May 25th

Springtime is the Right Time

Today is May 25th. Every year for as long as she lived, my mom marked this date on the calendar as her death date.

Nothing, not anyone, intercepted her schedule and agenda, her oxygen sources. A total control freak, it was as if she grasped a snow globe world in her hands. Whenever she shook it, a blizzard erupted. Additionally, her ultimate weapons of control were superstition and religion.

In Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s short story, So What’s Your Name, Sandra? when the author describes Mama Sandra’s sense of control, he conjures up my mother’s exact image. He writes, “Suddenly she gasped—the realization hitting her that she’d forgotten to pray before her plane had taken off. If they had exploded in mid-air, thought Mama Sandra in horror, if hundreds of someones’ someones had died that day, it would have been all her fault.”

My mom created a cause-and-effect world and whether something good or bad happened, there was always a hard and fast reason. Some of her legacy she passed on to me. Long after my mom’s death, I still avoid stepping on a sidewalk’s cracks .…“Step on the crack, break your mother’s back” .… What daughter in her right mind would willingly do that to her mom, alive or dead?

Most of my mom’s control issues stemmed from being a World War II survivor. She placed her full faith into a built-in life script. Editing it was an impossible task.

One of my mom’s many idiosyncrasies was her desire to die in the month of May. May 25th to be exact. She longed to share the death date with her father, my grandfather. Though he had died long before I was born, my mom insisted that God loved him so much that apparently when he died, he was gifted with the nicest, sunniest day of the year. The sky was as clear as a wavelength of light from a prism, and you could see for miles without having to squint. My mom also said that my grandfather was a well-loved man in the community and hundreds of people attended his funeral and celebrated his life. That said, in her eyes, a May 25th death was not sad or solemn but happy. Plus, perhaps it was also part of the Byelorussian culture she was raised in, but my mom prayed for her specific death date as if she were praying for a future, festive wedding celebration. Year after year, she kneeled in front of her Jesus and Mother Mary statues in her bedroom and, along with her death date prayer request, she also prayed for a peaceful death in her own bed at home. At the very least, if the 25th was inconvenient, she implored God, to grant her a springtime death date.

I had faith that if there existed a compassionate God, he would grant my mother’s wish. Of course, God, my Christian friends remind me, is NOT a magical genie.

When the day arrived, a little more than two months after she celebrated her 90th birthday, instead of May 25th or during springtime, my mother died on December 29th in 2015 on a dark frigid winter’s day. My daughter and I were in another state, about two hours away, when we heard the news and could not immediately return home, because we were trapped in an ice storm. Additionally, my mom did not die, per her request, at home and in her bed. My mom died in a nursing facility, because she had suffered a stroke and required medical support. So, all her years of prayers amounted to nothing.

There’s a silver lining to this story though. First, my mother actually did die as she wanted, peacefully. Second, shortly before she died, I asked her, while she laid in the hospital bed, where she thought she was.

“Home,” she replied.

After her response, I remember that all that came to me was how God was just. If my mom realized the raw reality of the situation and that she would not die in her bed at home as she had always prayed, she would have been devastated. Obviously, too, she was not aware of the season at the time, so that fact also seemed just, but here’s the clincher. The first spring after her death, I found beautiful photos of my mom shot about a year prior on our back deck. There was no special occasion, but our dear family friend, Anne, was visiting from New Mexico, and we held an impromptu gathering. Although my daughter was away working as a camp counselor in upstate New York, my son attended and other family members and close friends. At the gathering, laughter filled the air, and it was the kind of gathering where you might forget eating and drinking altogether because of the abundance of delicious conversation. The sun was aglow, cupped inside a cloudless sky. You could see for miles without a telescope. Out of a lifetime of gatherings, it hit the top ten list.

Anyway, as I examined the pictures, I spotted the date: MAY 25th. In retrospect, I realize IT WAS the last time my mom was alive, at least in the way we knew her. It was the last time she was one hundred percent lucid and pain-free and, in fact, resonated with youth and life. After that day, she took a turn and, in almost every sense of the word, she died. In my mind, I always reflect on that date as symbolizing her last good day on earth until she gave into her symbolized death that night of May 25th. In addition, I see that wondrous May 25th day as the best “Goodbye Party” I’ve ever attended. I couldn’t have prayed for a better outcome.

I, of all people, know that as much as we would like to think we are in control of our destinies, we are utterly powerless. It’s a consequence of being human. But I also know that when things whirl out of control, I need to place my two feet into a composite of faith, trust, hope. At the moment, however, as I carry my griefcase, I only have quicksand to trudge in. Interestingly, I read that you can only sink as far as your waist into quicksand unless you dive head first or face first. Given this information, I keep my faith and allow myself to sink without drowning. Head up, I can’t miss the spring air, and I soak up the warmth and, without orchestrating a thing, allow the process of the natural healing powers to amaze me, especially in the darkest of days that feel like they are buried in a non-breathable acrylic shroud.

Faith Muscle

25 thoughts on “May 25th

  1. What a powerful post, Stacy! Such unbelievable occurrences that all make perfect sense – there are no coincidences, I believe.
    I’m really glad your mom had a peaceful death. For both my parents, it wasn’t peaceful and it still haunts me.
    In 2012, my father was suffering terribly with constant urinary tract infections. Shortly before his May 21st birthday, I asked him what he might like for his birthday. He replied that he wished he were dead. I felt sad, but I understood. When his birthday arrived, I received a call from the nursing home – they could not wake him up. He was in a coma and for five days I listened to his “death rattle” and watched him suffer it was awful.
    He died on May 25th.

    • That’s so sad about your dad. You have been through so much, Judy, and it has left you so utterly remarkable! BTW, I cannot believe your dad died on May 25th! Wow! What a coincidence. Crazy!

      • Another one of those head-scratching coincidences! Thanks, Stacy. It actually touched me today to read about your mom and share that date with you. 💕

  2. Griefcase – interesting word. I liked the conclusion where you shared the reality of human powerlessness but at the same time the strength people possess to allow themselves to sink only to the waist. My doctor told me today I am happier now I am off dialysis, and I advised her I didn’t realize it affected my personality. She said it did, but that was human of me and normal. I admit the days do seem sunnier now and while I handled it the best I could, it would perverse to think that those trying times did not affect my outlook.

  3. The discovery of May 25 as her last lucid day was stunning

    Also loved this line Stacy ❤️

    The sky was as clear as a wavelength of light from a prism

  4. Stacy, I got goose bumps when I read that the last day your mum was fully human & fully alive was on May 25.How old was she? I also would like to die in my sleep either on May 16 .my son’s death day or Dec 13 my husband’s . One’s faith & belief give immense power to the mind.I feel your mum’s & my prayer to the divine is legitimate & is in alignment with cosmic will !So it happened for mum and have more hope now, after reading your post, it will happen to me as well..

    • Thanks so much for reading the post and pointing out that I forgot to say how old my mom was when she died! She turned the big 90 that year! In addition, I am so sorry to hear about your son and husband, and my heart goes out to you. Please don’t ever give up hope. And if you do feel hopeless, find someone that you can lean on — someone who can provide a “hope anchor!” Do everything in your power to believe. Keep the faith. If you can’t, fake it until you make it! Everything will work out for you in a way that is meant to be. You will see! 🤍🤍

  5. Stacy I am full of faith and hope. My pain has not gone in vain. I lead a meaningful & peaceful life , assisting people in the event of a death of a loved one. My desire to exit this world peacefully is a universal one. Only I specified the date for it!

    • What a wonderful way to live and you help so many! And, you are certainly an inspiration to me! Thank you! PS: and it’s interesting my mom wasn’t the only one with a specific exit date! 🤍🤍

  6. Your story certainly affirms that God’s ways are unsearchable and his ways past tracing out (Romans 11:33 ERV). How wonderful that your mom lived to be 90 years old and enjoyed many good days up till then, lucid and pain-free. Her misunderstanding that the hospital room was home seems a gift from God to ease her anxiety as he prepared to take her home.

  7. Thank you for sharing your gift to see the blessings amidst the disappointments and challenges. We might not get exactly what we want, but we get what we need, and then some.

  8. I saw my father go skeletal in two weeks, devoured by lung cancer, which the doctors didn’t see and treated as back pain. My father died after two weeks of excruciating pain and morphine to keep him from suffering too much. My father was always a good person to everyone, honest and kind and he didn’t deserve to suffer. He was religious and went to churches every Sunday with my mother. I can’t believe in any God because he doesn’t do right things. I am happy for your mother and she was lucky. My father died at 65 and couldn’t even enjoy his grandchildren.

  9. Wow, this is such a powerful story to read (quite early in the morning, for me ☺️). It is so interesting to read that one would choose a date for your own death (and, from the comments, it seems it’s not just your mom that did that). Thank you for sharing this journey … in the end (and you’ve mentioned them), there are those three words I often turn to: faith, trust and hope 💌.
    Oh, and by the way … now that I’m thinking about it … the month of May has it’s ups and downs for us as well. My father was born in May, but he also died in May. And my husband and I got married in May and just celebrated our 25th anniversary (though, it wasn’t on the 25th of May).

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