When I went home to Milwaukee to visit my mother, Marie, for her 70th birthday, she allowed a rare photograph, On my return flight to Omaha, I had a foreboding sense that this was the calm before the storm.   

When I went home to Milwaukee to visit my mother, Marie, for her 70th birthday, she allowed a rare photograph, On my return flight to Omaha, I had a foreboding sense that this was the calm before the storm.   

 Mother was gradually losing her eyesight due to the brain cancer.

Mother was gradually losing her eyesight due to the brain cancer.

 We found out that mother had two walnut-sized brain tumors and she chose not to have surgery. She and my father began home hospice assisted by their local parish.                                

We found out that mother had two walnut-sized brain tumors and she chose not to have surgery. She and my father began home hospice assisted by their local parish.                                

 When mother said she didn't want to die, Judy leaned over and gave her a hug.

When mother said she didn't want to die, Judy leaned over and gave her a hug.

 My friend, ernesto Travieso, S.J., wanted to see mother before she died, so we flew to Milwaukee for the weekend. Mother loved yellow tea roses and it was Ernesto's idea to give her the bouquet.   

My friend, ernesto Travieso, S.J., wanted to see mother before she died, so we flew to Milwaukee for the weekend. Mother loved yellow tea roses and it was Ernesto's idea to give her the bouquet.   

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 My father would always check in with mom before leaving for his office, a familiar scene when I was home visiting. I like the way she looks at him – with a gaze and knowledge that perhaps transcends the issue at hand.                                     

My father would always check in with mom before leaving for his office, a familiar scene when I was home visiting. I like the way she looks at him – with a gaze and knowledge that perhaps transcends the issue at hand.                                     

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 Mother experienced moments of intense pain as the two walnut-sized growths in her brain had no room to expand. She didn't like to take her pain medications.

Mother experienced moments of intense pain as the two walnut-sized growths in her brain had no room to expand. She didn't like to take her pain medications.

 Mother experienced moments of intense pain as the two walnut-sized growths in her brain had no room to expand. She didn't like to take her pain medications.

Mother experienced moments of intense pain as the two walnut-sized growths in her brain had no room to expand. She didn't like to take her pain medications.

 Mother would get lost in the living room needing dad's guidance to her chair.

Mother would get lost in the living room needing dad's guidance to her chair.

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 Dad gradually took over the household duties. Mother had difficulty with simple tasks as she became disoriented, and gradually lost her eyesight due to the two tumors growing in her brain.                              

Dad gradually took over the household duties. Mother had difficulty with simple tasks as she became disoriented, and gradually lost her eyesight due to the two tumors growing in her brain.                              

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 To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

 To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

 To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

To me these portraits represent those moments when mother would become deely reflective, looking across that chasm separating the living from the dead.                   

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 We spent long hours with mother and when she awakened, we would give her water with a straw. When asked if she would like to pray, we would receive a hoarse, "yes." It is a precious time to be with a dying person.    

We spent long hours with mother and when she awakened, we would give her water with a straw. When asked if she would like to pray, we would receive a hoarse, "yes." It is a precious time to be with a dying person.    

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 My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.   

My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.

 

 My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.   

My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.

 

 My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.   

My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.

 

 My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.   

My father saying good-bye to my mother for what he thinks is the last time. Due to her irregular breathing, the hospice staff thought the end was near.

 

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 Leaving Milwaukee's Holy Cross cemetery.   

Leaving Milwaukee's Holy Cross cemetery.

 

 A moment alone at Holy Cross cemetery.

A moment alone at Holy Cross cemetery.