Goodbye Momma…

I left momma begging me to save her.

I am a Christian who believes that I am supposed to be forgiving and understanding in all things. To believe that God has a purpose which I may not understand, but to have the faith to carry me through.

I could talk about understanding the ways of God. In believing that all trials we go through can be endured with Gods love.

My momma taught me these things through her words and deeds. She lived these beliefs through the example she lived in witness for others.

I am going to be selfish as I write this piece. I ask God that he knows my pain and despair. That he forgives me for what I did…. and didn’t do.

Overall, Mom was a very resiliant person. After all those years of raising kids, grandchildren, and church emergencies, not much phased her. She reminded me of the character “Grandma Walton” on the tv show The Waltons. She was kind and sweet, but could turn into a bulldog and take charge at the drop of a hat. She was the enforcer in our house when I was growing up. She was one of those go-to people who’d get things done.

Mom and I would talk by telephone regularly, usually in the evenings. Normally, the calls had no purpose other than to check in and say I love you.

Over time though, I began to notice a change in the calls. Mother began to tell me she was worried about things. Never anything specific, but worrying nonetheless. Eventually, it got to where she would call and tell me she was scared of noises or people. It was becoming apparent that Moms personality and disposition were changing.

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She was going from a confident person with a positive attitude to that of a very worried and paranoid person.

Eventually, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease. The doctor sent her to the hospital for evaluation.

Alzheimers Disease is a wretched affliction. It works its insidious purpose by subtly reaching into the mind of the person you love and stealing away their very essence. Their memories, thoughts, and personality, which helps make them a distinct individual are stolen from them……..Stolen from those who love them.

The last time I ever spoke with mom occurred in the lockdown psychological unit at the hospital in Leavenworth.

I went into the locked unit to visit Mom. I could tell that she didn’t know who I was. I asked her if she recognized me and she said yes, but couldn’t tell me my name. She looked very worried and upset. This was the first and only time I had ever seen my mom look like she was out of control.

We ended up going to her room because she wanted to tell me something, but didn’t want anyone to hear it. So we went to her room. She shut the door and looked out the window anxiously. She then turned to me and began telling me a long story about a group of people who were going to kidnap my little sister and one of my nieces. She said they were going to kill them. She was convinced that her story was reality. She was so very worried and stressed over this horrific situation.

She told me that the killers had arranged for her to be held in the locked unit. She got tears in her eyes and frantically asked me to get her out. I told her that I couldn’t get her out and that she was safe there. I told her the staff were there to help her. She wouldn’t believe me. The staff was working for the killers.

She couldn’t grasp what I was telling her because her delusion had become her reality. She then began to beg me to get her out. I kept telling her I couldn’t and that she needed to calm down. She’d be ok.

The person I loved the most in the whole world was begging me to save her. The person who had been a rock of dependability throughout my life was now in tears and begging me for help. The entire scene was surreal and beyond anything I had ever experienced.

She was falling into an abyss of darkness and screaming for me to throw her a rope, but there was no rope for me to throw her. I couldn’t save her. I felt less than worthless, if that is possible.

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Mom kept begging me to get her out. She got louder and more frantic. Finally, a nurse came in to see what all the noise was about. She also tried to calm Mom down, but Mom was obsessed with the killers that were going to kidnap my sister and niece. I told Mom I would protect them. I hoped this assurance would calm her down, but it didn’t help. Finally, the nurse suggested that I go and come back a different time when she was more calm.

I reluctantly agreed. Every bone in my body screamed to help her. I had never seen mom like this. It was very unnerving. She had lost her hold on reality. She didn’t even know who I was.

I had so many feelings at that point. I felt worthless and like I had somehow failed my mom. That created deep feelings of frustration at my inability to help her. I may have even felt anger. Anger at myself for not helping mom, but………..maybe anger at mom also.

I know it sounds horrendous to say or think, but I believe I was mad at mom……….She had left me. The momma I had cuddled with as a child, the person who always loved me at my worst times, the person whose approval and affirmation I desperately needed, had left. My greatest fear had come to pass. Momma had left me…………The person I was looking at wasn’t my momma.

I slowly turned and walked out of the room. Mom pulled away from the nurse and followed me down the hall. She continued begging me to get her out, to save her. I told her I couldn’t.

I then walked to the locked door and turned toward Mom again and simply said………….. “I Love You Momma”.

The heavy steel door closed behind me with a loud clank. It reminded me of a jail door.

I stood there in the hallway listening to Mom beat on the door and continue to beg me to save her. She continued beating on the door and begging for my help for several minutes.

I just stood there in front of the elevator door staring at the unit door and cried by myself. Momma was gone. I felt as though my own soul had been ripped away.

I saw the pictures on Facebook of family members visiting mom in the nursing facility. I know they thought I should visit her also. My sisters may have thought I was a terrible person for abandoning momma. For ignoring her when she was in the nursing home.

They may be correct….

I had been forced to leave momma beating on that locked door and begging me for help…….Help I wasn’t able to give her.

I was also angry. Angry at mom for leaving me. I know it wasn’t her fault or choice, but this person wasn’t my mother. Her personality, the essence that made her who she was, the part that made her my mom was gone. She wasn’t mom, but a shell. Many of us have those feelings of wanting mom to always be there and scared of the thought that she will leave us.

I couldn’t live with the guilt of leaving mom that day, begging for help. I also couldn’t process the anger I had at her leaving. Like a small child I felt the anger and fear of being left by my momma.

I didn’t have the ability to go to the nursing home and visit a person who looked like my mother, but wasn’t my mother. This was my method of self preservation…..My coping mechanism.

It was a learned behavior. Whenever we moved, dad didn’t believe in going back to the prior church or town. He felt it undermined the efforts of the new minister to build their relationship with the church and community.

The result was that when we moved………we were gone. It was like falling off the edge of the earth. You disappearred. For me it became a coping mechansim. I used it to deal with the pain and anger of separation.

…A couple years later I was notified that momma was in the hospital and not expected to live. Despite the anxiety and mixed emotions, I felt that I should be there at the time of her passing, so I went.

I walked into mom’s room and one of my sisters looked at me and said “I’m surprised to see you here, I thought you were allergic to hospital beds.”

For me, Momma had died behind that locked hospital door in Leavenworth. It may sound bad, but that was my way of coping.

As part of my job as an attorney I served many times as a guardian ad litem for persons with dimentia. My job was to visit the person in the medical facility and then report back to the court regarding the petition to appoint a guardian and conservator for them.

On one particular visit the gentleman followed me to the door of the hospital unit and begged me to save him. To let him go home. After the big wooden door closed behind me I could still hear him begging to go home. I was transported back to the memory of mom and that door in Leavenworth.

My greatest fear in life was being left and not being allowed to go home. As a child I dreaded mom and dad leaving.

As I slowly walked out of the hospital and back to my car, I began to cry. I was overcome with a complete sense of despair. To be honest I cried after most of those types of visits. The feeling of despair would return.

I love you Momma………..only God knows my heart and how it was torn apart that day. The day I watched that door close with you begging me for help. I pray that God will forgive me for “letting you go” at that door. I pray that someday I will see you again and ask you to forgive me for saying…….. “Goodbye Momma”.

Published by John Purvis

I was born and raised in Kansas as part of a family of 7 children. My father was a minister in the United Methodist Church for 50 years. We moved, consequently, every few years to a new church. Each new location became a new chapter in the journey. I have had the privilege of knowing so many different people from varying backgrounds. I wanted to share some of the stories and adventures I have had.

38 thoughts on “Goodbye Momma…

      1. Starting the blog has been a healthy way to release some of those things I pent up all these years. Thank you for your insights.

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  1. I just visited my mom this past weekend at her nursing home. She hasn’t been diagnosed with Alzheimers, but she’s definitely got dementia. I told my husband that I don’t like visiting her because it’s simply not My Mom, but at the same time, I don’t want to abandon her. I thought we had a pleasant visit until my sister called. She talked to mom on the phone after my visit. Mom told her that my other sister and husband drove up from Texas just to see her today, but in reality, it was me and my husband. Very hard, indeed. I can’t imagine what you went thru, sir.

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    1. It sounds like you are experiencing many of the same feelings I had. It looks like mom, but just isn’t her. I am glad that you are able to go see her, even though it must be heart-breaking. It really hits you hard when you realize they don’t know you. I appreciate you sharing your rough experience. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in facing these situations. Thank You, Dana.


  2. My father died last year from Alzheimers. My mother kept him home as long as she could but when he turned violent, she had to put him in a home. He lasted less than a month, there. Fortunately, my brother and I managed to get out there while he was still alive. He never forgot who we were; but, my mom was different. He’d only remember the young her sometimes…

    I lost him twice…

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You went through such a difficult time. Losing your father once would be hard enough, but twice is truly heartbreaking. That is why Alzheimer’s is so rough. I wish you and your family peace as you work through your loss.

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  3. The title said it all-this is going to be a two tissue read. And it was. It’s time we take that promised trip to the big limeade place, settle down with the animals, and share some remembrances. In the meantime, always remember this…the disease may have robbed mother of her memory but it never, ever, touched her heart and her soul. Of all the things that happened in the last three years of her life this is the one that absolutely proves that.. When mama got sick, Romelle gave her a red shawl that she had crocheted for the church Prayer Shawl Ministry. Mom loved it. Whether hanging on the front of her walker or folded up in her infamous blue & white purse, it was always with her. She loved showing it to people but it was always in her possession. One day in the nursing home another one of the ladies wasn’t feeling well. She was sitting in her chair with her head hanging down and not talking to anyone. We were chatting when mom suddenly stood up and shuffled across the room. Then my heart almost stopped when she picked up the red shawl, draped it across the other lady’s shoulders, gave her a pat, and said that will make you feel better. When she got back to her chair she said “I’ll get it back later but she really needs it now.” And that is a vision of our mother we need to cherish.

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  4. Oh John. I have been “out of it” emotionally for a bit, but just read this this morning. It is heartrending, and I feel your pain. I am so glad that I read it, for I am grieving for my mom too. I had a situation that I cannot forgive myself for, and you have made mevdeel I can write about it. I have been struggling so badly with her death that occurred November 16 last year. People expect you to be over it by now, but I am not, and it coloyrs every day of my life. I am so sorry John, that you went through this. I felt every word of it. Mine did not have Alzgeimers, though in her last couple of weeks on this earth she did display some steange signs. I pray that you will be able to forgive yoyrself John, and beat peace. I am syre your mom would forgive you. She would know deep inside her that itwasbthe deep love in your heart that made you do what you did. Bless you John, and thankyou for sharing this. It has helped me.

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    1. I am so sorry you lost your mom, Lorraine. Please know that you are not alone. Thank you for sharing your struggle. I hope it helps you as you work through your grief. John.


  5. My Momma knew who I was as long as I was there with her. The disconnect would happen after I left. Then she would call me and ask if I could tell her who the wonderful young lady was who visited her, with her daughter. I had to explain that it was me, and her granddaughter that had visited. There was a disconnect — my Mom would say, “but I know you!” But when we had gone she had forgotten who we were. My father was also an attorney and was guardian for several people that were in various institutions. I went along with him occasionally. It was a hard task. A much harder task if it is someone dear to you. You can only do, what you can do — and commend the rest to God. Thank you for writing. Ann

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. Knowing that you have gone through similar trials in life helps me to work through things. Thank you for your thoughtful words, Ann.

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  6. It is heartbreaking to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes visiting them is just too painful. Don’t blame yourself for loving so much that it made it impossible for you to be there. It wasn’t a matter of caring for her. She was where she needed to be. The care of these patients is changing and there are some medications to help these moments of severe distress. Don’t let others ideas about your behavior upset you. Each of us can only do what we are able.

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    1. Thank you so very much for your kind words and thoughts. It really helps to have your support. John


  7. Edith was a rock and I admired her. I have told the story many times of her giving me a winter coat when I did not have one. It was long and gold… very 60ish and for a high school kid in the 80s…. Totally out of fashion. I did not care. It was fabulous and I will only wear long coats today. If we could all do simple things to make someone’s life better… what a wonderful world it would be. Edith did that for me.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lana! She really was a rock. Your story is a wonderful example of how she cared. You are so kind to share your story! Thank you!! John.


    1. It is hard to talk about, but I think it is good to do. God is good. He’s helping us all to open those dreaded doors. Love you, Vonnie!


  8. John, my heart breaks for you and your Momma. Alzheimers is a cruel disease. I understand the anger. When my mother was so gravely and terminally ill, I wished for her to die and to end all of it for all of us. Then, when she did pass, I was angry at her for leaving me. It took years to work through that anger. I, too, hope for forgiveness for being a lost child and for wanting so bad to save my mom. It is a helplessly powerless feeling. May God bless you on your path to forgiveness. I have never believed God punishes us for being human.

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    1. Than you, Maggie. Your thoughts mean a great deal to me. This is the first time I’ve talked or written about my feelings. I haven’t even told my sisters. Your words of support mean a lot. Thank you!

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