By: Scott M. King
Frequently now I come across an article or a quote or a joke that my mother would like, and I reach for the phone to share it with her.
And then I remember: Mom passed away on August 1.
In May, Mom could no longer care for herself, so she moved in with us. Our kids were happy to have Grandma with us. We told them it was permanent.
While the rest of my family and I were on vacation, my sister took Mom to the doctor for a checkup. Mom was moving very slowly, so her doctor sent her to the emergency room to run tests. The doctors there announced that Mom’s blood oxygen was too low and that her lungs and heart were failing.
Mom was still reading a book a day right up to the end. When they gave her the news, she was ready. She put her book down when they gave her a little pain medication. She fell asleep and took her last breath six hours later.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1974, Mom joined the American Diabetes Association and bought cookbooks containing the food exchanges so that she could help me manage my blood glucose. All I wanted to do was exchange the cookbooks, but I recall that she experimented to find ways to make foods tasty.
When her doctor told her in 1990 that her blood glucose was high—but added that she shouldn’t worry, because "all fat people have high blood sugar"—I got the chance to go to battle for her, calling her doctor and insisting that he treat her diabetes.
That’s when she went to battle for herself, too, learning all she could about her diabetes and how to treat it. She managed it very well and was in excellent control, testing her blood glucose regularly and taking her insulin when she needed it, as well as faithfully taking her supplements: her vitamins E and C, chromium, alpha-lipoic acid and magnesium. Even during her last hospitalization, she was in control of her diabetes, bossing the dietitian around and berating the nurse if her insulin was late.
It wasn’t diabetes that killed her, though. A smoker for most of her life, Mom developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although she smoked her last cigarette in 1984, her oxygen levels got too low, and she was on oxygen 24 hours a day.
Did that slow her down? No way! Until recently, she was a familiar scene at the farmers’ market, riding along on her motorized scooter, returning greetings of, "Hi, Marge! How are you?" and accepting the fresh fruits and vegetables the vendors wanted her to have.
She battled with her weight her entire life, and her wheat allergies led her to develop recipes that used alternative grains. She loved her bread and devised ways to have that—and pancakes!—using alternative grains so she wouldn’t trigger her allergies.
Learning and experimenting with new things were always a part of her life. Born barely one year after women won the right to vote, and one year before insulin was first given to a human being, she saw the birth of "talkies," the advent of television, and astronauts walking on the moon. And in the late 1980s, she got her first computer.
She was soon dubbed "Cyber-mom" by one member of the Diabetes Health staff for her penchant for finding—and forwarding—items of interest about new developments and research into diabetes. I was constantly getting e-mails from her with everything from cute stories to ideas for the magazine. She was always on a quest to learn.
Mom didn’t always have an easy life. We didn’t have a lot of money, but she held the family together and always made sure we had what we needed, even if we didn’t always have the things we wanted. Being a woman didn’t always help, either: she was a veteran of the U.S. Navy WAVES, but women didn’t qualify for the veterans’ loan program.
Things changed in her lifetime, and, without Mom, things are changing in my life. I miss her. But I know that I have the memories of my lifetime and can have her with me, whenever I want, at least in my heart.