Last year I posted about this trusty mug that I’ve had a little over 30 years. A bit over 30 years ago, I received this mug as a gratitude gift from my local PBS station, because I donated to them. I loved the color, its capacity, and how it kept my drink hot for a long time. It was part of my daily practice. It has survived dozens of moves, some across country. This morning I drank my coffee and noticed a dampness on the side table. I blotted it up. I thought I’d spilled a little. Later I noticed coffee stain on a couple of papers sitting nearby, and I thought, “Uh-oh.” And yes, alas, closer examination reveals several hairline cracks in the mug. Just enough to leak. My very favorite mug must be retired. I don’t feel sad, just quietly accepting. Things inevitably wear out. I’m glad I had it as long as I did. I will miss it, though. I’ve probably used it every day since I got it — 11,680 days of my life.
My mother, Mary Catherine Nicklas Petro, died today. She was 86 and had two types of cancer. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma — her third experience with melanoma. She began Opdivo, an immunotherapy. It was her good fortune that she fell into the 30% for whom the treatment worked. It shrank her tumors to almost nothing. About a year ago, her breast cancer returned. She had a lot of arthritis, mobility issues, and pain. Yet she kept going as long as she could with the Opdivo, because she wanted to contribute to the research on the treatment for the sake of others. The breast cancer returned, though, and she knew she didn’t want aggressive treatment for it. Her body was struggling enough with side effects and ailments.
Mom was getting close to entering hospice. We had imagined more time, a gradual decline, a process where we could see her again and say good-bye. Something happened inside her yesterday that led to a swift end. She is no longer suffering. I had talked to her three days ago, and I am so glad I did. We lived 3,000 miles apart, and for now I must stay put. I live in an epicenter of Covid-19, am sheltering-in-place, and am in a vulnerable group. I don’t want to get it, and I don’t want to carry it to my siblings or my 89-year-old father. I spent a lot of time saying good-bye to my mother over the years, connecting with her, resolving things between us. I grieved some. Yet nothing prepared me for how this is, how it feels. The finality. May we all be peace; may we all be free from suffering. Mary Catherine Nicklas Petro / October 6, 1933-March 16, 2020
Photo taken April 2016 with my daughter