My Corner, Your Corner: Finding peace at the end of the journey

My Corner, Your Corner - Tony Callaio | April 8th, 2016 2:42 pm

It’s over — the end of an era. Life, once again, will change.

My mother passed away quietly, peacefully in the early afternoon on Saturday, April 2, just two days shy of the anniversary of my father’s death 20 years ago.

As I heard from a few people, it’s not easy to die, and they were correct. My mother was in hospice for 10 agonizing days as her body laid still, she unconscious, not being able to utter a single word. Oh how I wanted her to wake up just once to tell me everything is going to be OK and that this was the way it had to be.

As her power of attorney, I had a tough decision to make, and it weighed heavily on me. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was making decisions with a clear mind or if emotions were involved.

My siblings didn’t agree with me, which made it even harder. I had to decide what was right for my mother and for me; the decision I chose was one that would end her life.

I knew she never wanted to be kept alive via feeding tubes, and she chose to be a DNR (do not resuscitate), so in essence, she helped me with my decision.

My mom was 88 years old and overweight most of her life. She smoked non-filtered cigarettes for decades, but she never hacked nor wheezed, and her lungs were crystal clear. I could never understand how her weight issues or the cigarettes didn’t do her in, but in the end, she was so strong.

My mother’s generation grew up during the Great Depression. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1920s in hope of a better life. Two years after Mother was born, the depression hit and lasted for 10 years. It had to be terrible for my mother’s family, as they knew very little English while living in an area they did not know.

Tragedy hit in 1936 when my grandfather died of appendicitis, something that would never happen today. Penicillin was not available at the time — something that could have saved his life. My grandmother was left with four children to feed, clothed and house. I can’t imagine the desperation she felt.

My grandmother’s generation, and as well as my mom’s, had to be tough; they had to be strong in order to survive. My mom, like her siblings, had to quit school at an early age to pitch in financially. Only the youngest child graduated from high school.

My grandmother was an exceptional seamstress and made a living in the garment industry. Later on in life, she was hired to clean the Exeter High School classrooms after school. I remember going with her occassionally. Life was not easy.

Eventually, my mother fell in love with my dad and they married on June 21, 1952. Life was good for my mother for many years as they raised my brother, sister and me. It wasn’t until Mom was in her mid-50s when we discovered my father had Alzheimer’s disease.

It was yet another hurdle to jump and even with devastating news like that, I never saw my mother feeling sorry for herself. Sure, it was upsetting and she knew she’d never have a great life in retirement, but she still kept one foot in front of the other and marched forward – it was the only way she knew.

Since the death of my father in 1996, she enjoyed her life with her family, especially her grandchildren. She had a group of great friends that played cards and went on small trips. She loved her church where she was known as the Hat Lady. Mom loved wearing hats to church.

Over the last two to three years, dementia struck a second time in my family when Mom became forgetful. When Dad was diagnosed, I asked God to please spare my mother, but that did not happen.

Her journey is over; she did the best she could do with what she had. She’s home next to my father where she will remain for eternity. For me, I couldn’t be happier for her; she’s in a better place next to the man she loved. Rest easy Mother, you deserve it.

I, along with my family, would like to thank everyone for indulging me in this journey over the last few weeks. I’ve heard from hundreds of people wishing good thoughts and passing on prayers.

I’d like to thank Celtic Care at Geisinger South for the compassion they showed. They truly are special people.

Next Sunday, it’s back to business as I, too, move forward.

Quote of the week

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” – Barbara Kingsolver, American writer.

Thought of the week

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” – Kofi Annan, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Bumper sticker

“Patience makes a woman beautiful in middle age.” – Elliot Paul

My Corner, Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Tony Callaio’s column My Corner, Your Corner runs weekly in the Sunday Dispatch. He can be reached at