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.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.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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.