The Day my Mother Died
This is the eulogy I shared for my mother, Ann-Marie Asmann, who passed away three weeks after I turned 50. Her illness was sudden and her death unexpected. Writing offers the power of immortality, and I share this here in the hope of adding permanence to her lovely, storied, too-short existence.
I miss you, Mom.
Eulogy for my Mom
December 2, 1953 -- July 25, 2023
Something I forgot to add in my mother’s obituary was that she was known as the “Woman of Stories.” And so I thought it fitting that my eulogy be a story. Her last story.
Mom’s illness was sudden and unexpected. So unexpected that when she became ill, my sister Caryn was in Aruba on a family vacation.
Mom declined quickly, and when we knew nothing more could be done, we had one hope: that she would hold on until Caryn could make it home.
On Monday night we started hospice care. I put the phone up to my mom’s ear. Caryn told her she was coming. The last word my mom uttered was “Caryn.” She looked me in the eyes and I knew she understood. I said, “yes, Caryn. Caryn is coming. Just hold on for one day.”
Twenty-four hours later, my husband Sid and I were sitting at her bedside. There were no more beeping machines; just the sound of her breathing. Which at around 9:30 pm, I noticed was starting to slow down.
Caryn’s flight had landed. She was in the car. Her ETA was 10:40.
And I said, “Mom, you’ve fought this long. Just one more hour.”
I told Sid to turn up the lights. And then, I turned on the music. I had been working on a playlist for her funeral – she told me she wanted music, and for it to be a celebration.
I started playing songs, and singing along. It was hospice karaoke, and I was a daughter, and a sister, on a mission.
Now, the songs in this playlist are all songs I’ve listened to my entire life. But I never focused on the lyrics. Until that night. In the random shuffle came up these songs:
Sade’s Smooth Operator, with “Your love is king. Crown you in my heart. Your love is king. Never need to part.”
If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher, which read like an apology and a confession and brought me to tears as I sang it to her.
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I'd take back those words that have hurt you
And you'd stay
I kept singing and singing, increasingly convinced that she was choosing the playlist.
Blackbird by the Beatles.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Each time her breath slowed, I did a time check. Thirty minutes, Mom. 20 minutes. Eight minutes. Breathe! And each time, she did. A deep breath that I know summoned all of her energy. All of her sisu, that fierce determination that was passed on from her Finnish ancestors.
And all of her mother love.
At 10:40, Caryn and her husband, Frank, arrived. At 11:30, as we stood around her bedside debating who would spend the night with her, she took her last breath. We like to think she did not want to inconvenience anyone anymore with another night in the hospital.
My mother would often tell me that she wished she were stronger. And I’d tell her – you are so much stronger than you know.
That last night, that last hour, proved it. She was so strong. And in the end, she used all of that strength to show her daughter how much she loved her.
I’ll end this with lyrics to one of her favorite songs, which she wanted played at her funeral. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynrd
If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see
But, if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn't be the same
'Cause, I'm as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change.