(Note: One of the most precious gifts from my mother’s passing was this letter written to me by my brother-in-law, who was also my mother’s bedside doctor–and who has since become my sister’s “ex.”
The letter came on the heels of a long-distance phone conversation that I had with my sister Robin about “alternative modalities” where I questioned whether we even believed that my mother’s survival was a possibility.
I share this here because it is such a beautiful testimony of the healing that takes place in the lives of those touched by loss and love.)
a letter from Dr. Kenneth Cramer
February, 18, 2001
Thought I would take a minute to share some things with you, from my heart. After Robin spoke with you the other day, she asked me several questions about “Why didn’t we…” for your mother this past summer. These questions made me ponder the whole situation, and I have some regrets, but my predominant memories are those of love, dedication, sacrifice, redemption, healing, and the list goes on. Let me explain a little:
- love, dedication, sacrifice–as evidenced by everyone who put their lives on hold to love, care for, cherish and serve your mother during her final days
- redemption–of a man who abused your mom during their marriage, and thus was estranged from the Salasin girls, until he stepped up to the plate and stayed by your mom’s side–when she needed him and wanted him! The smile on her face, the efforts she would make to see Dan, when he returned home after being gone for awhile. These images are etched in my mind in a powerful way.
- healing–as your mom’s siblings realized that their silly indifferences with one another were nothing when put into proper perspective
Kelly, let me add to the list because some things were not as obvious, or as visible, but were no less powerful or effective in the midst of this crisis. You see, such a loving demonstration of commitment could not be mustered up instantaneously, nor sustained, without a strong foundation and a strong support system.
Even though much of your support was from afar, it was still so necessary for your younger sisters and brother. They looked to you for strength and stability.
And more importantly, it was you who helped establish a firm foundation amongst your siblings as your parents divorced; new families were created; and crisis after crisis occurred.
Believe me Kelly, I know… I’ve been a witness to it all since December 1982, and your impact on your family has been undeniable!
As I look back at the final weeks with your mother, I see you mother’s heart, which was once emptied/robbed, as one overflowing with love, which was given to her abundantly over the summer of 2000.
She died not along, not unloved, not broken, not bitter, not with unfinished business. I doubt it to be coincidence that your mom passed away, only after seeing you and baby Aidan, face to face.
Kel, I did want to let you know how touched I am by the notes you have written regarding my caring for your mother during her dying days…as a son-in-law first, and doctor far second. It was a privilege for me!
It’s amazing how close your mother was to my heart, because I was not aware of this prior to the summer. We certainly didn’t have long, heart felt conversations, nor obvious emotional/affectionate experiences, but her acceptance and love for me through the years (undeserved at times) was truly a blessing.
When she died, my grief was multifaceted:
- I grieved my loss, and I grieved that my wife lost a mother–a mother that she never had a chance to fully enjoy, and a mom whom she would never get to restore a health relationship with.
- I grieved the loss that you girls and little and big Dan had to suffer.
- I grieved that your one remaining parent was so unaware or unwilling or ??? to be the dad he was and is called to be.
- And I grieved certain aspects of your mom’s life… some of the disappointments, heartaches and tribulations that she unfortunately endured. This is why I still have tears in my eyes when I hear Stevie Nicks sing the Landslide song. This song speaks to me as I hear of a women afraid of changes, who built her life around your dad. Yet time made her bolder, her children got older, and she got older too. With this boldness, she said “Enough is enough,” and the life of your family was forever changed. The subsequent pain and consequences for your mom elicits this grief in my heart.
In the end, medicine had nothing to offer. Prayers for healing (be it His will) and for comfort and peace were plentiful. Holistic therapies were abundant! Up to 30+ capsules a day of herbs/vitamins/supplements, fresh veggies, juice, smoothies etc.
Most important however, was the full-fledged love and commitment that your mom received. This by far was the most therapeutic.
I now see your mom’s illness as not one to be healed but rather one to heal. It did that in so many ways! And it continues to do so!
I am thankful that Robin has you, thankful for your openness; thankful for your love and concern for us; and thankful for how you challenge me to be more open also.