Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sad news



My mother, Helene Henry, died on Saturday, November 30, 2019, after a short illness.  She was 82 years old. She died at home, with her family around her, and it was very peaceful at the end. She just quietly stopped breathing.

We buried her yesterday.  Her obituary is here. I am heartbroken, of course, and still in a state of shock at how quickly it all happened, in the space of less than a month.
“It’s like—there are all these things I don’t even know!” [Brianna] said, pacing with quick, angry steps. “Do you think I remember what I looked like, learning to walk, or what the first word I said was? No, but Mama does! And that’s so stupid, because what difference does it make, it doesn’t make any difference at all, but it’s important, it matters because she thought it was, and…oh, Roger, if she’s gone, there won’t be a soul left in the world who cares what I’m like, or thinks I’m special not because of anything, but just because I’m me! She’s the only person in the world who really, really cares I was born, and if she’s gone…” She stood still on the hearthrug, hands clenched at her sides, and mouth twisted with the effort to control herself, tears wet on her cheeks. Then her shoulders slumped and the tension went out of her tall figure.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I understand this feeling now, in a deep, visceral way that I didn't before. My situation is somewhat different, of course, in that my brother and sister are here, helping to support each other through our grief, reminiscing, laughing over shared memories and family stories, and they will still be around for many years to come. I know I'm not alone. But my mother's death has hit me much harder than my father's did three years ago. So I thought it might help to write a little about my mom and OUTLANDER, as a way to remember the happier times.

Mom was indirectly responsible for my discovering Diana Gabaldon's books in the first place, because I originally bought OUTLANDER in 2006 with a Barnes & Noble gift card she had given me for my birthday.  She wasn't a fan of the books herself (her literary tastes ran more toward mysteries than Big Fat Historical Novels or time-travel stories), and she worried sometimes about the way OUTLANDER fandom had a tendency to take over my life, especially during "thread explosions" on Compuserve (now TheLitForum.com) after a new book or a new episode of the TV show came out.

But all my life she supported anything I really wanted to do, and eventually she stopped giving me the "Oh, that again?" look whenever I talked about the books. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with that look. <g>)  In July, 2012, Mom traveled to Scotland with me and my sister Alice on Judy Lowstuter's Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour. That was the trip of a lifetime for me, no question about it, and I was so glad that Mom was able to share it with me!



At Loch Lomond.



Mom at Stirling Castle.

In April, 2019, Mom and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at an appearance in Burlington, NC. She was very reluctant to draw attention to herself, so when I introduced her to Diana, I said only, "This is my mom."  Now, in retrospect, I'm glad they had a chance to meet, however briefly. Mom wrote afterward in an email to my brother and sister, "I had a good time and especially happy to see Karen in her element, a smile on her face during Diana's talk and afterwards as she viewed those wonderful photos."



When my mom saw this photo of Diana and me, immediately after the book-signing, she said at once, "That's the money shot!" It was a perfect day, and I'm so glad that I got to share it with her.

Losing a beloved parent is so hard! My mom and I were very close. But I'm satisfied that I did everything I possibly could to care for her in her final days.

Goodbye, Mom!  I'll love you forever.

30 comments:

Violet Daraitis said...

You're satisfied that you did everything you could.
That is what we strive for, isn't it? If we can say that,then all is well.
-Violet Daraitis

Janet said...

Oh Miss Karen, I am so, so sorry for your loss.

Odd, isn't it, that at times like this, there just are no words.

Sending you and your family prayers and a hug or two.

Emily Gibson said...

What a special and treasured relationship you had with your mother - it says something about you both! That empty spot in your heart is going to be aching. May you find that your memories help to ease the ache. Thanks for telling us more about your mom.
Blessings, Emily

Lainiejay said...

I know that feeling you describe. My dad died suddenly when I was 27, but when my mom died 15 years later, I had that bereft feeling that Bree described. I am also an only child. One of my first thoughts after my mom's death was, "Now I'm an orphan." My sincerest condolences to you, Karen. I read your mom's obituary. She sounds like a remarkable lady.

Jill said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I am sending you and your sister prayers.

Unknown said...

Karen, I just lost my Mom on 11/14/19 so we are in the same camp. Although she was 91 her death was very sudden and unexpected. I know how you feel and have really lost a part of my self. I remember the first time she and I started discussing Outlander and all of the books to follow. She read them first but we shared details (sometimes privately giggling about the hotter Jamie/Clair scenes) Last Christmas day we had a watch party, my MIL (who is 96 and did not read the books) made a comment about a hot scene, my Mom and I just giggled again. I miss her desperately and can't believe she is gone and share your grief. May you be blessed with the best memories you can find and accept my deepest sympathy.

Patri said...

Very beautiful and kind look of your mother, surely she will continue to accompany you. A hug.

Niki said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Maggie said...

I am so sorry for your loss Karen. It has been one of the hardest things in my life to lose my mother. I too went to Scotland with my mother, who was then 82. It's the memories that sustain us.
going foward.

ttupper said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. 🙁

Cristina H said...

So sorry for your loss. I'm so glad you linked to her full obituary, your mom sounded like an amazing person. Deciding to go to law school as well as raising 3 children is hard. I'm sure she was a great example to you.
On another note, have you ever considered writing? You write so well and I would definitely read anything you'd write!

Cindy said...

Karen,
I am so sorry about your mom. No matter how it happens - a long, slow decline or a sudden event - losing a parent is so very hard. Please know I am holding you in prayer.
Cindy

Loretta Giacoletto said...

My deepest sympathy, Karen. Stay strong and remember the good times.

Tammy L said...

Oh Miss Karen, your words about your mom's death brought tears to my eyes and recollections about the death of my mom. Nothing is ever the same, but as time passes, you'll find that she is still with you in many ways.

Unknown said...

Dear Karen, My deepest condolences on the passing of your Mom. Your tribute to her here is the loveliest. Having shared your Outlander love with your Mom by traveling to Scotland together must have been a dream come true and now a lovely memory to always cherish as she now makes your heart her home.

I lost my Mom to ALS several years ago and life is certainly different without her here with us but life is forever better because of her - what she taught us, how well we were loved, and all of our shared joys and memories. I hope you feel the same way, we are better because of our Moms!

Sending you a hug and a prayer for comfort during these difficult days. xo

Anonymous said...

I am so very sorry for your loss - I understand so very much your emotions and where you are at as I lost my mom 12 years ago to cancer. Please know that we are praying for you and your family during this season in your life. Tammie

RN Pt said...

What a beautiful tribute, so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

Karen I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I lost my mother suddenly and unexpectedly, and it does hit hard. I fully understand the impact, especially as only your parents have known you your whole life. With their passing, history of who you were is lost. It is good that you have siblings and are sharing the stories. Through these remembrances, your mother lives on. May you find peace and comfort that she lived a full life.

Martina Prior said...

So sorry for your loss Karen . What a beautiful excerpt you picked about Brianna. It made me realize how very true it is . I hope you find comfort in the beautiful memories of your beloved Mom. My deepest sympathy.

Diane Kearney said...

My deepest condolences for your loss Karen. But know your Mom will always be with you in the little things you do. ❤️

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and happy that you had such a joyful, loving relationship with her. May her memory be a blessing to you and all who knew and loved her.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear your sad news from one Karen to another. I lost my Mom 2 years ago. Losing the last parent is very difficult for all the reasons that the excerpt from Bree indicates, I had siblings and friends to help me through it especially during the holidays. Like you, my Mom and I shared a love of Outlander. Hugs to you. Karen S.

Mary Tormey said...

Hi Karen , am very very sorry to hear of your loss of your mom and I know what its like to be very very close to your mom and got to see Scotland together and like you my mom doesn't understand about my love for Outlander and gives me the 'look ' on occasion . but like you my mom supports my love for it, and I her . so will be sending many , many prayers to you at this time , especially during the Holiday Season. God Bless You . please post more soon. Sincerely .

Joanna said...

So very sorry for your loss of your lovely mom. My best friend, who introduced me to Outlander, died last year at the age of 101. She may well have been Diana's oldest fan--but she had the mind of a 40 year-old and had the personality of Jenny Murray. She was really more like a mother to me than anything else, and I still mourn her loss every day. I feel sad knowing she won't get to read Diana's next book, and we won't be able to discuss it as we have all the others. I'm glad you got to visit Scotland with your beautiful mom--and that you have those memories to cherish even if she wasn't "into" the Outlander world. I so appreciate your blog, your research, and all the work you do on the Literary Forum. I used to teach English in a university, so I know the kind of work you do to help us delve deeper into these masterpieces. You are a real treasure. May God's loving hands comfort you during this holiday season as well.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your mother. I lost my mother two years ago, and I still find myself thinking, "oh, I'll have to call Mom about this," or "Mom would enjoy this article," or ... any number of things. I'm glad you were able to travel to Scotland together.

Kitty Milloy said...

Karen, my would-be Friend! I've enjoyed Outlandish Observations for … oh … ten years? And fell in love with Diana's characters twenty years ago; it's fun to read them again and again … I know this family!
Sorry; I have a tendency to waffle off to Digressionland.
My own Mama died suddenly, of a cardiac arrest. We never even got to say goodbye. The hospital called, telling me they were sorry, but they could not keep up her blood pressure levels. This is already knew, as my brother Bobby, who died at 26, visited Daddy and me at 2:00 a.m. A tall male figure in white, standing in the doorway. Daddy said, "Oh, your brother came to get her."
I visited Mama, blessed her, said thank you, kissed her good bye, told her it was okay for her to go. I would always be there for Daddy and Jimmie, her golden tabby cat. She left. Just like that. It was a hard time for all of us. I came to be thankful her death was an easy one; easy for her. After grieving, I realized my mother is a huge part of who I am. She will always be with me. As will your own beloved mother. I often ask her for help in resolving a problem; the answer is always there. Speaking 'with' Mama gives me comfort. I send you peace and continued blessings of family.

Carol said...

Dear Karen:
So so sorry to hear about your mother. It breaks my heart. You feel like family. I know you will weather this. Condolences to your family.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Karen,
I don't come here often, but I have always appreciated and admired your work and your dedication- it brings so many people together over a shared love and pleasure. One of the hardest things that ever happened to me was losing my mom. I'm a person of faith, and that was probably the hardest test ever. There are so many things that you'll never say now, because a mom is the only person that you could have said them to. My heartfelt condolences and prayers are with you.

Ann Loria said...

Dear Karen, so sorry that you have lost your dear mom. My deepest condolences to you and your family. I will keep you, and family in my prayers, and special prayers for your mom.
God bless you all.
Ann

Joan said...

My thoughts are with you and your siblings as you shoulder this heartbreaking loss. Thank you for sharing your story and her obituary, she was a remarkable woman. Take time for yourself to grieve, and remember all the good times and laughter you shared. Sending warm hugs and peace to you. Joan W.