Remembering mothers in Truckee Tahoe
May 7, 2010
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; The Little Woman is Katherine Pyett, her mother, who died of congestive heart failure and diabetes in January 2007, in the loving care of Tahoe Forest Health Systemand#8217;s Hospice program. This is a story of selflessness, forgiveness, and two adult women finding solace in a renewed relationship, initiated when Marnita received the call every daughter dreads: Your mother is terribly ill. Dying.
The self-proclaimed and#8220;General of the U.S.S. Katherine Pyettand#8221; dropped her on-the-go, high-flying life as an airline attendant to care for her mother. Marnita took charge and coached herself in medical knowledge. Over the 14-year journey through hospitals, doctors and ultimately deathand#8217;s door, Marnita learned she and her mother arenand#8217;t so different, after all.
Raised in the segregated Old South, Katherine Pyett moved to California for a better life. She had Marnita, then came the bitter divorce.
and#8220;Mom was completely devoted to me as a single mother,and#8221; said Marnita of her motherand#8217;s struggle on social services, no dating, her life revolving around providing for her daughter. They lived in and#8220;the hood,and#8221; and Pyett was doggedly determined her daughter not fall prey to the teen pregnancies and crack abuse which surrounded them. She arranged for Marnita to be educated in a different school district by using a friendand#8217;s address, driving the distance each day. People used to say and#8220;You know how Katherine is about Marnita.and#8221;
The tides of time inexorably washed over their lives. The daughter became the caregiver, with a renewed appreciation for sacrifice and unwavering mother love. and#8220;The Generaland#8221; approached the task undaunted, feeling her motherand#8217;s own determined spirit rise within her. And as her motherand#8217;s health waned, Pyett had the time to reflect. and#8220;The Little Woman used to say I scared her I dreamed so big,and#8221; said Marnita. and#8220;I thought, if I dream big and get half, thatand#8217;s huge.and#8221;
Some of Marnitaand#8217;s dreams did come true. She met the love of her life, her husband Noel, who adored her mother and showed great devotion. One dream was shattered: Her mother was too tired to hold on until the wedding.
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Noel flew to pick up Marnitaand#8217;s mom to Truckee from L.A. four months before her death, against the doctorand#8217;s concern due to the high elevation. and#8220;This is the most beautiful place Iand#8217;ve ever seen, and my next stop is heaven,and#8221; whispered the Little Woman.
The doctor gave a prescription for hospice care three and a half months later. Marnita likens herself to a Mazarrati, screaming along at 300 mph and wham, hitting the brakes. From there, it was a whole different mindset. and#8220;I want people to understand this is not a death sentence,and#8221; said Marnita. and#8220;For such a long time, she was fighting for me (to see her marriage). Hospice is about the comfort and quality of life. It is not about doctors and science. Who wouldnand#8217;t have their mother in the loving arms of home and hospice?and#8221;
Hospice care is more than pain management and helping the family to the final day. It is helpful in the bereavement phase; there is a group that looks after the persons who have suffered the loss. and#8220;It is a support system that is gravely needed; after the shock wears off, and the cards stop, you can feel isolated,and#8221; Marnita explained. and#8220;It was so valuable to me.and#8221;
Marnita learned a valuable lesson as her motherand#8217;s caregiver. They grew together as adult women, finding forgiveness and understanding after a tumultuous relationship. They became a team. Marnita grew as a woman, and was able to thank her mother for all she did before she left this world.
The first Motherand#8217;s Day was torture for Marnita. She didnand#8217;t know what she was going to do and felt she had to connect with her mother. She went to Safeway, and bought Forever Young roses, because her mother so enjoyed flowers. Marnita and a friend took them to Lake Tahoe and dropped them off a pier on a choppy, busy day. and#8220;My mother loved that lake, she had never seen mountains or trees.and#8221; The friends stood waiting for the roses to be carried away. After a while they thought, whoops, they arenand#8217;t going anywhere, and began to walk the sad length of the pier. When they looked back, the roses had also departed, moving out into the waves.
Marnita has moved on in her life, and feels a wisp of her motherand#8217;s soul present in her home, in herself. Marnita now serves her community as a Hospice and Red Cross volunteer and event chair for Slow Food Lake Tahoe. She describes life as such: and#8220;Birth is an amazing entrance, but the exit can be as poignant, with a tenderness and specialness that is hard to explain.and#8221;
These days, Marnita tends a hospice patient she calls her and#8220;Butterfly,and#8221; and has gently encouraged Butterfly to make amends with her daughter.
Marnita hopes you will think about your relationship with your mother, love her while you have her, reach out to her and say the words; and#8220;I love you, and I appreciate what youand#8217;ve done for me.and#8221; After the cards and flowers, of course.
Tahoe Forest Hospice needs patient and family support volunteers. Serving patients in the Truckee/Tahoe area, Incline Village, Nev. and parts of Eastern Plumas and Sierra Counties. Volunteering is a great opportunity to help patients at end- of-life in your community. Provide companionship, a respite, for caregivers, run errands, read, play games, garden, help with meals, etc. Flexible hours. All classes must be completed in order to graduate. Please call Val Sutter, Volunteer Coordinator, at 582-3534.