Lenda DuBose

Lenda Bates DuBose ~ July 21, 1943 – December 6, 2011

My mom died December 6th, at three minutes to midnight.

I’d spent two weeks in November in Nashville, visiting her at the hospital, talking to her, listening to her, in the weeks before Thanksgiving. I was there in Nashville again, but not at her bedside, when she died. She was in the Alive Hospice unit at St. Thomas Hospital, where she’d been since early November. I’d gone out to get dinner, and was just arriving back at the hospital when my sister called to say Mom was gone.

DK was with me, for which I am forever grateful. He and I had arrived December 3rd for a weekend visit, and Mom got to meet him. (She told me later, when he was out of the room, that she liked him. I knew she’d like him.) We saw her the evening of the 3rd when we arrived, and she was fine (as fine as a woman dying of peritoneal cancer could be), but the hospice nurses called at seven the next morning to say she was struggling to breathe. Mom never really came back to herself, though she had a few more lucid moments. Somewhere in those last days I got to hear her tell me she loved me one more time, in a voice barely a whisper.

Mostly, from early in the morning of the 4th until 23:57 on the 6th, Mom was either unconscious or suffering, while her family sat helplessly by her side keeping a vigil.

DK stayed with me in Nashville, taking time off work so he could be there for me for the memorial. I wore a suit and tie, and when the pastor read a poem I’d written that Mom had asked be included in her service, she said it had been written by Lenda’s son. Mom’s obituary, too, listed me as her son.

During the last conversation I had with her, Mom told me she was glad she’d lived long enough to see me be fully myself. She told me that Zachary was a much better name for me than my birth name. She told me she was proud of me. She also told me she’d left me a small amount of money which I should use for my chest surgery. She was a regular reader of this blog, and a frequent commenter. I feel so lost knowing I’ll never hear her voice again.

I’ve wanted to update this blog with stories of transition, stories of observing manliness in Tennessee, and stories of being consistently read as male while there. Stories of traveling with a passport and license photo that look nothing like me and list my name as unequivocally female, and the raised eyebrows I garnered from the TSA screeners and rental-car agents. Stories of the trans-friendly chaplain in the hospice, the nurse who clearly assumed I was cis-male. I wanted to talk about all of it, but I couldn’t.

I hope, now, that I can. I’m back in California, trying to pick up the pieces of my life and move forward again. Trying to feel Mom’s spirit with me and her love surrounding me. I feel like I spent the entire autumn in suspended animation.

So much happened in those last few days. My relationship with my stepfather, which had once been dreadful, then slowly, painstakingly improved over the course of decades, went up in flames. I know he was angry that Mom, the love of his life, was dying. I know I was just a handy and familiar target. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, really, although I can feel some pride in having not risen to his baiting. As an adult, now, not a child of fourteen, I could be the better man when I needed to be.

My aunt and uncle, who were there and saw what was happening both took me aside to talk to me, to remind me that I am and will always be precious to them, a part of the family. That Nashville will always be a home to me. My sister, too, was caught in the middle. She held together with admirable grace and dignity.

I hate that it came to that. I hate that in the end, the one thing my mom had most ardently desired — that her family be okay without her — didn’t happen. But I know that on my own I will be okay. That my sister will be okay. That she and I will have each other, and even if we aren’t together we are still a family. Whether our stepfather wants me to be a part of it or not.

So. That is the end. The “mom” tag will probably get a lot less use now. But Mom’s love and encouragement, her support and understanding, her cheerleading for me, will always be a part of me.

I love you, Mom. I was never the best daughter, and I never really got a chance to be the best son, but I know in the end you believed in me.


~ by Nezu on 30 December 2011.

13 Responses to “Lenda”

  1. Oh Nezu, I’m so, so sorry. Your post made me cry–I’m so glad for you that she was so supportive and you were there to hear her say she loved you.

    My thoughts are with you, and I wish you health and healing.

  2. By what measure is ‘best’ … that you have been loved, deeply and completly, says it was enough. I’m glad you could be there, I’m glad Ryan could by by your side, and, the step-father relationship is a journey. He may or may not circle round, time changes things, inevitably. Big hugs as you mourn, celebrate, remember, and live on to be the best you can be. There are many you trust and believe in you, and your unfolding is beutiful.

  3. *hugs*, always.

  4. My thoughts echo the words others have written… and there isn’t a lot more I can come up with at the moment, except that if we were in the same town, I’d offer to buy you a supply of the beverages of your choice and invite you to share stories about your wonderful mom.

    • Thanks, Kyle. If we were in the same town. I’d take you up on that. If you make it down to San Francisco again any time soon, I’d love to get a drink with you.

  5. ((()))) I was so glad to see that the obituary listed you correctly. I wish you peace in carrying your grief.

  6. This is just beautiful, so moving. I would love to hear more about her too. Thank you for bringing so much love to your writing, to us, and to her in this time and in the process of being with her through her dying and then beginning your grieving.

    • Thanks, Anna. I wish I felt as eloquent as you say I am. I feel dull-tongued and heavy-hearted. Maybe it will get easier as time goes on.

  7. I missed this post in my reader somehow so I apologize for being late to say I am so so sorry to hear about your loss. It was beautiful to see how much she supported and -saw- you. I am happy that you were able to have those last days with her instead of being a couple thousand miles away. My thoughts are with you.

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