderful women; our mothers.


About the author ~

Julie Stackpole Kingsbury lives in Maine and is a mother to a psychologist son who has been analyzing her since he could talk and reason. She is surrounded by an entourage of loving family, friends and four legged things that shed. A nurse practitioner career has taught her countless lessons on living, aging and caregiving. None has been more poignant nor life changing than the caregiving and loss, at ninety one, of her beloved mom. With dark chocolate, a clean sheet of lined paper, and her favorite pen at hand, she endeavors to bring these lessons to life.