A Love Like No Other

SunsetBack in April of this year, I learned that my Mom, Mary Laprade, had been diagnosed with an aggressive t-cell lymphoma; and a rare one at that. Even though I was 3000 miles away on the West Coast and she was on the East Coast in Massachusetts, there was no doubt in my mind where I needed to be – right by her side, facing whatever came next together. I must admit that I was filled with fear, but I kept on going as there was simply no other choice or place to be.

I arrived in Massachusetts from Los Angeles on April 23rd to help and support her through the possible nightmare of proposed chemotherapy treatments. However, infections postponed the chemo until May 3rd. Side by side we courageously walked through these surprise infections and then finally the chemotherapy. On May 8th she went into a rehab facility to get strong enough to go home. However, four days later on Mother’s Day morning, I received a call that she was being rushed to the hospital as she was found unresponsive. She had surprisingly slipped into a coma just overnight. No one knew that she had an infection brewing as there had been no obvious signs. As I hurried to get dressed, I purposely put on my “Expect Miracles” t-shirt – expecting just that. For the next several days I looked into the faces of doctors and nurses that said she would most likely never recover, including two doctors that were doing their best to convince me to stop all antibiotics and just give up as they claimed that my mother was “actively dying”.

As her healthcare proxy, I was given the honor to speak on her behalf for any medical decisions when she couldn’t. Standing as my mother’s voice and advocate I said, “No, we aren’t giving up.” I looked them all in the eye and firmly said, “Do whatever it takes.” And courageously and brilliantly my Mom fought back; fought back against the infection, the naysayers, and the disbelief. We stood our ground with special family and friends by our side (my wonderful brother Charles and our dear friends from New York, Elizabeth and Jo) and chose life and possibility. From that hospital she went into a different and quite wonderful rehab facility in Leeds, Massachusetts (called Overlook).

One day several weeks later in rehab, my mother gave a most simple, yet profound answer to a nurse who asked how she was doing that day. My Mom replied with a smile heartily and confidently, ” I appreciate being myself and being alive.”

Mom conquers the stairs!

Mom conquers the stairs!

Every day my mom was getting stronger and more and more filled with life. She inspired all of us, including the staff at the Rehab facility, many of whom had thought when she arrived that she may never walk again or perhaps not even ever get out of bed. She was now able to walk, smile, laugh, and fill the room with her wonderful sarcastic sense of humor and gentle, sweet way of being. She appreciated every person, place, and thing that showed up in her space and she never forgot to share her gratitude with each person who helped her, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it was. She was known to call back a nurse or two as they left the room if she had not had a chance to thank them. She would look them in the eyes, no matter how tired or ill feeling she was, and with a big smile share her appreciation with great heartfelt sincerity.

I spent every day (some days up to 15 hours) without fail with my Mom as she recovered and her health improved. But I did it with joy in my heart and feeling like there was no where else on earth I should or wanted to be. It so saddened me to see her enduring all the physical suffering, but she strode through it with confidence and single-minded focus of continuing to get strong so that she could experience the joy of life. And even in her pain filled moments she did just that.

I am blessed to have witnessed first hand her amazing triumphs, and I am grateful for each and every moment we shared. And it is all because we never gave up.

This hanging was on the wall above my Mom's bed at Overlook

This hanging was on the wall above my Mom’s bed at Overlook

Mom and I had always been close – since Day One of my life. Best Buddies. But something happened during our fight for her life. Somehow, magically and miraculously, we became even closer. We bonded in a most beautiful, exquisite, and significant way.

She had lived a beautiful life filled with family, wonderful friends, travel around the world, and the pleasure of teaching biological sciences at Smith College for 43 years. She was fascinated by and loved every aspect of nature and all of its creatures.

On July 25th, she did finally make it home to see her beloved husband of 55 years. And what a most glorious homecoming that was! Unfortunately, she got sick again and went back into the hospital and returned to Overlook on August 6th where we again began the fight to get strong enough to go home.

However, on the evening of August 18th, as hard as she fought, she could no longer. She chose to continue her journey in spirit and died peacefully with me by her side, telling her I loved her with my hand placed over her heart and my face pressed gently against her cheek. She is missed more than words can say and loved even more. She was my best friend and one of the most gentle souls to walk the Earth.

Last week someone told me, “You are just like your Mother.” I grinned from ear-to-ear. No bigger compliment could ever be paid.

To you Mom: You taught me so much. I will miss your brilliance, your gentleness, our hugs, your laugh, our special lunches, your face, your smile, and your graceful way of being in the world. Thank you especially for giving me the gift of life and for believing in me no matter what.

I love you Momma, with all my heart and soul. I can still feel you holding my hand. You will forever and ever be in my heart.

Until we meet again…

Holding our Love

There’s nothing like loss, or its possibility, to wake you up to the beauty of what you have.

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  1. Just beautifully told by a beautiful daughter…

  2. Elizabeth S. says:

    I had the privilege of being Mary’s friend for over 30 years and am also fortunate to call Elizabeth my dear friend. Elizabeth, you walked this road with your Mom every step of the way and fought to ensure that her desires were known and met. This is a wonderful tribute to Mary as well as the enormous love and special bond Mary and Elizabeth had. That love is eternal.

  3. A lovely and touching tribute, beautifully written. “If the stars seem a bit brighter, they are twinkling with delight at her company.”

  4. A Wonderful Tribute Elizabeth

  5. Nicely done. Your mom was special. Her kids are too. It wonderful that you got to be there for her as she completed her life.

  6. This brought tears to my eyes. I identify very much with your story…it matched much of what my mama and I had.

    Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

    Much love

  7. I really appreciated reading this Elizabeth and it brought tears to my eyes as I relived a very similar experience with my mom who passed on August 4th 3 years ago.. I too was at her side when she passed with my cheek against hers and I have a lovely photo of her hands. Very bittersweet to read and I’m sure like me you will forever and ever treasure the memories of these months with her and you’ll always know that you followed your heart to be with her. Thanks for sharing this and I’m so sorry for your huge loss. May she be at your side now forever at the ready to support as you need it.

  8. Elizabeth, what a beautiful tribute of love for your Mother. The bond you two shared on earth will continue to live on in your hearts and souls forever. Sending you love from my heart to yours.

  9. Mark Nepo writes that unconditional love occurs when I make the choice that no condition will keep me from bringing ALL of Who I AM to each honestly. Your Grace, Grit and honesty of experiencing ALL of this journey encourage my heart, Elizabeth. Working in a Rehab center daily, few patients have the determination of your mother.
    May the After Death Communications be encouraging and your tears releasing.
    Sending love to you, Lennie and your Father as you Grieve.

  10. Jan Gelgood says:

    My eyes are filled with tears as read this and think of my own Mom. I am blessed to have her with me still, aged 89 and for all intents and purposes in reasonably good health. I cannot imagine my life without her. Like you and your Mom, she has supported me through any challenge and shared my delight when things go well. Thank you for sharing your experience, Elizabeth. I know that I will walk in your shoes one day. I ask myself if my Mom knows how much I love her and how much the closeness we share means to me. I am confident that she does and your Mom knew this about you, too. You and your Mom, my Mom and I, are so fortunate to have this special bond. I am reminded now of the simple words that say, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I hope that this gives you a bit of strength in these difficult days that never seem to end. I love you and my arms are around you.

  11. Luann Sinclair says:

    This is an amazing description of a very special loving relationship. You are blessed. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  12. Dear Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your mother and your journey with her with all of us! What a beautiful, grace-filled woman she was and what love you two share.

    I am grateful to have had the privilege of walking with, caring for, and experiencing my daughter Elizabeth’s grace in the last year of her life while she was treated for and then died from lymphoma. It was an extraordinary time, and I too share it in my blog so others may know there are ways to live, and to leave our bodies without fear and with grace and immense love…

    sending so much love and gratitude, Lucia

  13. Thank you Elizabeth! Sometimes when you meet another soul there is unspoken connection and as you pass through this life journey, that soul is always there to smile you on your way. Although we have spent far too little time together, I am always aware of your presence. I realize now after reading the story of your Mom and you over the past 8 months what an amazing person you are. As a parent I can only say that nothing in this world is as important as what you and she shared. I often think of you and smile and now I will add my thoughts and prayers for all of you. Take care Elizabeth.

  14. Bob Rowell says:

    A very moving journey. And well told. I wish I’d met your mother. Peace to you, Elizabeth.
    — Bob