Tag Archives: death

Losing Mom Unexpectedly

My Mom died last Sunday.

Margaret Bost Photo
Margaret Martha Vedder Bost
Oct. 26, 1924 – Jan. 8, 2017

Margaret Vedder Bost, my Mom, was 92 years old, and had had a rich and deeply rewarding life, so her passing wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Reading her obituary, I’m struck by the scope of her accomplishments – after all, she was mainly just Mom to me.

Even so, I have to admit that I’m really still in shock.

A Christmas Visit

My Mom and Dad have shared an apartment in a North Carolina assisted living facility for some time now, and in recent months my Dad’s physical health concerns have seemed much more serious than my Mom’s.

But when I arrived at their apartment for a visit on the afternoon of Christmas Day, it was my Mom who was suffering.

She complained that she’d had a bad cold for four or five days, and couldn’t seem to shake it.

During my visit I suggested that we would get her to a doctor if her condition hadn’t improved by the following morning. That seemed to reassure her.

Then I went to spend the evening at my sister’s house, about 20 minutes away.

Emergency Room

At breakfast the next day, my sister got a call from the assisted living facility.

My Mom’s oxygen levels had been dropping precipitously. They had taken her to the emergency room at a nearby hospital.

We went right over.

The rest of the day was full of tests, consultations with physicians, and the complications of getting her admitted and situated in a hospital room.

She was having difficulty breathing, so was getting some assistance from respiratory care, but the real challenges were congestive heart failure and a nearly total loss of kidney function.

The End

I stayed in town a couple of extra days, so I could get to the hospital for multiple visits.

My Mom’s condition seemed to be stabilizing a bit, and there was talk of ongoing care strategies. So I felt a reduced sense of urgency and left town. I returned home to Florida a few days later.

But not long after I got back home, Mom was moved to a hospice facility for end-of-life care. She died there in the early morning hours on Sunday, January 8, just a little over seven months shy of her 70th wedding anniversary.

Remembering Mom

Patty and I returned to North Carolina to participate in a memorial service for her on Saturday.

It was truly a wonderful time, quite comforting and uplifting. My childhood friend Dick Fritz, who is now the pastor at the Lutheran church Mom and Dad attended, officiated at the service. He added a personal, loving touch. And it was heartwarming to embrace cousins, children, nieces and nephews who had traveled great distances to join us for the event.

But as always with the passing of a loved one, there are so many things left unsaid. And there are so many memories that reappear unexpectedly.

The Mystery of Time

Like the conversation I had with my Mom when I was about 5 years old. I asked her when I was born.

“You were born at exactly 1:23 a.m.,” she replied. “I remember it exactly, because the time was one-two-three!”

The wonder of having an exact birth time. It was, no doubt, my earliest inspiration for becoming an astrologer!

But death, like birth, perpetually reminds us of just how precious and mysterious time really is.

As Aldous Huxley said, “There seems to be plenty of it.”

But when someone leaves us, the opposite seems to be the case.

Maybe my Dad, who’s 91 now, said it best the day before my Mom died. The assisted living staff had taken him to the hospice for a good-bye visit with my Mom, whom he had married in 1947.

One of the staff members asked him, “How long have you and your wife been married?”

“Not nearly long enough,” he said.

Saying Goodbye To My Brother

I’ve been saying goodbye to a loved one, and I’m feeling really tired.

Part of my fatigue is no doubt due to an intense travel schedule during the past week – I flew to Pennsylvania to help conduct a memorial service for my youngest brother Otto. That meant I had to deal with the usual stresses of airline security, crowded airports, and inconvenient timing.

I had a late connection coming back home to Florida. My Uber driver dropped me off at 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

I’m still trying to get back onto a regular sleep schedule. That has added to my weariness as well.

But on top of that, I’ve been getting a first-hand understanding of just how physically exhausting grief can be. It’s really taken me by surprise.

A Sudden Departure

The biggest surprise of all, though, was the fact that Otto died in the first place. He passed away suddenly on July 26, while he was vacationing in the North Carolina mountains. With him were his three adult children, his daughter-in-law, and his granddaughter, who will be 2 years old in October.

The day before he died, the whole crew took a day trip to visit with our parents, who are both in their early 90’s. Our other two siblings joined them there. It was a great family gathering.

It was also a wonderful opportunity for saying goodbye, although nobody knew that’s what they were doing at the time.

I missed that occasion, however. So I was glad that I had a chance to go deliver the eulogy at Otto’s memorial service last Sunday in Pennsylvania. He and I had been really close, even though I was 12 older than him and even though we spent most of our years widely separated by geography.

Otto Bost - Saying Goodbye
J. Otto Bost –  August 27, 1960 – July 26, 2016

It was truly rewarding for me to be so closely united with him, and to be a part of the final celebration of his life as we were saying goodbye to Otto.

It was also good to get better acquainted with my niece and nephews. With their Dad gone now, I’m sure we’ll find a need for stronger connections in future years.

An Excuse To Slow Down

And in a way I’m also grateful for the grief and the fatigue. They’ve slowed me down a bit. In the process I’ve found a much-needed opportunity for quiet reflection. I’ve been thinking about Otto, of course, but also about family and love and the remarkable comfort of the cycles in our lives.

As we were saying goodbye during the memorial service, Otto’s son Steven read aloud some verses from the great astrological book of Ecclesiastes. They keep running through my mind:

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. . . .”