The Last Run of My Mother’s Life

The Last Run of My Mother’s Life

This blog is supposed to be about running. It is not supposed to be about the death of my mother. But ever since I began writing on here, I knew this day would come.

I moved from L.A. to Long Island last December because my mother had been diagnosed with cancer a week before Thanksgiving and we were told she wouldn’t be able to drive for two, maybe three, months while she was undergoing treatment. So I thought I would move in with her and do her errands for a little while.

Little did we know at the time that this would be the beginning of a 359-day excruciatingly slow decline, culminating in her death at home yesterday morning, mere seconds before I was to head out the door to catch the 8:11 train into the city.

I knew she was bad – only a day earlier, we were told she had to stop eating solid food. Her breathing was loud and labored. I regret not being immediately at her side as she took her last breath. Instead, I was rushing to get to work on time. I’m not even sure I was planning on saying goodbye. She’d been so out of it lately anyway. I don’t think she would have noticed.

As I ran my 4.3 miles that morning along roads my mother and I had driven down countless times in our lives, past the street we lived on when I was in high school, past the street her father lived on for decades before his own death in 2011, I wasn’t thinking that today would be her last day. I knew it would be soon. But I never thought “It will be today.” I never thought that. It was always “Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.” But never today.

After my run I took some dumb pictures in her backyard of my feet for my running pic. I also captured some red leaves because they were pretty, even though they were dying.

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She stopped breathing about half an hour later. Her caretaker – a wonderful woman named Gloria who had been with us for the past couple of months – called my name and I knew. I knew. I’m glad I was there in the house. She wanted to die in her house. That was important to her. I also thought it was pretty good timing on her part: after my run and before I left for work. Good thinking, Mom.

I bought those shoes with a gift card she had given me for my birthday, by the way. She knew how much I loved running so she got me a gift card to the local Super Runners Shop. When she handed me the envelope in June – her handwriting already shaky from weakness – I remember thinking, “This is the last birthday present she will ever give me.” And of course, I was right.

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