Mama Earp, 1945-2020

My mother was called home to the Lord Friday morning, after a battle with dementia while recuperating from a broken hip. Mom was 74.

Kathleen Elizabeth Remar was born in November, 1945 just three months after the end of World War II. Her parents, Anna and Joseph Remar were children of Slovak – at the time, Czechoslovak – immigrants, who came to America for a better life.

The Remars settled in Bridgeport, PA, and had four children – Jeannie, Joseph, Kathleen, and Raymond. My grandmother raised the kids, and my grandfather worked in factories, while helping the church next door – Our Mother of Sorrows – doing odd jobs and maintaining the grounds.

All four Remar children did well in school, Aunt Jeannie became a nun, Uncles Joe and Ray went to college, and while mom was enticed by colleges for her musical aptitude – she was awarded “All-Catholic” for her clarinet aptitude – her mother would not allow it. Different times back then.

Mom eventually got married, and they had three children: me, my brother Chris, and later on, my sister Allison. Dad was a Philadelphia firefighter, and mom worked odd jobs to keep the money coming in. She worked as a waitress in banquet halls, was a secretary, and was the organist for Christ The King Parish in Philadelphia for years. Mom always wanted to teach us how to play the piano, but sadly, we weren’t interested.

Mom was great when it came to crafts. She would create homemade Halloween costumes that were out of this world. One year, she made a cardboard table – complete with tablecloth and glued on utensils – cut a hole and the middle, and put my head through it. Another year she sewed a pair of footy pajamas, added a tail, and created a dragon head for the ensemble. I won a prize in the school costume contest that year.

Mom loved to play bingo at the parish hall on Monday nights, she was a rabid fan of the Phillies, Flyers and Eagles. She spent most of my grade school life coaching girls softball. Every girl in school knew “Mrs. G,” and as a result, every girl knew me. It. Was. Awesome.

She revolutionized the school’s talent show. For years, it was kids lip-syncing to popular songs, mostly boring fare. When I was in 6th grade, mom changed all that. She invited my friends over, broke out Spike Jones records, and had us choreograph skits to go along with the record. After that, she dressed us up as cheerleaders and we did a gymnastics skit that brought down the house. I was finally (somewhat) popular!

In college, mom was reluctant to go to my lacrosse games, thinking I would get hurt. I finally conned her into going, and five minutes in, I jumped for a ball, got hit in the legs, flipped over, and crashed to the ground. After the game – which we won – I walked to her and she said, “I’m never coming to another game!” And she didn’t.

As mom got older, she suffered the maladies many people face. She smoked much of her life, and that eventually evolved into a triple bypass. She fell down the steps at her home and broke her back, and the dementia set it not long afterward.

For a while, mom was having short term memory loss, but she was still as sharp as ever. She would babysit Kevin and Julia when Kyle and Erik had sports events, and they loved seeing mom at the house. Mom spoiled them, of course, bringing junk food and letting them play on her tablet. A year or so later, she was forgetting people, places, and things. Then, in 2018, we decided she needed to be placed in an assisted living facility, which was the most difficult decision of our lives.

Mom still recognized me and my siblings when we came to visit, but she was sometimes unclear with the grandchildren. Mom was still mom, but she didn’t have that spark as much anymore. It’s very difficult to watch a parent deteriorate, but we thought she still had a lot of time left.

The broken hip certainly didn’t help, and her dementia all but determined she would not be able to do the rehab.That said, we didn’t expect the doctors to tell us she would need to be moved to hospice. (Apparently anesthesia makes dementia symptoms much worse.) Allison and I went to see her that evening, and the staff set up mom with a morphine drip. She was in excruciating pain, and the hospice figured it was better to keep her comfortable. She never opened her eyes or spoke to us, but we hoped she knew we were there.

Allison and I took 12-hour shifts for the duration. She went in from 8a-8p and I took the overnight shift. We were literally watching her die; something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

If something happened, we didn’t want mom dying alone. I said goodbye to mom before I left every day, in case I wasn’t able to see her again. I’m not good at these things, and didn’t know what to say. I touched her arm, told her I loved her, and said everything will be alright. I also said her mom and dad were waiting to welcome her into Heaven.

On Friday evening the nurses were going to give mom a bath. Allison said people in hospices often pass away after baths; it’s the shock of it, mostly. Allison went home – she was exhausted – and I went into the hallway while they took care of mom. I was sitting on a chair when one of the nurses came toward me. I knew it before she spoke. “I’m sorry, but your mom died while we were giving her the bath.”

For some reason, I just said, “Okay.” I wasn’t processing what happened, or I wasn’t accepting it. The staff were great for this week-long ordeal, and they were trying to comfort me. Still, all I could respond was, “Okay.” They cleaned mom up, and prepared her on the bed with dignity. They said I could go in and see her, and when I asked how long I could have, they replied, “As long as you need.”

I walked in to the room, and mom was lying there, eyes closed. I started sobbing and walked over to her, saying, “I love you, Mom” over and over again. I tried to gain my composure and I called Allison. She knew the second she picked up the phone. I told her to stay home, because she wouldn’t want to see mom like this. I knelt on the floor, said the “Our Father” and begged God to take her into His Kingdom. I stood up, packed our things, held mom’s hand for a bit, said goodbye, and left.

The staff were at the front desk, and one of them asked if I needed a ride home. Apparently I was shaking and I didn’t realize it. I assured them I was okay, and drove myself back to Philadelphia, promising to call the hospice to let them know I got home okay. To be honest, I don’t remember the drive. I know I was driving, but everything was a blue.

At times like these, I second-guess anything and everything I have ever done. Was I a good son? Am I a good father? Should we have taken mom in instead of placing her into a home? Could I have done something to offset the dementia? I continue to think I could have done more. I could have visited her more, or I could have told her I loved her more. Or I could have skipped work and sat in her room for the weekend.

I’m the oldest child, so I feel like this falls on me.

My mother would not have wanted to live like this; addled with dementia and not remembering friends and family. Living in constant pain from a broken hip which cannot be rehabilitated. My only respite is toward the end, she continually asked for her parents and her Aunt Betty. Much of her short term memory was gone, but all her childhood memories were still intact. She had a good life and a great family growing up, and I hope those visions kept her somewhat happy.

It’s very odd, even as a fifty-something, to realize both your parents are dead. You always expect them to be there, and in a snap, they’re gone.

I love you, mom. Your suffering is over, and you are headed to a much better place.

Considering the circumstances, I’ll be taking today and maybe tomorrow – the day of the viewing – off. I’ll try to post a few things if I’m not running around, helping my sister get mom’s things into order.

37 thoughts on “Mama Earp, 1945-2020

  1. I am so sorry, Wyatt. I’ve been there and done that, and it was heart wrenching to watch my mother fade away on 9/22/2006. She was 88. I think of my mother as having lived a good life. It sounds like your mother lived a good life, too.

    Like

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. She is in a better place, surrounded by her previously departed family and friends. Stay strong and positive for yours.

    As for being a good parent, all you have to do is look around your home and you will see four reasons that you are one.

    May God grant you the peace you need in these days, and the joy that you had so great a Mother.

    Like

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, Wyatt. Cherish the memories and find comfort in knowing she is with your dad and your grandparents. I will keep all of your family in my prayers. Lean on God for comfort and peace.

    Like

  4. Years ago, when my friend’s husband died, I told her it won’t get easier, but it will get better. The same goes for you & your family. You take all the time you need, we’ll be here for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You did enough. Actions speak louder than words. You went to see her as often as you could. Parents understand when their children become adults that they can’t see them all the time anymore. Mine do, at least. I’ve gone to see them for Sunday dinner for the last 15+ years. And one “I love you,” said sincerely, means more than the one tossed out at the end of every visit.

    She knew you loved her. She had to be proud of the good life you’ve led.

    You can let it hurt you for as long as you need, but it will not always be so sharp. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom, losing a parent is incredibly difficult at any age. You and your family have our love and prayers.

    Like

  7. Kitty – For the most part yes. My parents eventually divorced, and she never sought out companionship afterward, but she had my sister living at home most of the time, so I think she was happy enough.

    Veeshir – Thank you. It’s watching a parent slowly dying is something I would never wish on anyone. About two hours before she passed, mom stopped breathing for about twenty seconds. I got up walked to her, and she started breathing again. When she did it scared the hell out of me. I think she would have gotten a kick out of that.

    TX Nick – I’ll always have regrets, and I’ll always second-guess myself. The only thing which helps is I spent an entire week in her room, making sure mom didn’t pass away without a family member nearby.

    Ronni – Allison said mom wouldn’t want us to be there when she died. I had to leave the room when they gave her the bath, and boom, gone. I think she knew I was out of the room, then figured it was the right time.

    Sully – Thank you. You always think your parents will always be there. It’s devastating when they’re gone.

    Mike47 – Thanks. It’s been a rough few days, and I told Mrs. Earp it was weird Saturday when I didn’t have to travel to NJ to see her.

    MelP – The hospice wouldn’t let in anyone under 16, and I’m sad the kids couldn’t see her before she passed, but then again, she wouldn’t want them to see her like that.

    Mitch – I cried a lot in the room when she passed, and I cried a lot on the way home. If I can get past the viewing tomorrow, I’ll be okay.

    Jenn – Thank you. The hip replacement left her virtually in a coma. Her eyes never opened and she never spoke. Her quality of life was not good, and we thought she would go fast. The hospice couldn’t believe she held on for a week. Every day was a blessing.

    Like

    1. I agree with you that she didn’t want you in the room. I stepped out to go to the bathroom and that is when Jon went. The nurses said that they definitely pick their time to go. Please let me know if you need anything. I am always here for you.

      Like

  8. I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your marvelous, warm, heart-touching tribute to your Mothers life. Grieve but also celebrate your Mothers life. Your post is a great start. I look forward to your ‘snark’ when you are ready to get back to posting. God bless you and your family in this difficult time.

    Like

  9. Dalek – I found myself writing more and more the many times I went to proofread it. I could probably have gone on further, but eventually it was hard to keep looking at mom’s photos. I wanted people to know what kind of person she was.

    Mrs. Earp posted the obit on FB and a bunch of women I haven’t heard from since grade school sent messages on how they all loved her and knew her from coaching softball.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wyatt, I did the same thing for my wife. I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk much at her viewing…so I wrote it down,,,,then edited and edited more. My cousin read it for me, I couldn’t do it. It all helps, you are the right path,

      Like

  10. Oh, you know what’s weird. Since mom passed, all I’ve been doing since Friday is playing video-games, going to the gym, and riding my bike. I mean, I’m doing laundry and a few things around the house, but I’m exhausted, and I don’t know what else to do. I feel if I stop and think about everything I’ll break down, and I don’t want to do that.

    Like

  11. Very sorry to hear of your loss. When my parents passed I liked to think that they decided that it was finally time to take a rest. It’s sad to see them go, but now they are no longer in pain. May your mother be at peace with the Lord…….

    Like

  12. Tam – Thank you. I believe there is an afterlife, because if there isn’t, what is the point of life? I hope she’s happy, and finally gone of all her physical ailments.

    Like

  13. I’m a little late getting to the internet today. I haven’t looked at my computer for over 24 hrs. Kind of an oddity for me. Not sure why, but this wasn’t the post I was expecting. Wish I could offer you more than, “I’m sorry.” Your post was as heartfelt as I’ve ever seen and it made me know your mom and your family. She lived a wonderful life, filled with a loving family and people that loved her in return. You can’t ask much more than that, other than perhaps having a deep faith. She’s free of pain, rejoicing in Heaven now. There is no reason for sorrow other than having her gone. You did all you could. I should be so lucky to have my kids treat me that well when I’m in my final days. God Bless all of you. You will be in my prayers still. You won’t hear much from me for awhile though, I’m headed out on an adventure on my boat tomorrow for a week. I’ll be thinking of all of you regardless.

    Like

  14. My condolences Wyatt, your mother sounds like a wonderful person and I’m sure she was very proud of the man you’ve become.

    Like

  15. Wyatt, I’m sorry for you and your family.
    When my Mom had to go into assisted living she had some good years, but the downtown was swift and at the end she didn’t know who we were.
    It hurts for a long time.

    Like

  16. I am a newcomer and stranger here, but please accept my condolences, sir.

    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

    –2 Timothy 4:7-8

    Like

  17. INPiker – Thank you. She didn’t like the fact I despise the Eagles – or the fact two of my sons are Cowboys fans – but you can’t have it all. 🙂

    John – Her dementia was getting worse, but we were hoping it wasn’t her time yet. Her mother was the same way. Good for a while, then a sudden downturn. It’s sad.

    Toastrider – Thank you. There are no strangers here. Welcome aboard. If nothing else, I think this brought me closer to my faith. I need to be a better, stronger person, and one with a lot more patience.

    Like

    1. There aren’t any words that fully express what you are feeling. There is some solace at being near and in fairly constant close contact near the end. Long distance isn’t the same even with audio and video. If you are like me, you’ll keep it together and something random will make you ugly cry uncontrollably at some point down the road. When my dad died, my sisters and nieces lost it immediately and I had to be the strong face. Almost one year to the day later, my wife walked in on me breaking down for most of an afternoon at the anniversary.

      I’ll second the Bible quotation from Toastrider.
      Denzel Washington saying the main phrase in Book of Eli:
      http://goo.gl/nQ0X2

      Like

  18. Loki – Thank you. I happen to love that film, and as always, Gary Oldman is terrific in it.

    Rudy – Thanks. Viewing is in a few hours. Trying to keep my composure.

    Like

  19. 911 – Thank you. Thee viewing was nice, but very emotional. It’s difficult saying goodbye to a parent.

    DU – Thank you.

    Mario – Thanks. It’s been a very long week.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s