… from the bungalow

Roller Coasters


Cedar Point, ca. 1986

click click click click click…

We climbed higher and higher, my mom and I…

click click click click click…

…edging closer and closer to the two things I feared the most…

click click click click click…


click click click click click…

…and falling.

click… click… click…

She held my hand and smiled at me.

click. whooOOOSH!

Every muscle in my body locked up. I couldn’t breathe. The worst part was I knew it was only the beginning. There would be many more hills before the ride would be over.

I must have been about 10 years old the first time I road a roller coaster. Even waiting in line gave me anxiety, but nothing like that initial climb to the apex or the first fall. Each time I rode one as a kid, it was with my mom. She could reassure me like no one else could. Her unspoken promise to me: safety and support.

Together, never alone.

And when we finally exited the ride, she’d say, “See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” My mom taught me how to face my fears, and to push through them.


When she first told me about her ALS diagnosis last year, I was in shock, denial. My mom had been given a death sentence. Last Thanksgiving we drove the 7 or 8 hours it takes to get to my parents’ house in southern Indiana, then we saw her again over Memorial Day weekend. Each time I saw her, her health had declined significantly. During that last trip, I decided to tell my mom about a burden I’d been carrying; something personal and private. Once again, I had her full love and support.

Then, one Friday morning, my dad called. My mom had been in hospice care, and the home nurse told him he should “start making calls.” My middle sister and I had already planned to drive down that day, but now we had no time to spare. Our other two sisters lived close and were already there.

Jen and I talked about our lives, our work, our children. We spoke aloud the fear that our mom could actually pass away before we could reach her. “No,” Jen said. “She’ll wait for us.”

Shortly after that, I got a text message from my dad. “Are you still driving? Tell Jen to pull over then call me.” I was sick.

My sister pulled off and parked the car. I called my dad and put him on speaker phone. He gave us the news: Mom had already died.

We all cried for a few minutes, then I took him off speaker phone and asked him when, and why he waited to tell us. He didn’t want to risk our safety during our long drive. He wanted to let us know that she’d be in the house until about 5:00 PM. Our ETA was 4:45. He asked if he should have the funeral home to wait to collect her “remains.” “Wait,” I told him. “We’ll be there.”

We hung up. “F*ck!” I slammed my phone on the floor of the car. We would have to mourn later. Jen and I switched places, and I drove the remaining three hours, numb, angry. Even with construction, I managed to shave five minutes off our drive time.


We pulled into the neighborhood…

click click click click click…

…parked in the driveway…

click click click click click…

…entered the house…

click… click… click…

…and walked into my mom’s bedroom.


I lay on the bed next to her and cuddled up to her cold body.



I yelled and sobbed until my muscles locked up and I couldn’t force out another sound, another breath. I ran to the bathroom to throw up, but only dry-heaved and choked on mucous. Later I would discover I had burst some of the blood vessels in my face. I don’t know whether that was result of the crying or dry-heaving.

At one point, all six of us were together: me, my three sisters, our dad, and Mom. The five of us cried and reassured each other. When the folks from the funeral home arrived, my “youngest” sister (six minutes younger than her twin, as we like to say), Michelle, wasn’t ready to let go. I heard my mom whisper, “I’m not in there.” I put my arm over my sister’s back and whispered in her ear, “She’s not in there.” She asked, “How are we gonna get through this?” Without missing a beat, her twin, Laura, responded, “Together. We get through this together. That’s what Mom says.”

My sisters and I have felt her presence a few times. Two days after she died, my dad and Laura were in a church choir concert. They weren’t sure whether or not to go through with it, but decided they should. During one of the songs, I could feel my mom looking on through my eyes. I felt her smile, her pride, and her gratitude. It was both overwhelming and reassuring.


It’s been a little over two weeks since her death. Last night, for the first time since then, I had a dream, as I always do after losing someone close. The difference with this dream is that I knew it was a dream and that she had died. There was no confusion or denial as there has been in past dreams of other family members.

In the dream, she and I were sitting next to each other in a roller coaster car. It wasn’t moving, and there was no one else around. Smiling, holding my hand, she told me that she’d visited others who needed her the most at the time, but she felt I needed her the most right now. She reassured me that she’d always be there for me, and that my sisters, our dad and I would get through this.

Together, never alone.

Denise, Chris, and Shanna, 1977 FTB

I expect to write more about this in the months to come. I hope you’ll share the journey with me. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! You’re rad. Speaking of rad, you know what would be super rad? You checking out the fundraising campaign I put together to help my dad pay for the funeral expenses. Even if you do nothing more than share the indiegogo link or this blog post on your favorite social media site, I’d be really grateful!
As always, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. ~ Chris

Author: Chris

Introspection to a fault. College employee, parent, soap-maker.

58 thoughts on “Roller Coasters

  1. Beautiful. Your mom would be proud of this post, love. She loved your writing.
    I love you. ❤

  2. You know this was very moving. You and I knew each others names but little else, we may have spoke in passing in High School. I think I missed getting to know a truly wonderful person. I am glad to get the chance to be “friends” now. This is a hard time to go through , and no you don’t have to do it alone. Your writing is an excellent out let for these emotions, thank you for sharing and allowing us to see the private side of yourself.

  3. Awesome job! She will be with you always!

  4. My mom committed suicide 8.5 years ago. She was bi-polar, which is every bit as incurable as cancer, diabetes or ALS. I feel your pain… no one can replace your mother!

    • I’m sorry to learn that, Amanda. Suicide is rough. My mom’s sister also committed suicide, almost 22 years ago. She was about my age now, a little younger maybe. Every member of my mom’s family is now dead. It’s awful.

      I do feel a bit like I’ve lost my tether to the world. She created me, in more ways than one.

  5. This was so beautiful. I am thankful your writing has served as an outlet in your time of great pain and sorrow. I hope that by writing, you can remember your mother and continue to touch others through your words. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Rachel. I always love to find your comments on my blog. Writing this did help me, just as the dream itself, the realization that I’d taken the roller coaster memory for granted (almost forgotten), and talking to my sisters. I don’t know what I would have done or would continue to do without all of these things.

  6. That’s a lovely piece. You made me cry. Nothing else I can say except my thoughts are with you and your family and your Mum would indeed be proud.

  7. Thank you for sharing this Chris, mom really would love this piece. I read through the tears and snot bubbles, but had to compose myself before I could leave a comment. Nice work, big brother. Love you ❤

  8. This was so beautiful and moving, Chris. You’re a wonderful writer. I’m sure your Mom is proud of you.

  9. Wow, this is truly heartbreaking, yet also inspiring. What a beautiful tribute to your mom! I wish I had been able to make it to her services, I wanted to give you all hugs. She is a beautiful soul, your mom!

  10. Your mom has left a beautiful legacy. She lives now through you and your sisters. Keep making her proud.

  11. I’m so sorry about your mother…. this was a beautiful post and yeah- I have a few tears. I lost my dad in a tragic accident 2 years ago this month and the hospital/ bedside descriptions brought me back…..

  12. I’m very sorry to hear about your mother Chris……it’s sometimes hard to put into words what you are feeling when this happens, but you did it beautifully. Laura’s mom passed a couple of months ago and this brought me right back to that day. This was a great post, thank you for sharing.

  13. Beautiful portrait of your mother. Her loving nature comes through so well. I could hear her voice in your writing. She taught you many truths in the way she lived her life.

  14. Very nicely done. ♥

  15. Chris, this was a beautiful, heartfelt, amazingly written post. I related to all of it, having lost my stepmom to stage 4 brain cancer in 2002. She was diagnosed and passed 8 months later. Thanks for sharing and using your gift of writing to do so. XOXO-Kasey

  16. Just as you remember how wonderful your mom was you will hear her voice each and every time you need her. She will always be with you. I lost my husband of 35 years two years ago and he is with me every minute of every day…….I hope you find comfort in your memories and in each other.

    • I’m sorry about your husband, Robin. That must be awful. I do worry for my dad sometimes. He and my mom were married for over 36 years, together for almost 40.

      I do hope more and more memories will find their way to the surface. I had all but forgotten about the roller coaster. It felt like she was reminding me to push through in that dream.

  17. What a wonderful testament to your Mom and those left behind.

    Having lost both of my parents within a year of each other, I feel your pain quite literally. My birthday was recently and my brother sent me a photo of my Dad that was on his flash drive. It was taken a few months before he passed. Although Alzheimer’s had pretty much taken the essence of him at the time the photo was shot, the picture captured his devilish spirit. I completely lost it and crumbled to the ground.

    She will be with you always and she would want you to remember her healthy and happy. The grieving process is so personal; so intense; so difficult. I wish you much peace through your journey.

    • I’m sorry about your parents, Carol. I can’t imagine losing both of them within one year. It’s bad enough I lost my mom and her mom within a year. I know I’ll have many rough days ahead, but for now, knowing that others have shared my feelings makes it easier.

  18. Nice story and a good lesson Mom taught you.

  19. Hey Tucker…it;s been a while since we connected….your writing is awesome and inspiring. Your ability to put into words a very personal experience and to share it is amazing. I hope keeping those memories alive bring you comfort.
    Patti McDowell ( Appleby)

    • Hi, Patti! Thanks for reading and for the sweet comments. I appreciate it. I’m afraid that I’ve forgotten so much about my childhood, but I’m also looking forward to little reminders that will take me back.

  20. Of all blog posts to read today…..I haven’t read or write in quite a while. I am now crying like a baby. My mom got real sick and was diagnosed with cancer in Jan this year. I was with her through everything but kept myself in dEEp denial. She passed away on May 10th. I was right there next to her and saw her take her last breath. Nothing in the world can prepare you for a passing like that. I grabbed my mom and hugged her like an infant then I turned around and filled the entire hospital sink with vomit.
    You can never do enough or be prepared enough for losing someone you care for deeply. I believe wholeheartedly that our moms were able to look through our eyes or just be WITH us even if we can’t touch them, they are truly there. I’m so blessed to have a friend who is a true Medium and her talking to mom and even something simply silly as telling me everything is ok or just telling me where things were that mom wanted me to have while moving everything in her home. It’s rough to lose someone but one thing I’ve relied on for sure is that we all need support…! Thank you so very much for sharing. It’s very hard to talk about my mom and I do believe I just did that right here..

  21. Very moving…..I am sorry for your loss. It is so paradoxical to me that out of the darkest and harshest times we encounter we can somehow create something beautiful. I know that what you just wrote has been touching and helpful to others going through dark times. I wish you peace…

  22. This was so beautiful to read. I lost my dad 4 years ago to cancer never knowing he was ill until he was diagnosed 23 days before his passing. He had asked for a favor to come to terms with his diagnosis before coming to see him but he passed the night before I was to drive to see him the next day. I try to find the blessing in not seeing him sick like that because images like that can stay with you but your writing made me wish I had just that one moment to embrace him once more even if he wasn’t there. I did have a dream the morning after he died… he had called me on the phone, it was so real and vivid and my dad was forever the prankster I thought maybe its not real – a cruel joke, so I asked “where are you?!” And he said “I’m right here baby”. Like you I knew it was truly him, right there. I miss him everyday but I know he is with me just as your Mom is forever with you. And you need not see her only in your dreams or photos or memories – simply look into the mirror and you will see her staring right back at you. We wouldn’t be here without our parents so I believe they live on through us and our children and their children. You and your sisters are her legacy and without knowing you personally I KNOW you make her proud everyday. My heart is with you. Thank you for sharing.

  23. I am moved by your post. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  24. Hey, Chris, I know you have a lot on your plate, but I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Kudos, my friend. XOXO-SWM

  25. This is such a beautiful post. My son passed away 5 years ago, and he comes to me in dreams every now and then to give me a hug. Those dreams are so real. I can’t help but think that he knows when I really need him.

  26. What a testament to the eternal nature of love and the bond between parent and child. My mom is in very poor health and we just take it day by day. I get to show up, love her, and be her daughter. It is enough. God bless you and your family Christopher.

  27. I cried for you as I read it. Mum left us on the 30th May, she chose to wait until Dad and I left the room, then with my stronger sister alone with her, she left this pain filled world.
    My point is she chose when to go and like you I have felt her beside me at times guiding me telling me what to do, but it hurts, so I send you nothing but good wishes and heartfelt sympathy.

  28. This is a beautiful, loving, and heart-wrenching post. I just found your blog as a “recommended” by wordpress. I began reading and fell in love immediately with your writing and the roller-coaster imagery. Then I read the sentence about you being told of your mom’s ALS diagnosis and had to go back and make sure I had read correctly…
    Up until very recently (for +10 yrs) I worked in ALS research and have lost many friends and patients to this horrible disease. (I still volunteer and fund-raise for our provincial ALS society.) I’m always struck by how many random people I “meet” whose live have been altered by ALS.
    I’m very sorry for your family’s loss. Sounds like your mom progressed very quickly and (although that can some times be a blessing) it didn’t give you all enough time to deal with the diagnosis before you had to deal with the grief.
    I have sat by many beds and watched people die from ALS and your mom was right, she wasn’t in her body anymore. I’ve seen that moment of leaving too many times.
    Although I’m a complete stranger, please accept my deepest condolences and I wish you all the best as you find the strength to mourn.

  29. I am so sorry for your loss. This is an amazing post that will touch the lives of everyone who reads it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  30. I am so sorry for your loss…. It is so hard to lose a parent…. I hope time is helping you heal.

    Love to you.

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  34. This is a powerful and moving post. I love the way you began the post to give us an idea of the support your mom offered. I’m sorry for your loss.

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