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My mother died and she's not gone-2012 (68)

November 28, Wednesday


In the early morning, my brother Ray knocked on my mother's door, just a hundred yards from his home in the countryside not far from Sewanee, Tennessee. When there was no answer, he assumed she was still asleep. Later about 10 am he checked again and found there was still no answer. He retrieved the extra house key from its hiding place in the stone wall at the back of the outside of the house and he let himself in.

Mama was dead

He found Mama dead, sleeping on the kitchen floor like she often did near the space heater. It was that November 4th that I had just finished my weekly yearly visit with my mother from China.


During that visit when I was driving us around, my mother expressed to me that she wanted to die. I told her that, if she needed help, I would do what I could. She did not reply to my offer. Even though I would be willing to risk breaking the law to help my mother, I was hoping it would not be necessary.

The estate

My brother was the executor of my mother’s estate. In her will, my mother did an amazing job of dividing the physical property, the land and dwellings, between the three of us. Her investment accounts with Charles Schwab were also divided evenly three ways.

My sister inherited the dwellings

My sister inherited two houses and two other farm-type houses with the land around them. In 2017 Tori, the daughter of my mother’s brother’s child Barbara (a cousin), who already owned a house on the general estate there, offered to buy the main house, the one my mother had been living in, from my sister.  She readily agreed, wanting to “keep it in the family.”

Returning to my mother's home

My sister and her husband Sven returned to my mother's house from their home in Brisbane, Australia to clear everything out so that Tori could take possession of the property. My brother had locked up the house immediately after my mother died and no one had entered it for almost five years.

Both Karen and especially Sven are meticulous in everything they do. After clearing out the house and returning to Australia, during one of our every-two-week telephone calls, Karen shared with me a detailed experience of their going through everything in my mother's home. They had to decide what to throw away, what to give away, what to put into storage, and what to take with them.

Replaying the last song my mother listened to before she died

Since Ray had locked the house immediately after my mother’s body was removed, everything that Karen and Sven saw was exactly as my mother left it the night she went to sleep and died. Karen described how they found a 78-RPM phonograph record lying out near my mother's record player, like it may have been the last record my mother had played. Sven and Karen played the song on the record entitled, “The Best I Know How” by the Statler Brothers. My mother loved country music. Here are the lyrics to that song:

“There are rumors goin' 'round about you and me

And you know things can't always stay the way they should be

What I'm trying to say as I kiss you right now

Is I've loved you the best I know how

I gave it all that I have to give and I can't take any more

What I'm trying to show you in the way that I hold you

Is I've loved you the best I know how

I can't make a promise and I won't tell you lies

I wish I could give you what I've seen in your eyes

Please don't feel badly 'cause I've got to leave now

But I've loved you the best I know how

I gave it all that I have to give and I can't take any more

What I'm trying to show you in the way that I hold you

Is I've loved you the best I know how

And Lord knows I miss you, I'd never forget you

And I've loved you the best I know how

I've always loved you the best I know how”

Sven remembers with me

In just asking Sven for help in remembering the details above, he wrote in his email to me, “I remember when we first played that track at the house and thought of Dorothy, we both felt it so deeply. We held each other as we listened. Very touching experience! I just listened to it again. Brought back all the memories of cleaning out the house and playing the songs on that album as we worked. Big tear-jerker for me.”

We think our mother helped herself die


In our call together, Karen and I both speculated that Mama took some medicines to hasten her death. As a nurse, she would have known how to accumulate the medicines and take them appropriately to assist in her death. She would have tried to do it in a way so that it would not be obvious that she had done so.

So happy for my mother

When I learned from Ray that Mama had died, I was happy and relieved. I knew that she wanted to die. I am glad she could do that so that she would no longer suffer.

Dead, but not gone

As I am writing this now I can feel her “looking down on me” with peace and happiness from wherever. She is dead but she’ll never be gone. "Thank you, Mama."  My mother was born on March 20, 1922.

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