The following is an excerpt from my memoir. I still often think about “that time” when my mother was dying from metastatic breast cancer. The memory is part of what drives me to continue advocating. Time is an elusive thing, and yet, time is everything.


I’m standing on a bridge now. This bridge is a link between my life as a daughter who has a mother and my new life that lies ahead – the life in which I will be motherless. I don’t want to be on this bridge. I am not ready. I want to get off, but I cannot.

Time is now a most elusive thing.

I want more of it and gratefully welcome each hour and day that arrives, uncertain of how many are left for me to spend as a daughter who has a mother. Every new day is a blessing, yet every new day also brings us closer to the end.

On the one hand, time passes slowly, minutes silently blending into hours, as we sit and wait for the outcome we do not want to see unfold. On the other hand, I feel powerless, unable to slow time’s momentum as each day too quickly slides into the next. I want time to slow down or perhaps even to stop altogether.

I find myself wondering what happens to time that “leaves us.”

Regardless, time is running out and staying away is becoming impossible for me. There is nowhere else I want to be. My days and most nights are spent here at the nursing home. It is becoming a familiar place now, not quite so harsh and cold. In two short weeks we have come to know many of the staff members quite well.

Has it really only been two weeks since we checked into this place?

Has enough time already passed for us to feel “settled in”?

Time no longer matters.

In fact, there is no sense of time now and what good does it do to keep track of time anyway?

“Your mother must have been a good mom because she is never alone. Most patients are not that lucky,” a smiling nurse’s aide wearing a blue uniform with tiny pink flowers printed all over it tells me when she sees me walking down the hallway to my mother’s room.

I am recognized in this place now, after just two weeks. I am seen as someone who belongs here. I ponder the sadness of the aide’s statement, but only for a moment.

There is no time for pondering about others, not today.

I drift along as if in slow motion. I sit by my mother’s bedside and wait for time to pass. Mostly I am waiting for time to decide how long I will be allowed to stay on this bridge. I try to look back at my old life before the bridge, but it is becoming more distant and foggy. I want to go back to that life, but I know I cannot.

Looking ahead to the other side feels impossible.

I want more time. I need more time. I bargain with God for more of it. I need more, just one more day.

Time matters after all.

Time is everything.

My memoir is now available.

Have you ever wanted to slow down or speed up time?

Have you ever wondered what happens to time that “leaves us”?

Do you look at time differently following your (or a loved one’s) cancer diagnosis?

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17 thoughts to “Time”

  1. Your post is so poignant for me today. Three years ago on February 25th my mother slipped away while peacefully sleeping at my home on hospice care. It was one day after her 78th birthday.

  2. You know, Nancy… I love your writing, but I couldn’t finish this post despite next month being 13 years since I lost my mother. It’s a raw pain, isn’t it? Sometimes it seems to never go away and every now and then something or someone touches on it so exactly, I have to look away. I think that’s happening here. I hope to come back soon and finish reading. xoxo

    1. Stacey, I completely understand your emotions. It is a raw pain that’s always right below the surface no matter how much time has passed isn’t it? I’m sorry for your loss, Stacey. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.

  3. Poignantly, heartbreakingly beautiful prose, Nancy. This post brought me to tears. I am so very sorry about the deep loss of your mom.

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your life.

    Regarding time, I hate the expression “killing time.” Why would anyone want to kill time. Since cancer hit me to the very core, I now have an uncanny ability to slow down time (I guess that would be my superpower if I were a superhero). I am able to take in the moments instead of rushing around in my pre-cancer form.

    1. Beth, Thanks so much for your compassionate words. They mean a lot to me. And I’m glad you are able to slow down and take in the moments more easily these days. Time really is everything.

  4. I cried reading this – I begged for more time with my own mother as she lay dying too – now i realize that there could never be enough time in the world for how long I wanted to stay with her. Today I wish I could go back in time and spend one more ordinary day with her when she was still healthy and well and my lovely Mum – but again, I don’t think just one day would satisfy me. When it comes to wishing for time with my mother, there are no limits to how much I wish it.

    1. Marie, Of course, there could never be enough time could there? I think I mentioned to you once that I actually journaled about a planned imaginary day and how I would spend it if I did have one more day to spend with my mom. I might have to share that at some point. I found doing so to be quite comforting. Thanks for reading and commenting. I know you miss your mother too.

  5. The passage through the loss of a mother, your lifeline into the world and all that means, is poignant, sad, and ultimately transformational. Ultimately you laugh at what she used to laugh at, cook her recipes with gratitude for her life and not tears, and you have more time when you simply appreciate the gift that she was. You realize you had to let go of her so her suffering might end. I remember those hours distinctly, even tho it has been 25 years, when I was 33. I know we’ve discussed this in other venues – but five years really isn’t all the long in the course of a life.

    That doesn’t east the pain of that particular voyage, tho. I remember how hard that was. And in time acceptance is key. We can not go back and lose moments in our own lives wishing for things that can’t be – I’m glad you’re continuing to write about her. Think how grateful, how proud, how humbled, your mother would be. To me that is a daughter’s ultimate gift.

    Thank you,


    1. Jody, Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your insightful thoughts. They are so full of sound wisdom. You’re absolutely right about the transformation, the letting go to end the suffering and the gift that she was. I guess you’re right about the five years not being that long too. Grief gets hurried along in our culture don’t you think? I’m sorry you lost your mom, too, all those years ago. And finally, yes, I think my mom would approve of me writing about her. She loved to share stories of any kind. Your last two sentences are gifts in themselves to me, Jody. Thank you.

  6. Nancy, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad 22 yrs ago and understand the enormous pain when we lose a wonderful parent. Reading your post reminded me of that song from the late 60s called “Time” by It’s A Beautiful Day. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but I think it’s a brilliant piece of music. The first lines are:

    Time is too slow for those who wait
    And time is too swift for those who fear
    Time is too long for those who grieve
    And time is too short for those that laugh.

    1. Eileen, Thanks so much for sharing about your dad and also for sharing a few lines of that song. I can’t place it right now, but I bet if I heard it, I would immediately recognize it. And thanks for understanding. You’re very kind.

  7. What a wonderful post, Nancy. Time has a way of getting away from us. I treasure it more than ever these days, now that I live from scan to scan. I try to make the most out of each day, splitting time among the following activities: friends, appointments, reading, writing, shopping for necessaries, walking, playing the ukulele, gardening, and puttering around the house. These give me joy. But then I must find time for rest because my fatigue level is higher than it used to be. It’s a balancing act, but for now, it works. xox Jan

    1. Jan, It is so wonderful to hear from you! Reading your comment made my day. Welcome back, my friend. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this thing we all value so much – this thing called time. And yes, it is a delicate balancing act sometimes for sure. My very best to you, Jan.

  8. I lost my mother 13 years ago this July. Time where does it go? How can she be gone this long already when I still remember the smell of her perfume, her funny laugh, mom always pulling out her bundle of photos on the ready to show anyone who would look. I feel so sad at times. I wonder what she would have thought if she knew I had breast cancer. I remember having an issue with mold in my house she brought a jug of extra strength bleach trying to disinfect everything. I wonder what she would have used or tried to get rid of my cancer? My mother didn’t die of cancer but HIV/AIDS. I miss her I keep waiting for the day I will miss her less. It never seems to be here…
    Love Alli xx

    1. Alli, I know what you mean about time… Isn’t it funny the things we remember? Like you, I often have wondered how my mother would have felt if she’d known about my cancer. I think it would have been very hard for her. Thanks so much for sharing some memories of your mom. I’m sorry for your loss, Alli.

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