Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Kathryn Klassen – Remembering My Mom

By on April 14, 2008

Kathryn Klassen
August 28, 1943 – April 14, 1998

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years. In late 1997, I had started a new job as the Head Librarian/Technology Director at a Bay Area high school. The dot com era was getting into full swing and my mom was dying of some unknown disease. How could this be, she was only 55 years old? It was difficult to grasp all that was happening because she and her partner had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico; someplace very far away. My new employer was extremely accommodating and I flew to Santa Fe often over a period of six months as my mom’s health deteriorated, spending many hours with her as her body gave way. Mom was a strong, determined, willful, loving, opinionated woman. She had created a life for herself and she was happy.

As I remember it (and others may remember differently), in the last month or two, she was trying to balance the desires of her family for her to stay alive and the pain she was experiencing due to her body. She was starting hospice care, who could provide pain management, and also on the liver transplant list. After an emergency call from the hospital, when a donor came forward, we drove to Albuquerque to start the surgery preparations and were soon let down when the family of the donor changed their mind and we were sent home. This was too much for my mom and she soon came to all us with a request. Can I remove my name from the transplant list? Of course, we all knew what this meant and it was a difficult request to hear. I love my mom and respect her decision. She was holding on for us and was asking permission to let go. It still hurts today to remember that day.

It wasn’t long, a few days, a week, I’m not sure. I was there, as were a couple other family members. In her house. Next to her bed. Holding her hand. The breathing was difficult. She breathed in. Her body softened. Relaxed. And no breath came out. So this is death? We stood with her and prayed. I don’t fear death because of this moment. There is a beauty there I cannot describe. My mom died with the blessing of her family, with the time to say goodbye, and with her relationship with me pure and clean.

She is alive, and her life continues in me today, as it does in yours now. Two years later, in 2000, I watched our son take his first breath. Another beautiful moment. Perhaps it is connected to that last breath of my mom. I understand the idea of no birth, not death. I miss my mom and remember her on this day. Ten years is not so long ago. I love you mom.