My Mother’s Death: An Irrational Joy


My mother died on Thanksgiving Day and I have never felt more joy in my life. Am I mad or merely cold-hearted?


I was raised believing in Me and Mom and Dad. And that was pretty much it. God wasn’t in the picture. Or rather, he was but I didn’t know it.

My parents were children of the Great Depression, and as a result grew up devoted to Security. Money was good because it bought Things. Things were good because they bought Security. And Security was good because it bought Happiness.

And for a long time that seemed to do it for them. I grew up watching Dad make money, which he was brilliant at, and Mom make crafts, which she was brilliant at. She loved beautifying her surroundings.

But after my father died at age 45 and my mother disintegrated into grief, I lost whatever was left of my belief in the Things>Security>Happiness Principal. My atheism, which had been wobbling anyway, collapsed and I began to turn toward God. In fact, I turned into a full-blown Jesus Person.

That didn’t sit well with Mom: “That’s fine, honey, just don’t get too into it.”

“Mom, Jesus said he was ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’ You can’t be ‘too into’ the way, the truth, and the life!”

Mom eventually married Bud who was nearly as ambitious as my dad, and he helped restore her faith in the Things>Security>Happiness Principal.

But then, in the fall of 1999, she had a series of strokes. These left her mentally cloudy, shaky on her feet, and unable to pursue her projects. So she took to sitting and watching the news.

She began to look at the world differently. Our phone conversations, which had always been filled with reports of her little projects, now turned to diatribes against the cruelty and injustice of the world: “There’s so much suffering, so much wrong!”

For years I’d ended our conversations with, “I’m praying for you, Mom,” and she’d always replied, “I’m praying for you too.” Then I’d ask, “Really?” And she would answer, “Oh, you know, I mean I’m holding up a good thought for you.”

But one day, she said, “I’m praying for you” in a deliberate, I-mean-this sort of way. “Really?” I asked. And this time she replied, “Yes. Really. Oh, honey,” she continued, “the world is so broken–I never realized just how broken–and there’s nothing I can do about it. So I pray. All the time.”

Two days later, Bud called from a hospital in Hemet, California. He sounded shell-shocked. “Your mother’s heart…she’s not going to be leaving this place,” he whispered, refusing to confirm the truth with a full voice.

The moment I saw her, I knew he was right. Pale and struggling for every breath, her heart pulsing more like a memory than a reality, she smiled and whispered, “Still praying.”

“To God?” I asked, as if repeating an old punchline.


She slept fitfully throughout the night. Bud and I did the same in two tired vinyl hospital chairs.

Mom faded in and out of consciousness all the next day, unable to offer more than yeses or nos. I talked about our life together, about her love for Dad and for Bud, about tennis and origami, about all the Christmases we’d spent together.

The doctor told us that in order to make her more comfortable they would need to up her medication; she no longer able to communicate. It was code for, “Say your good-byes.”

Bud sat by her for a long time, unable to speak. Then I took her hand, smiled and said, “You can’t have too much of the way, the truth, and the life, can you?” She did a little choking laugh, squeezed my hand, and shook her head no.

She was fighting for every breath, yet her eyes were glowing. I suddenly realized that in the race toward God, she’d run far ahead of me.

“I love you forever, Mom,” I told her. Tears slipped from her swollen eyes as she squeezed my hand one final time.

Dolores TMy mother died in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day. God, in his wonderful, inexplicable economy, had used everything—her strokes, her heart failure, the evening news—to speak to her, to strip away all that had kept his precious daughter from him for so many years.

And that was why, just after sunrise on Thanksgiving Day, 1999, I drove home to be with my family,

Filled with irrational joy.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to My Mother’s Death: An Irrational Joy

  1. barbara says:


    Liked by 3 people

  2. mitchteemley says:

    Thank you and bless you for saying so, Barbara.


  3. Kathleen McCormick says:

    This is truly a moving testament to your mother. Thanks so much for giving us a view of a very personal experience. It is an beautiful thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Mitch! What a testimony to a son’s love and the power of prayer!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Such a great post, Mitch, thank you for sharing this personal story.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Today you liked my about me page. Last night at 11:15 pm my mother died. Her story was very similar to the one about your mom. Thanks for allowing God to speak to me through your words. The timing is really a God thing.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. aunnielauren says:

    This is really beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. mitchteemley says:

    Thank you, Annie!


  9. She sounds like a lovely woman Mitch. What a blessing to know you will see her again.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. With this charming humor-filled twinkle in your eye, you keep slipping in sucker-punches to my emotional gut.

    Bless you. It’s good to be here.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Phyllis says:

    What a wonderfully styled tribute to your beautiful mom – thanks for slowing our thoughts to remember what blessings we have.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Mom, I Always Knew You Loved Me | Mitch Teemley

  13. Sherry Nostrant says:

    Thanks, cuz, for sharing those loving memories of your mom. I never knew the details of her death. I remember her as being beautiful and full of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    Love: Pass it on.


  15. What a great story! My mom also passed away during this week, seven years ago. I understand the feeling of being joyful even in times of sorrow. God bless you and happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Tears came to my eyes as you described those last moments with your mother. And yet I was smiling because she glowed with the confidence of one who would soon be with Jesus. Thank you, Mitch, for a heart-touching story that affirms our faith in Jesus and his gift of eternal life!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Erika Kind says:

    That moved me deeply, Mitch! I totally understand your feelings. I think I would have seen it exactly the same way! What a blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for sharing this. Even though, you made me cry instead of laugh but still, you encouraged my hope. God bless.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. nanciec13 says:

    beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Excellent post. I am also in the position of now being without both parents (Dad unexpectedly at age 50 and Mom two years ago at age 84), so this resonated. It’s odd yet incredibly hopeful having that much air clear over your head. My brothers and I and our wives are the new patriarchs and matriarchs of our extended family. Like you, we share in that eternal hope. Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. edebock says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Lucie says:

    Very emotional piece, Mitch…..what a beautiful woman….thanks for sharing such an intimate piece with us…..<3

    Liked by 2 people

  23. It was very moving Mitch. Your mother is in a better place now, I truly believe that. When my grandmother passed away……it felt that she is finally at peace….. and we didn’t have to see her suffering any more, god called her to him to give her all the happiness.
    Thank you for sharing the love between you and your mother, it was very powerful and beautiful to read.

    Liked by 2 people

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  25. Pingback: I Always Knew You Loved Me, Mom | Mitch Teemley

  26. Lisa Coleman says:

    I read this after I commented on your most recent post about your dad, not realizing your mom had passed as well. I guess this is something we had in common as I said before, my mom had a major stroke. She suffered from dementia as well. She had also had several strokes & a couple of heart attacks prior. Cigarettes were her enemy & could never break out of those smoking chains nor did she really want to. Still saying prayers for you and your mom and your dad. Thanks for sharing your stories!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m so thankful I read this. Thank you for sharing your very personal and touching story. Some of our most profound memories of our parents are the last ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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