The death of my mother

Posted by on March 29, 2012


This post is of a very personal nature I’m still processing, so please forgive me if it rambles a little…

A short while ago, I was at the wake for my mother, Diana Mary Carsten. She died early in the year. On a Tuesday night, I drank wine at the local Odd-fellows hall in Corvallis, Oregon while listening to her husband and many activists in say how lucky they were to have her in their life. My brother was there and said something banal about how she believed in mind over matter. I didn’t speak. In an environment where you’re supposed to say positive things, I didn’t want to say anything when my feelings were so mixed.

She was a fighter. I heard this over and over again from representatives from all her causes. She was a great advocate and board member for social movements: the League of Woman Voters, the Odd-fellows, the Oregon Green Party, a court advocate, the local symphony, her Christian Science church, and the Peace Vigil. She loved hiking in nature and would travel around the world. When she felt something was wrong, she would fight and not back down, stubborn as hell. You were glad to have her on your side. One young mother might have ended up on the street if not for her.

It was surreal being there. The woman who influenced my life by far the most of anyone was talked about, and it was all about the last 10 years of her life. There was nothing about her family or earlier years. Her second husband, my step dad, had his family there, a group of Mormons. I had never felt any connection to them and they showed no warmth to my emotions or lack of desire at the time to engage in social niceties. When commanded by my step dad’s mom to arrange pictures before the ceremony, I didn’t feel like explaining and quietly walked off and stood on her porch and let my tears come. My brother was the only family there, and by family I only mean in the biological sense; with his Asperger’s syndrome, it’s impossible to hold a conversation with him. He won’t look me in the eye or volunteer anything. He spent the evening staring into space only talking briefly when responded to. When I talked and hinted of what was going on, he simply didn’t respond. At any sign of emotion he freezes and stops talking.

I’m grateful that my girlfriend Aleksandra came down with me.


Neither me nor my brother had seen (or talked, for all I know) with my mother in years. Too many bridges burned, trusts betrayed. I still wished her happiness in that time. Just not at my expense.

Hearing all those stories about what a fighter she was brought it close to home. She was a fighter. Perhaps that’s why she found her home in American politics rather than in Canada. She was a fighter through and through. It was how she approached life.

The thing is, sometimes in a family you have to know how not to fight. To just breathe. To listen. To bring warmth and gentleness. To show that no matter what happens, the connection is there. No one spoke any words of that side of her. I tried to remember some of it at the wake and couldn’t.

My memories of my mother were radically different from the others that were voiced. Aside from my brother, no one had met her in the 70s or 80s. Back then, she didn’t have any causes to fight for. She was a single mother with few friends and very little emotional support. She fought for herself, worked hard, and found solace in her children. I was for many years her only support, her confidant, her comforter. It just got too much way too quickly.

In Oregon, she had an incredibly beautiful house on the hillside. I love that house. There were always the sounds of birds, from starlings to hummingbirds, and deer walking by regularly. You could see a pair of mountains called the Sisters in the far distance with caps of snow, bringing a sense of the seemingly unattainable within sight. The house was open aired and spacious and it was at least 200 feet to the nearest other home.

On that Tuesday, I stood on the porch looking at the landscape and hearing the birds swirl around me for an hour or two. I couldn’t always tell what I was thinking or feeling; it was a maelstrom of many emotions and thoughts, bursting free from wherever I’d put them away.

How numb I’d forced myself to be around her. How I’d watched what I said, what emotions I showed on my face, how I moved, all to try to avoid that fighter. Over the years after I had moved out, my body started speaking out and I started listening. I did not want to be touched by her. There was no feeling of safety or comfort near her, no matter how much I thought there ‘should’ be. She’s my mother, after all!

This hit home a couple years ago when I was standing alone with her in the ICU unit of a hospital, watching her helpless body and blank eyes cope with 3 major bleeds in her brain. In a strange way it was only then that I felt safe enough, in a peculiar way, to realize how terrified of her I truly was. How broken and beaten I felt regarding her.

My mother was truly a fighter to the end. And that was her response to everything. I was her son and she took my state incredibly personally. I was her blood. If I felt hurt, she couldn’t take it. It hurt her too much. If there was any possibility that she might have caused the hurt, she simply couldn’t take it. She would fight for my healing, for me forgiving, for me feeling better. She longed for the days of a 5 year old child saying “you’re the best mummy in the world” with eyes that saw nothing that could be wrong. She wanted to be perfect, to be seen as a good, loving human being. And so she would fight for it. She would fight for me to be happy, for me to be warm. She would fight for me to trust her. She would fight for me to support her, because that’s what children should do to good mothers out of gratitude. She would fight with everything she had, with her MA in Counselling Psychology knowledge, with pleas, with threats, with sudden withdrawals, with all her relentlessness and stubbornness – with everything that served her so well as an activist in her later years. In the end I gave in, telling her what she wanted, touching her how she wanted, and trying to feel what she wanted me too. It was the only seeming way to get the battles to end. But there was a price for me always controlling myself – trauma. Body issues began to appear over the years. Sleep disorders. Anxiety. Debilitating back pain. Dizziness. Chronic Fatigue. All of which can get into the nice term of “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or C-PTSD.

But in my visit, in that space of beauty that was her house, I felt for a moment what I must have felt as a child. Cared for. Safe. Surrounded by beauty. I remember feeling that as a very young child, and I did feel it around my mother before things went sour and into a negative feedback loop. And I knew it was me feeling it, not just because it was what I was supposed to feel because she was my mother. I cried and cried. The truth is, I loved that house. I loved being in that house – so long as my mother wasn’t there. I could feel her presence still – but for 30 years I haven’t felt safe or relaxed with her near. Of course there’s love there. It felt so good to feel some of that love without feeling that sensation of no man’s land, a war zone of impending attack.

A week later in a strange way, standing alone by a rushing river, I talked to my mom. I actually felt that wherever she is, she is sorry. That was a word I never heard from her. She would rather fight than say sorry. But this time I felt it. I never wanted to hear “I’m a bad mother” from her. I wanted to hear it wasn’t my fault, which was what I heard over and over. I wanted to hear that she cared enough to listen to my hurt without trying to fight or change me, to just listen. That’s such an important part of love.

I’m still processing that she’s gone. What does it mean? How will all the defense I built up react when ther person they were created for is gone? But maybe things are moving. For years I didn’t remember any good feelings in my body, and now I can, like waking from a bad dream. As my previous post stated, I’m more committed now to just being where I am, letting go as best I can and taking the next breath. Pretending to have more answers than that just hasn’t served me.



Filed Under: love

Comments (2)


  1. Nieves says:

    I lost my Mum in Sept 2011, and I found that, although I am probably much older than you are, and I am a grandmother myself, the effect of losing my Mother was devastating. This I really had not expected at my age, as we did have a rather uneasy relationsip, due to her problems of not being able to express emotions and feelings. But little by little everything is settling into their place again, and in the RIGHT place, at long last. Go with the flow, let all the emotions out and let yourself heal without forcing it. This is the most major loss we will ever have in our life, as your Mother is the basis of everything you have learnt, but from this stage the only way is forward. Good luck.

    • Seeing as we hadn't talked in close to 2 years (she was in a nursing home for most of that and not all there) it wasn't her presence that I missed.  It was more realizations that things aren't going to get better with her gone magically.  More of an acknowledgement of inner truths and pain.  Will it get better?  Well, things change.  Nothing stays the same.  Depends what choices I make.

Leave a Reply

electronic cigar humidifier
cohiba cigar ashtrays
cigar sampler with humidor
thompsons cigar auction
antique cigar ashtrays
mild cigar brands
cigar smoking accessories
best cuban cigars
cigar ashtrays
top rated cigars
discount premium cigars
vintage cigar boxes
famous cigar smokers
cuban cigars
cigar humidor humidifiers
cigar lighters
cuban rounds cigars
engraved cigar cutters
cigar daily deals
cigarette shop online
famous smoke shop
thompson s cigars
cigars online shopping
leather cigar cases
cigar cases engraved
cheap cigar humidor
travel cigar cases
discount cigars online
best cigar brands
buy cuban cigars
cigar ashtrays cheap
best cigar lighters
ashton cabinet cigars
famous smoke shop promo code
cigar humidor humidifier
jr cigars coupons
glass cigar tubes
cigars lighters
cigar of the month club
cuban cigar reviews
cigars humidifier
cheap cigar humidors
engraved cigar cases
smoking cigars
cigar room humidifier
ashton cigars
cigar cabinets
cigar tubes wholesale
best cigar lighters review
personalized cigar humidor
cheap cigars online
ashton churchill cigars
cigar auction
cigars thompson
cigar humidor combos
best cigar humidifiers
cigar deal
cigar and humidor deals
humidor cigar combo
best cigars online
tobacco store online
cigar cabinet
engraved cigar humidor
online cigar shops
cigar club of the month
cheap cigar samplers
best mild cigars
leather cigar holder
cigars auction
padron cigars
discounted cigars
best online cigar store reviews
acid cigar sampler
famous cigar shop
electric cigar humidifier
cigar sampler
cheap cigar tubes
wood cigar boxes
cigar gift boxes
premium cigar sampler
dominican cigar brands
aluminum cigar tubes
free shipping cigars
cigar online store
cigar sampler deals
discount cigar humidors
stinky cigar ashtray
humidifier cigar
cigars brands
personalized cigar boxes
free cigar samplers
cigar humidor cabinets
best padron cigar
cigar of the month clubs
discount cigars free shipping
crystal cigar ashtrays
good cigar brands
1001 cuban cigars
cigar tubes aluminum
cigar sampler packs
discount cigar
cuban cigar brands
plastic cigar tubes
cigar brands
cigar daily deal
commercial cigar humidifier
great cigar deals
cigar savor tube
online cigars stores
commercial cigar humidifiers
the famous smoke shop
cigar shop online
cigars deals
buy cigar boxes
vintage cigar ashtrays
cigars discount
cigar online stores
famous smoke shop promotional code
padron 1926 cigars
collectible cigar boxes
cigar humidor cabinet
cuban cigar boxes
cigar humidifier reviews
famous smoke shop reviews
best cigars to smoke
glass cigar ashtray
daily cigar deal
cigars online free shipping
online cigar shop
cigar humidifier
famous cigar auction
cigars free shipping
personalized cigar cases
thompsons cigars online
cigar ashtray stand
best cigar samplers
best online cigar shop
cheap cigar boxes
best cigar sampler deal
cigar holders
cigar auction sites
cigar smoke shop
thompsons cigar
cigar brands and ratings
cigar smoking jacket
discount cigar lighters
best cigar humidifier
padron cigars online
authentic cuban cigars
personalized cigar humidors
cheap cigar brands
cigar discounts
thompson s cigar
cigar tubes plastic
cigar free shipping
cigar tube
cigar tubes
cigar humidors cabinets
padron cigar
cigar cases
cigar combos
best cigars brands
cigar lighter ratings
discount cigar samplers
cheap cigar lighters
cheap cigar ashtrays
cigar auctions online
aluminum cigar tube
online cigar auctions
cigar humidor deals
best online cigars
cigar coupons
daily cigar deals
brands of cigars
cigar auctions
personalized cigar accessories
cigar stores online
best online cigar
cigar cabinet humidors
cigar accessories
cigar lighter reviews
cigars cheap
cheap cigar accessories
cigars cuban
habanos cuban cigars
cheap cigars
jr cigars coupon
cigar discount
cigar store online
deals on cigars
boxes of cigars
cigar smoking
cabinet cigar humidor
ashton vsg cigars
cigar humidifiers
lotus cigar lighters
custom cigar boxes
famous cigars
cigar sampler specials
personalized cigar lighters
cigar cases leather
cigar combo
cigars cases
best cigar deals
cigar humidor combo
cigar international coupon
discount cuban cigars
cigar travel cases
best cigar lighter
cigars of habanos
cuban cigar
cigar samplers
empty cigar boxes
online cigar store
cigars samplers
online cigar stores
engraved cigar lighters
antique cigar boxes
cuban cigar humidor
ashtrays for cigars
cigar gift set
discount humidors
personalized cigar gifts
cigar holder tip
good cheap cigars
cigar month club
cigars ashtrays
humidifier for cigars
cigar websites
thompsons cigar tampa
best cigar deals online
best cigar humidor brands
top cigar brands
little cigars brands
cigar shops online
cuban cigars online
best cheap cigars
cigar auctioneer
best online cigar stores
humidifiers for cigars
cigar holder
cool cigar ashtrays
cheap cigars online free shipping
cigar cabinet humidor
discount cigars
cigars boxes
monthly cigar club
cigar thompson
cigar boxes
personalized cigars
cuban cigar prices
cigar ashtray
cigar auction websites
ashtray cigar
cigar international deals
best cigar of the month club
humidor cigar combos
cigar lighter
engraved cigar cutter
famous cuban cigars
cheap cuban cigars
ashton cigar
single cigar holder coupon
cigar gift
maduro cigar
best deals on cigars
cigar deals
cigar online shop
what are the best cigars to smoke
cigars holders
best online cigar store
cigars shops online
thompsons cigars
custom cigar lighters
cigar of month club
famous cigar