Entry – 9 – Tears in Heaven

2:39 was a significant number in our home. It was my mom’s best time when she won the NY City Marathon. As I spent those days as my mom’s care giver, there were choices I needed to make about work. I had several events lined up back to back and was contemplating if I should leave my mom to teach or pull out of the event. Over the years, I had cancelled events due to my mom’s health. Scott and the girls had gone back to Vancouver with the car, and I stayed behind to care for my mom. Almost every morning, I’d walk to Starbucks. On this particular morning as I was contemplating what to do, I noticed the price of gasoline on my way to Starbucks was $2.39 per gallon. Later that day, I happened to look at the clock exactly at 2:39. That evening, as I was washing the dishes in her small bachelor apartment, there was a pain in my heart that I only had a couple more nights with her. How could I leave her to teach a yoga event? I decided then that I would stay with her until the end. The next morning, I walked to Starbucks and the gas was $2.35. I told my mom that I wasn’t leaving and she gave me a beautiful smile.

Those days as her health deteriorated drastically, she would sleep most of the time. She’d have moments of clarity where she’d wear a bright smile and perhaps say a few words and then slip back into sleep. Going back to the order of events, I got the call on Friday that she had fallen between the sofa and the coffee table when the hospice nurse found her on the floor unable to get herself up. By Wednesday, she was completely bed ridden. I would feed her when she was hungry and give her some water or juice through a straw when she was thirsty. That Wednesday as she was lying in bed unable to sit up, walk or even be picked up to the bedside commode because she was in too much pain, I sat beside her and she said “tanoshi” (I’m having fun) with another warm smile. I told her through watery eyes, in Japanese that I was having fun too and how much I enjoyed being with her.

The next morning, she woke up around 7am and said she was hungry. I brought her some yogurt and spoon fed her. On her second mouthful, her right hand started to twitch and it looked like she was scratching her chest. I asked her if she was itchy but she wasn’t responding. Soon her right arm was twitching rhythmically and I was getting nervous. The twitching continued up to her right shoulder as her right eye started blinking and her head shook with this strong rhythm. I had never witnessed anyone having a seizure until that moment. I called hospice and told them what was going on. They said they’d get a nurse there within the next couple of hours. I was freaking out but luckily the seizure only lasted about a minute or two but those were some long ass minutes! After that seizure, my mom was not responsive anymore. I tried to give her some morphine but she wasn’t able to swallow. About another hour later as I was waiting for the hospice nurse to arrive, the twitching started again and continued up to her head for what was another couple of minutes. This time, I was calm and stroked her head and arm as she convulsed. The convulsions were not wild. They were contained and she wasn’t going to hurt herself.

The nurse arrived after the second seizure and put in a port for morphine in her right arm that regulated her dose and another port in her right thigh for the anti-seizure med (2mg of Lorazepam), which needed to be injected every four hours around the clock. She was having a hard time getting the port in her shoulder because of her t-shirt and asked how attached I was to her shirt. I told her I was very attached. I had put my mom in her “Gorman Cup” shirt, which was the marathon named after my mom in her hometown of Japan. So she didn’t cut it. We worked around it. The nurse said she’d come back again tomorrow and by this point, they would be making daily visits. I asked her how much longer she thought my mom had and said it was hard to tell. Everybody was so different. She wouldn’t be surprised if she passed that day or even if she lasted another week.

Friday, the nurse came again and told me a bed had opened up at the hospice house. The hospice house was a beautiful facility nestled in the woods with 12 private rooms and full bathrooms. It looked like a resort without any amenities. A bed had opened up a couple days prior, which I declined. I loved being my mom’s caretaker. By Friday though, my mom had practically been in a comma since her seizures and I wanted her to let go. I thought my mom might’ve been holding on since she kept hearing my voice and the voice of her friends visiting. My mom was not going to come around from all of this. Her fingers had already started to get “dusky” and lose color. She had not uttered a word, moved nor opened her eyes since the seizures. I told the nurse I was ready to take her to the hospice house.

Since Scott had left with the car, I decided to rent one so I could drive to and from the hospice house to my mom’s retirement home. I needed a car that day and the only car left at this family run rental car was a white Ford Ranger pickup. The guy asked me if I could drive a stick. It had been a while, over 10 years since I last drove a stick. This could be fun.

The paramedics came to pick up my mom that evening as I was dressing her. Since my mom was not helping me at all, it was taking me a while to get her pajamas on. I had kept her in a t-shirt the past few days without pants so I could quickly change her and inject her with the anti-seizure meds. I started to get emotional when the two young men came to pick up my mom and transfer her. I wasn’t used to seeing many people under 90 come to my mom’s door. I asked them to help me put some clothes on her and they did. I wanted them to know that this person they were about to transfer was no ordinary 80 year old and I started to tell them about my mom and all her running accomplishments, even showing a picture of her on the cover of Runner’s World magazine. My mom was going to be taken out through the main entrance of the retirement home and her friends would be watching. I wanted her to look cute so we put on some matching fleece blue pajamas and a cap to cover her bald head.

The paramedics drove her in a small white ambulance without the sirens as we were in no hurry. I followed in my Ford pickup. Tears were streaming down my face and I wanted to take in every moment of this experience. The pick up had a cd player and I put in one of the cd’s I recently burned for my mom. The first song was George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”. I cranked it and followed the slow pace of the ambulance carrying my mom. My hair was crazy wild and my eyes were bloodshot from all the crying. My gaze was fixed on that double door ambulance carrying my mom.

We got to the hospice house smoothly except for a couple stalls shifting from neutral to first on my part. My mom was carted into room number 11. We were greeted by the loving staff and a nurse who suggested my mom be put back on steroids. I had taken her off the steroids and anti depressants at the beginning of the week so she could pass easily and without anything contributing to prolonging her and my suffering. Her oncologist said they weren’t helping her anymore anyway. The nurse wanted to put her back on the steroids to prevent seizures but she hadn’t had a seizure since the Lorazepam. I voiced my concerns about the steroids and he listened. We decided not to give her anything else, just the current meds which were keeping her comfortable. I got my mom ready for bed, turned on some low classical music and kissed her goodnight. The room next door sounded like they were having a party. There were so many family members tending to their 90 something year old matriarch. I didn’t want anyone else with me though. Growing up, it was just the two of us. Why should it be any different now? We celebrated Thanksgiving, not really since neither of us liked turkey but we would go out to a sushi restaurant together.

It was so hard leaving her at the hospice house but I wanted her to know she could leave this world and I would be ok. I walked slowly down the long fluorescent lit corridor to her room back at the retirement home, passing by doors that were decorated with either kid’s drawings to their grandparents, paper cranes or artificial fall foliage. I walked into my mom’s apartment knowing that she would never step into this place again. The hospital bed was in the middle of the room, just like the paramedics left it. I felt so empty, so dark. That night I kept waking up in the middle of the night to care for my mom, only to look up at an empty hospital bed.

The next morning, I called the hospice house and they said my mom was doing fine. Her breathing pattern had not changed and she was peaceful. I looked out the window and it was the start of fall. There was a light drizzle and I noticed a family of deer outside the retirement home. There were 5 deer foraging, gracefully. It was a beautiful sight. I started cleaning up my mom’s place and calling to have the hospital bed picked up. About an hour later, the nurse called and said my mom’s breathing pattern had changed and become more labored. Nothing imminent but asked if I was still planning on heading in that morning. I took my time getting ready and packed a bag for her and me. I was planning on spending the night at the hospice house. In the event she did pass, I had picked out an outfit.

I stopped by Starbucks first to get a venti half-caf americano. I realized then how comforting the ritual of coffee was. It represented that everything was going to be ok. No matter what was happening, if I was still drinking a good americano, all would be manageable.

I got to my mom’s room at 10:40am and kissed her good morning as I unpacked some things. She was not responsive so I carried out a monologue of small talk. I brought some flowers out into her room and arranged some clear, quartz crystals towards the head of her bed. After arranging the room, I pulled up a chair and sat down beside her. I started to stroke the left side of her face and arm. Something told me that this was it and I reached for the phone. Baba needed to hear her granddaughters one more time. I quickly called them and told them baba was not going to talk back but they should both tell her how much they loved her and that they would see her another time. Gabby went first and then Blanca. I had the phone on speaker and held it up to my mom’s ear. At some point her breathing changed again and she took about one breath per what seemed like 15 seconds. After Blanca said goodbye, I hung up the phone and kept stroking her face. The nurse walked in during this point and asked if I was Danielle. I asked her what was going on right now without moving my gaze from my mom. The nurse said warmly, “She is taking her final breaths. She waited for you.”

She took about two more breaths with me and I watched as she left her body. She was so peaceful. The experience was incredibly beautiful. It was just as beautiful as the moment I gave birth to my daughters.

I thanked my mom kissing her face with tears streaming down my cheeks, saying “arigatou, arigatou” over and over. I was grateful that she had given me life but also grateful that she waited and shared her last breath with me. She passed at 11am.

The nurse gave me some time and left me alone with her. When she came back into the room, she asked if I would like to give her a lavender bath. “Would I like to honour my mom and this transition? Yes!!” There was a big pain in my chest as I said how lovely that would be.

Another nurse came in with a bowl of warm water infused with lavender and two crocheted washcloths. She asked if I was going to be ok as many people have difficulty watching their loved ones after they pass. I had bathed, changed, fed and carried my mom. Her lifeless body was not going to faze me.

I started washing her head and face, then the rest of her body. Her blood started to pool down to the back of her body as it wasn’t circulating anymore. I brought a blouse and a sweater but forgot to bring an undershirt. My mom always wore an undershirt so I took my tanktop off and gave it to her. It was one we had shared, like a lot of our clothes. Once her blouse was on, the nurse asked me if I felt she really needed the sweater. It wasn’t easy dressing a lifeless body but I said, “Yes, she needs to be in season.” I was not going to let her go out into fall weather with just a blouse. The nurse understood and said of course! So we got her sweater, pants, socks and cap on. She looked beautiful.

The cremation guy arrived and we chatted for a while as everyone was getting the paperwork ready. He asked if I wanted her carried out with the sheet covering her face or uncovered. These were questions that I had never thought of. “Do you want your mother’s dead body carried off under a sheet or exposed?” I paused and he asked if I needed a minute to think about it. I said, “Ok, perhaps covered.” He covered her with the white sheet you see in movies and then immediately, I said “No, not covered. She looks so beautiful. Why would I cover her up?” He put a quilt over her body up until her chest and asked if it looked alright. My mom was a perfectionist and our beds were always perfectly made. This was not perfect. One side was longer than the other. I mentioned that to him and we spent the next minute getting the quilt just “perfect”.

As he pushed her body out of her room on the stretcher, I walked in front. The hospice nurses had gathered at the front of the door. Our main nurse, Lynn held Tibetan chimes in her hands. Once we stopped, she slowly rang the chimes three times celebrating her life. I held and kissed my mom again through tears and noticed the nurses trying to contain their tears. We were honouring her life and her transition.

I watched my mom’s body drive off into a white Chevy van and gradually made my way back to her retirement home. Fuck, that was hard. I walked into the retirement home and everyone could see what had happened, the staff, her friends. They cried with me. I loved being there when my mom was alive, but being there without her felt empty. In her apartment, were pictures of the girls, Scott and me. I wanted a picture of her. I finally found one and stuck it on the fridge. I started packing up my mom’s things in no hurry. I was wounded and stuck. I read each note that was in English and cursed myself for not continuing Japanese school as a kid so I could read her notes in kanji. There are three ways to write in Japanese, hiragana, katakana and kanji. I could only read hiragana but only baby books are written in solely hiragana. My mom’s writing had a lot of kanji. Those are the beautiful, calligraphic characters taken from the Chinese. I came across one note in English, that said “things that still bother me”. She had been doing some work with the hospice chaplain and her dear friend and now mine, “Laverne”. She had two things on this list and they were both about her dad. The first thing was about how he didn’t value women and didn’t want to nurture any of her dreams. The second one was about her older brother. Her brother had switched subjects in school from an academic subject to an art class and their dad took a knife and sliced his thigh open. My mom had told me about that but I had forgotten that dark memory. Who the fuck slices their kids’ leg?!

My mom’s friends came by to check up on me and help. I had been crying for the past two days pretty much continuously. I told them to have a drink. My mom loved drinking from little 2 ounce glasses so that’s what we had, pinot grigio in two ounce schnapps glasses. We drank and toasted my mom’s life. Her friends all told me that she wasn’t gone and that she would be watching me. “Joannie” said, “We never really lose anyone. We just absorb them.”

That evening I slept alone in my mom’s apartment, purged of furniture with half packed open boxes. Some of my friends who’ve lost their moms have told me previously that they had visions of their moms coming back and letting them know they were ok. As I fell asleep, I was half hoping she would come and see me but at the same time wondering if that would freak me out.

The next morning, Sunday, I woke up thinking perhaps none of the experiences of the day before had happened. I looked outside for the family of deer but they were not there. I called Scott and reality hit that she really was gone. The events of yesterday did occur. It was not just a bad dream.

Scott drove down to help pack. I was “stuck in mud” as Scott described, unable to toss things out, so we didn’t. Scott helped put everything away in boxes as we listened to a women’s choir singing up tempo songs in four part harmony about calling “911 to talk to Jesus” down the hall. I was having the darkest moments of my life while life continued on for everyone else.

My mom had a collection of oyster shells and I wanted to put those back into the ocean. She enjoyed collecting things from nature like shells, stones, crystals and plants. For the past four years, we’d stay at the Chyrsalis Inn and Spa in Fairhaven, just south of Bellingham when we’d go down for chemo. It was a small, boutique hotel overlooking the water with a good, somewhat elegant restaurant.

Scott and I decided to have a late lunch there after we finished moving out of my mom’s place and take the shells back into the water. As soon as we arrived, we decided to check into the hotel for a night as well. I was fatigued and welcomed a good night’s sleep in a comfy bed with my husband. That evening, as we were lying in bed, Scott started kissing me gently. It had been a while and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get in the mood. My heart was broken. He was so patient and loving. As he was on top of me, I thought “Is my mom watching me now?” I quickly dismissed that thought. After I came, I cried some more and Scott held me in his arms.

The next morning, we walked onto the water with my mom’s oyster shells and dropped them in the ocean one at a time, each of us taking turns. After we went through all of them, Scott suggested we sit on a rock and silently say a prayer. It was all about letting go.

It has been just over two weeks since she passed and it’s been an emotional journey. Sleep took over the first week as I slept for 10-12 hours each night. I just started to get back onto the mat a couple days ago after weeks. In today’s class the teacher ended with a gratitude meditation and the first person he invited us to bring into our awareness was our mom, “honouring her whether she is here with us or not.”

Thank you mommy. I love you and miss you.

Michiko Gorman August 9, 1935-September 19, 2015


  • Nani Diaz Bedregal

    I wish I can see you again.
    Peace & Love to you and your family.

  • Sophia Luypaert

    Dear Danielle, sending you lots of love to you and your family. Thank you for sharing all your emotions and letting us be part of it. Namaste

  • Sean Ghazi

    Thank you for sharing, Danielle. I lost my mum to cancer in 2008, three days after Christmas. My deepest condolences to you.

  • Isabelle Moreau

    My deepest condolences Danielle. You so gracefully, courageously and authentically honor your mom in this post. May her spirit continue to protect and guide you on your journey. Namaste.

  • Tamara Holt

    Big sigh. As I wiped away my tears from your sharing I feel somewhat relieved for your mother no longer in pain and for your journey with your mother and most importantly most recently your 100% dedication to her. That takes a lot of courage dedication and serious heart felt emotions. You followed your heart and did the right thing from day 1. Not easy, but when you reflect back down the road you will know and feel you did the right thing. Your daughters are so blessed to have such a sweet open heart filled momma. Through these last few weeks and days of your mother’s presence on this earth plane and your being vulnerable and sharing you still found moments to share some funny moments in all of this. You made me and thousands of others laugh cry empathize and reflect. As crazy as this might sound I wish your stories would continue. You have helped me be more open hearted, compassionate, and reflective with my own aging mother. I will miss your updates, your vulnerable trusting soul. Feel free to send us another story of life after passing if you feel so inclined. BTW it was wonderful running into you at Chopra Centre last week. Love Tamara

  • Mary

    My sincere condolences for the loss of your mother. May her soul rest in peace and may the scent of lavendar forever remind you of her eternal love and spirit.

  • Frank Stebner

    Dear Danielle
    My sincere condolences to you and your family on the passing of your mother Miki. Although I have only known her briefly over the last 4 years, Miki left a great impression on me, She is one of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever met. Thank you so much for sharing your recent stories with us.
    I hope that your many happy memories will ease your sense of loss.. I will miss you Miki. Rest in Peace.

  • Susan Koet

    Sweet Danielle,

    My deepest condolences to you and your family. You are one special lady. Thank you for letting me in on your journey, even though we’ve never spoken.
    Your writings have touched me deeply. Much love and light to you!

  • David Leung

    Danielle, sorry for your loss and sincere condolences to you and your family.

  • Peter Ciaccia

    Deepest condolences from the NYRR family.

  • Heather Tolford

    Dear Danielle, my deepest condolences on your loss. I always thought that Miki would live forever. She was my teammate and training partner. Laszlo would often make me run ” 4 laps hard” with her on the track at Valley College back in 1975/76. Miki encouraged me to move up in distance and we ran together in my first 10k. In Santa Monica . You were with us Danielle on my first trip to New York to run the mini with my former SFVTC teammates, Jacki and Leal Anne. I was running for Oregon at the time and Fred Lebow brought us all together in New York to honor our coach. We had such a wonderful time, and you were adorable. Life intervened and I never saw your mother again, but living here now in New York, I think of her often, remembering the cake we shared at after our team workout when she returned in triumph after the 1976 NYC marathon. I am running the dash to the finish 5k the day before this year’s race and volunteering at the mile 18 aid station for the marathon. this one is for Miki.

  • aaron krohn

    What a beautiful heartfelt story about your mother’s last days.
    As a former marathoner (ran 12 between 1973 and 1979), I was very aware of your mom when she was a top-rated marathoner.
    We all spoke of her with the utmost respect!
    She WAS truly a pioneer!
    I live in Bellingham, and saw you mention she either lived here, or visited a doctor here.
    Did she ever live in Bellingham?
    Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever read a more loving or tender tribute from daughter to mother—for any reason!
    Always be proud of her.
    And may she Rest in Peace!

  • Jacqueline Hansen

    Danielle, the last time we spoke your Mom was ready to run a 10-minute mile and I never doubted she could. Perhaps she is doing that very thing in heaven . . . the next life , . , wherever her soul wanders . . . . My heartfelt condolences go to you at this time. I know you’ve been riding an emotional roller coaster for many years now. You gave your mother all your unconditional love, just as a mother gives a daughter over a lifetime. She was fotunate to have such a wonderful daughter. You were blessed and she was blessed. I am blessed to have known her. I hope all your good memories will sustain you throught this difficult time, and months to come. May you find peace. Much love, “Jacki”

  • Gloria G. Ratti

    I can only identify with your dear mother as a key personality during the early days of women’s running. When she captured the Boston Marathon title in 1974 in a time of 2:47:11 it was the first time a woman had run under the three hour mark in Boston. She was a beautiful, charming woman and you have every reason to be proud of your mother as is the entire running community and we all share in your loss..

    • Marcia

      So nice to see your name…Marcia Dowling

  • amby burfoot

    Danielle: So sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing this story.
    Your mother was not just a champion runner, but also beloved by all lucky
    enough to know her. Amby Burfoot

  • Mary MacEnroe

    What a beautiful tribute to a special lady. I was honored to meet your mom in 2010 when she was inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.

  • Micha Shines

    I found out about your amazing mom just maybe a year or two ago as my obsession with distance running grew. Maybe it was the shared Asian roots that made me feel more connected to her, or maybe the fact that she was 5′ and a 40 something (single) mom yet still so fast! She definitely served as inspiration and gave me hope that with an iron will, really outlandish things can be accomplished! Whatever the case, it’s with gratitude that I take a few moments to acknowledge her contribution to the sport of women’s distance running. I often forget that the first competitive female runners weren’t necessarily welcomed nor encouraged. And thank YOU so much for sharing your experience, Danielle. It has touched me to my core. I now see your mom as not only a pioneer for women’s running but for women and moms period! Please accept my sincere condolences. May she rest in peace. <3

  • Mykie Brown

    Dear Danielle,
    Although I only knew Miki for a short time, I was blessed to meet her. You are beautiful inside and out just like her. As you know I lost my mum last year. We have been given a most precious gift to know our mums deeply. I too spent constant time with my mum before she passed away-amazing lightness of being to be that close. Reading about your journey brought my mum back to me; thank you for that gift. May all thats precious about your relationship with your mother live on forever. Much love Mykie

  • Marcia

    miki was an amazing runner…I was just starting out in the ’70’s…I was in awe of Miki Gorman…RIP

  • Mieko

    Dear Danielle,
    Your mother’s passing was reported widely here in Japan and I just wanted to say it was truly an honor to read in your posts what a graceful human being your mother was to the end. Personally, Ms. Gorman’s writing inspired me to study in the US when I was young and today I myself is blessed with an only child, who is half-Japanese. Michiko Gorman will live on, across the ocean, in our collective memories forever.

  • Susan Adams

    Sending you my deepest Sympathy with Compassion, Peace & Love, Peace & Love.to you and your momma.

  • junko maeda


    So so sad to find that Miki-san is gone, could not express my feeling and just remembering about singing together, dropping at her home on the way to walk with my kids and my husband, calling her from the street to let us in, so on on on, cannot believe, I have so many regrets not able to come to see her. She will be singing in the heavn with her angelic voice which I cannot never imitate and looking always after you from the sky.

    Genki dashitene.

  • Seiko Nishida

    Love you Danielle. Your mother’s spirit is in your heart now so she is always with you lovingly looking at you and your family~! Such a beautiful experience you went through with your mother, is a beautiful memory and becoming your strength and love! May you be in much more love and light with your beautiful heart! Love you so much.

  • Dr. Mikey

    Dr. Mikey here, Religious Advisor of the Los Angeles Hash House Harriers, the “Drinking Club with a Running Problem” which has weekly runs at various and unpredictable locations within the Los Angeles basin.

    A number of years ago we had the singular honor of having your mom do a run with our group, and by some weird coincidence (odds are about 1000 to 1) we’re starting tomorrow’s (Oct. 10) run at the same location that she joined us in a suburb called Silverlake.

    Although we have a number of accomplished runners in our group it’s fair to say that your mom “cleaned their clocks.” I remember her as a very sweet lady, unassuming and seemingly unaware of the magnitude of her achievements, and a real inspiration to us amateurs. She was clearly the most accomplished runner we’ve ever had run with us.

    Reading your blog was rather gut-wrenching, and I thank you for sharing it. At tomorrow’s run we will have a special ceremony honoring her, and although it will involve drinking a beer (which we found your mom could hardly tolerate!) believe me it will involve the utmost respect and admiration.

    Best wishes.

    Dr. Mikey

  • Rachel Acheson

    your words are so special and magical. my heart is with you.

  • Andrea Rathborne

    I feel so grateful to have read your heartfelt, raw and beautiful tribute to your mama. What an incredible person she is and what an amazing girl she has created in you. You carry on her spirit and for this, all that are fortunate enough to know and love you, also know and love her as well. With love…xo

  • Valerie Giles

    After a wonderful Thanksgiving Day…I am touched to read your last post and have so much gratitude to you for sharing your story… Love Valerie

  • John Handy

    I happened to be reading an old Jan 14, 1974 Sports Illustrated that I bought because a young Julius Erving is on the cover. Your Mom is on page 89 where it says she set a world record for women at the 26th Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, CA. 2:46:36. Beat the old record by 4 seconds. It inspired me to learn more about her and I came upon your wonderful tribute. You must be so very proud of what she accomplished in her life.

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