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A long time ago, I was a child. (I started out as Cathy First from Colon, Mi.) For the past several years I’ve been an adult. A lot of things went on between those two stages of life; probably no more or no less than anyone elses. My husband and I moved to “da U .P” from southern Lower Michigan several years ago (yes we were trolls at one time). We owned and operated and operate Clementz’s Northcountry Campground and Cabins just north of Newberry, Michigan until May 2015. We have grown kids and grandkids (who all live downstate). My passion is life and all that Nature has to offer us and trying to photograph it in unique ways. Our intention in life is to see all that Nature has to offer us. We hope that you will be a part of our adventures as we cruise through our lives together. Come back often!

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I have been having issues trying to get my Yooper Yarns to work properly so I haven't posted in a while (again!).  And I've been dealing with my knee scope and very painful foot...and also the passing of our mother which I am sharing with you here.

This is a post I put on FB because I could not get on Yarns....this was written on Friday, October 16th. 

My Mother died last night.

Well, my sister’s and mine.

Neither one of us have said anything on FB about it because, well, it’s personal and we felt it was Mom’s place if she wanted people other than CLOSE friends and family, to know.

She had been diagnosed with cancer, oh, maybe 6 weeks ago. Let’s just say that after bouts of varying problems that she decided to opt out of treatment earlier this week and went home to my sisters and her hubby to live out her last days.

My sister has been thru this two times before; once with our Dad and about 9 months later with her first husband, Gene Hensell. I could not be there to support or even try to help either of those times. One person should not have to go thru that 3 times. I know going thru this again she has the love and support of her husband, John and many wonderful friends and neighbors, but it’s not the same thing as sisters.
My sister is a born care giver and always seems to find the best in a person. She took those two wonderful traits of hers and put them to good use (she has more amazing traits as well). She became an RN (among many other things she has diplomas to) and she worked for an oncologist for many years. She is very familiar with the death of a cancer patient and I think that finally got to be too much so she went on and put her skills to use in other nursing areas.

But, had she not had that training, skills and love I don’t know what would have happened with our Dad. He would not have been able to have his last days with what dignityapproaching death leaves you with, he most likely would not have been able to pass away in his own home, and many mistakes possibly could have been made in the care and treatment he received because the right questions (questions an RN would know to ask) weren’t put forth.

Dad passed in the loving care of my sister. It was New Year’s Day 2006. I was there only by phone as we were having a blizzard in the U.P. And the strange thing about that was Dad was basically in a coma, and while Christy and I were on the phone I asked her if she’d do me a favor; hold Dad’s hand and tell him “Cathy loves you”. She said she’d put the phone up to his ear and I could tell him. My comatose Dad opened his eyes for a moment…long enough to say “Love”. He passed I think about an hour later.
Gene passed away at home that following September, a short 8 months later, in the care of his wife, my sister.

And then, this late summer, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. We all figured she’d die of heart issues because at the tender age of 50 something she’d had a 4 (or was it 5?) bypass heart operation. This was a bit over 30 years ago when medicine wasn’t as advanced as now. Who figured she could possibly live into her 80’s?

Again, with Mom’s diagnosis of cancer, Christy was the care giver and her husband John even helped out taking Mom to her chemo, taking Mom for a bite to eat and being oh, so supportive to Christy.

Dan and I started making plans to head to Georgia earlier than originally planned because THIS time there was no reason I could not be there to help my sister in some way.

Three or 4 days ago, after being in the hospital several days with complications, our Mom decided to stop the chemo (she had not had it while being in the hospital because she wasn’t strong enough and it wasn’t her week to have it). She agreed to come home with Christy and John.

Christy and I kept in touch many time per day as to Mom’s progress or lack of.

Dan and I were finally able to get on the road yesterday morning (Thursday October 15th) and again, texts back and forth between my sister and me on the trek down. Mom had had a rough night the night before and Christy thought we should try to get there that evening (last night).

I don’t know what time we got to Christy and John’s. Time kind of eludes you when you are feeling scared. I didn’t know what to expect as we had not seen Mom since late April and at that time she looked like an “older woman”…she looked like Mom, ya know?

I’m not going to share all the personal details of how she looked but she didn’t look like Mom. I recognized her for sure, but she didn’t look like Mom.

Dan and I let her know we were there and she tried to make an effort to let us know SHE knew we were there..she tried to say “Dan” (at least we think that was what she was trying to say).

Christy continued to take care of Mom; giving her her pain meds, washing her mouth with a sponge and mouthwash after the medicine…doing what she could to try to make Mom comfortable. I stood there in amazement at my sister going thru all of this one more time and wondering where she got the emotional and spiritual strength to do this. To do this AGAIN.

I sat with Mother and talked about things I hoped she might enjoy hearing about because I knew there would be no more letters sent back and forth in the snail mail. She didn’t or couldn’t really respond, but I do feel she heard and understood my end of the conversation.

The Hospice nurse showed up and I do believe this was around 7:30 p.m. and carefully, oh so very carefully and with respect, examined our Mom; took her vitals, checked her breathing (Mom was on oxygen at this time)…all the things the nurse is supposed to do. But the CARE, gentleness and respect this woman showed Mother amazed me.

The nurse and my sister went out in the other room to talk about what meds Christy would need yet to get her thru the night and I stayed in the room with Mom trying to talk with her, or TO her. I thought she had finally gone to sleep as she stopped the moaning with every short draw of breath but her tummy was still going up and down so I knew she was breathing.

I quietly went out into the other room to join my sister and the nurse and told Christy I thought Mom had finally gone to sleep and explained she’d stopped the moaning but was still breathing.
The nurse wanted to get Mom’s vitals one more time and went back into the room with Christy. They called me in…Mom had passed.

I’m not trying to make this all about me and how I feel, but I wanted to be there to hold her hand so she wouldn’t die alone in a room…and I hadn’t managed to do that for her.

My sister, the unselfish angel that she is said “Don’t you remember how Mom said she never wanted anyone to see her die? I truly feel she waited for you and Dan to get here and waited for you to leave the room so no one would see her die.”

The hospice care nurse took care of getting Mom ready for the funeral home people to come and get Mom while Christy, John, Dan and I, in the next room, shared a few memories and even a few laughs.
After the nurse left and we were still waiting on the funeral homes arrival, Christy and John went in to spend some time with Mom. I could hear my sister crying and knew that John was taking care of her so I stayed put. John eventually popped out of the room and said “Cathy, come in here.” He had a slight smile on his tear stained face.

In the bedroom Mom was in was something like a dream catcher, only not as light weight, but it had feathers hanging from the bottom of it. I think there are maybe 6 strands of feathers along the bottom of it. Two of those strands were slowly moving, back and forth. No other ones moved. There was no breeze in the room as the oxygen and dehumidifier and been shut off a while ago. Those two strands of feathers continued to move for as long as we were in there. I don’t know when they stopped…or if they did.

We all handle grief differently and writing is one of my coping mechanisms.

So if you got a little something out of this, that’s great. But I selfishly did it for myself to try to make myself feel better. So far, I don’t feel any better. As with all things in life, or death, grief will take time and we are left with memories be they all good or partially bad but life does move on and the pain gets better but the memories are still there to go back to.

Dan and I will be downstate for about a week yet. Even though you may be my friend on FB and you may not have known our Esther First, our Mother or maybe you don't know my sister Christine First-Friedel, please say a prayer of support for them.

I can guarantee you that even though my sister might not know you, if you needed her she would be there. She's that type of person...and she's my sister. I love her to pieces and honor her.


  1. Thank you....it's been a hard week. I still don't quite know what I'm feeling...

  2. Dear Cathy, I am so very sorry for your loss. It's a big bite out of your heart and I'm glad you were able to make it in time to see your mom. Sigh...

    There are so many emotions to process and they all take time. Some will creep up on you when you least expect it, others will feel like they are always in your pocket... Just take your time be easy on yourself. It's a big adjustment.

    The Dream catcher is pretty awesome-- what a lovely vision to hold on to.

    I'm sending you hugs and prayers from Los Angeles. Stay strong, my friend.

    xoxox jj

  3. Joanna, I never realized how many times a day that I thought of my mother till she was gone. I catch myself thinking "Mom would like this game" , or "I need to let Mom know how far we've made it this trip." I expect to see her comeback remarks on my FB page. Since we were not close this has really surprised me. Thanks for your hugs and prayers!

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