To the Moms of Jilly’s Daisy Scout Troop:

I’m sorry if I was rude the other day.

I wasn’t trying to be antisocial by not engaging in idle banter while our five-year-olds walked in single-file through the halls of our local nursing home/rehab center. Those tears brimming to the edge of my eyes, that I willed somehow not to fall, were not because their rendition of Dreidel, Dreidel was so beautiful.

You don’t know. You just don’t know.

You don’t know how close I came to becoming completely undone in those hallways.

When I learned that Jilly’s troop would be singing holiday carols in a nursing home, I thought we might be standing in the dining room, like we did two years ago with a homeschool group. Then, we had stayed in one place and sung to a dozen or so aged residents who nodded, snapped their fingers and sang along.

This time, though, we were lead through the hallways past room upon room of sick adults. There were a few people in the hallway, sitting in wheelchairs or lying on gurneys, quiet and dazed.

You don’t know how hard my heart pounded as I walked. You don’t know why I kept my eyes on the ground ahead of me.

Four years ago, I walked halls just like these every couple of days. I held a three-month-old baby boy in a carrier on my chest. I pushed little Jilly, just 21 months, in a stroller while Belly walked beside me. We went to the end of the hall, turned left and walked to the second bed, the one against the window.

“Hi Daddy!”, I would say, trying to gauge his state as Belly, my oldest who wasn’t quite four, tickled his feet under the sheets; the younger two just watched. Most days in that month of December, he would make a little conversation, but it was hard. He was tired and bone thin. Months of not being able to eat had taken their toll, as had the cancer that was rapidly spreading throughout his body.

The TV would be on and, sometimes, he would get lost in the picture moving on the screen. Sometimes he would shut his eyes and fall asleep. Earlier in his hospitalization, I would read him Dave Barry comics or tell him stories, but not in December. By December, he was ready to go.

And, so, as Jilly loudly caroled in that nursing home on December 16th, I couldn’t help but think what life was like four years prior. Our group noisily walked past an old man in a wheelchair. His eyes met mine and he lifted his hand in a sort of low-energy wave. I recognized that wave.

And, then I realized that this might not be an old man. Thinking back to how my dad looked in December ’04, people coming into his room might have thought that he was an elderly fellow. I can imagine a troop of little Daisy Scout girls filing into his room to sing a carol. He would’ve slowly raised his hand in a weak hello, and he would’ve tried to smile. He was a kind man, even in those last days.

Mothers acompanying those girls may have thought, “What a nice man to wave at the girls, to smile at them. Look at all the adorable pictures drawn on his wall. I wonder if they are by his grandchildren? His great-grandchildren? He looks to be, what, 80, 90? Poor thing, he doesn’t look well. I hope he’s been able to live a nice, long life”.

What they didn’t know back then, and what last week’s troop didn’t know, was that he was not an old man.

He was 63.

And he died four years ago today, December 22, 2004.


  1. Thank you for sharing that. You brought tears to my eyes.

  2. Sorry about your loss. We’ve spent way too much time in nursing homes too.

    xoxo, SG

  3. Christine @ Boston Mamas says

    I got teary reading that. Thank you for sharing.

    I grew up in a multi-generational household (3 grandparents in and out at various times) and while my parents took care of my grandparents as long as they could, ultimately they all needed round the clock care. Visiting them at the nursing homes/assisted living facilities was heart wrenching. All of my grandparents’ bodies went well before their minds and since they were so cognitively with-it, they were pissed and frustrated to be there, and sometimes embarrassed and angry to have us see them in that state. I remember my grandfather shooing us away when we would come to visit.

    I also lost my father way too early – at 70 to lymphoma and other complications 3 yrs ago. He spent his final weeks in the hospital and the surreal-ness of that period — round the clock vigils; my 5 siblings, mom, and I weeping and holding his hands to try to keep him warm after he died while my 6th sibling raced in from Albany — make me certain that I’ll never experience hospitals the same way again.

    I can hardly believe that my daughter has 3 living GREAT-grandparents (my husband’s side). I know I should just celebrate that but sometimes I just feel so bitter and deprived to not have my dad anymore.

    I feel your pain and wish you peace and healing.

  4. My heart aches for people. mostly senior citizens who are put in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living establishments. There is a constant knot in my throat. And I am always struggling to keep the tears back as well.

    Our parents, seniors do not deserve this. They led active full lives. They should go with dignity and at home. But that is not always available. I so want to be at home when I go, but that may not be possible. We all want to go in ideal circumstances. Rarely if ever happens.

    Take me quickly. Yes it is hard on those left behind. But they will always say. He/she, went quickly and did not suffer. But when they linger, they are pitied. No one wants to be pitied. Felt empathy for, yes, but do not pity me. And yet, when we go to see those who have no one, we cannot help but feel for them.

    My thoughts are with you and any family who has to go through what you did 4 years ago. Hugs!

  5. I still cannot walk into Morton Hospital without breaking into a sweat. I can’t believe you made it through the caroling. I don’t think I would have gotten out of the car.

    Between this sad anniversary, Christmas and his birthday, this is always a week full of tears. This morning at a memorial mass with mom, my kids kept yelling out “Oma!” “Nummies!” (Oma was feeding them jelly beans) and “Santa!” (the priest must wonder what I teach these kids), so they kept us laughing at an otherwise sad moment.

    We’re all thinking of you today. (hug)

  6. Oh hugs – that must have been very hard for you. I’m sure the other mothers would understand.

  7. Oh, this made me cry. I’m so sorry.

  8. Trenches of Mommyhood says

    So, so sorry. Beautiful post. I’m crying.

  9. Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas says

    Beautiful post. I am sure he was there with you.

  10. You have such a gift for writing.

    I am sorry. Thanks for sharing your emotions on this day.

    I didn’t realize he died so close to Christmas. Not that anytime of year is a better time, just seems like being around Christmas would make it tougher.

  11. Brought tears to my eyes – not only because I know how close you were to your dad – but also because I dread the day I have to go through it myself. Just want you to know that I’m thinking of you all.

  12. Issas Crazy World says

    Oh I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine. Especially the week of Christmas. Hugs to you and your family.

    We lost my Grandma last Friday (from a long battle with cancer) and she was in a nursing home too. If I never walk in one again, I will be happy.

  13. Thinking of you.

  14. I’m so sorry your father isn’t here with you today to watch your beautiful children grow, and for you to see his eyes glow with pride as he watches you mother them. I’m sorry that the memories are all you have left, and for the ones that never got to be made.

    I’m sorry for your loss and your pain.

  15. Not June Cleaver says

    What a difficult time for you! I’m sorry for your loss. The holidays should be joyous, and it sounds like they are for Jilly. 🙂

  16. mothergoosemouse says

    Oh. So sad. So sorry.

    But how brave of you to accompany the troop.

  17. My mom died at that same hospital. I couldn’t even drive near it without a lump in my chest. BUT, something happened. You had D, and I wanted to see you both and congratulate you. I also saw it as an opportunity to give myself a happy memory of that hospital. It worked. I still get all choked up at the thought of going there but I can also remember seeing you and D, and being so happy for you.

  18. Mrs. Chicken says

    Grief, as individual as it is, is also so universal. Our stories are interchangable.

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for making me feel less alone in mine.

    Blessings to you.

  19. I have walked in your shoes. They are not easy shoes to walk in either. I will say a prayer for you tonight.

  20. My dad died of pancreatic cancer in October of last year. Yesterday would have been his 63rd birthday.

    It’s amazing to me how memory works, how a smell, or sound, or a location can whisk us away to another time.

  21. This post made me cry. Thank you for sharing.


  22. I’m so sorry. It’s amazing how places/events/dates can take you right back. Hugs.

    I lost my father 2 months, 1 day after your’s. He was 53. And I was 6 weeks pregnant with my daughter. It was very quick and unexpected, but he had his fair share of physical ailments (M.S., diabetes, amputated leg). He lived in an adult foster care home where the average age had to have been at least 75. I drive by that place at least once a week since it’s only a couple of miles from my house (and by Target!). And I remember when he spent some time in a nursing home, I was pregnant with my 5 year old son and it made me so nauseated to go there.

    My daughter asked me about him the other day. And then she said “I wish he would come back.” We were snuggling in bed and the light was off and I started to cry as I tried to get out the words “I wish he would too.” She repeated it again “I wish he would come back, I wish I could see him” and she choked up and started to cry herself. My little 3 year old sweetheart.

  23. Dysd Housewife says

    FOM- you and I have SO much in common. It’s frightening. My mother died much the same, in a nursing home, 4 years ago. God bless you sweetie.

  24. i’m catching up on my blog reading, so apologies for me commenting a day late. this writing brought tears to my eyes, my friend. you and your family are dear in my heart, and i cant really add anything more. love you chica.

  25. susiehomemaker says


    I just came across your journal, comment hopping from someone elses. After I read this entry I just had to say something. Loosing my mother to cancer was the hardest thing i have ever experienced…

  26. Mother of Chaos says

    You are so very brave. That had to be incredibly difficult to get through.

    Thanks for sharing it. That can’t have been easy, either.

  27. Your words are so powerfully moving-thank you for sharing. Sending you our love and healing thoughts.
    Me-“Portuguese Biscoitos”

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