[SOMBER] My Mother's Last Words

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by: Jack Levesque, 1992

At the age of 80, my mother asked me, "Did we do the right thing by sending you to the Clark School for the Deaf? Was an oral education right for you?"

At 81, she said, "I should have learned sign language. But we were told it was not the right thing to do by the staff at Clark School. I can now see the difference in communication, and I see that it was a mistake not to learn sign language."

On July 10, 1992, at 10:20 a.m., my mother, Ruth Miller Levesque, passed away in the Monson, MA home of my brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Janet Levesque.

I was at her side when she died. Just prior to that I was in Denver, Colorado, for the NAD Convention and the Substance Abuse Conference that followed it.

I got word that my mother was going fast. Though I had planned to be at my brother's house on July 21, I decided to fly out early on July 10.

I flew into Hartford, Connecticut, and drove up to Monson, arriving at 7:15 a.m. I had about three last hours to spend with this courageous woman before she slipped into a coma and passed away at 10:20 a.m. It was obvious that we had very little time left, so we tried to say all the things we had in our hearts. I talked and lipread her. Toward the end, she wanted to tell me something. i didn't understand and asked her to repeat it. Twice more I asked her to repeat, then finally I gave her a piece of paper. She was only able to write the letter O, or maybe C, before her eyes closed and the deep sleep of coma overtook her.

In the weeks and months before my mother's death, we spent many hours going over issues and preparing for her death. It was done verbally, not comfortably, but adequately. My mother made sure I had the finest oral education around. She was proud of my speaking ability, and impressed by my less-than-perfect lipreading. But we never had a real conversation. Oh, I knew she loved me. I knew she was proud of me. But I'll never know her last words to me.

Her death was, in a way, a blessing. She had been in pain for two years due to cancer. I am comforted to think of her at peace and free of that pain. But the frustration of our final moments together will haunt me. If she had learned sign language, she would have been able to tell me clearly whatever it was that was so important to her. That moment was a painful one. It made me think of all the other things she might have told me over the years, but didn't.

I can't change anything. I can't go back and make her hands fly easily. But I can make a plea to other parents of deaf children:


I do not intend to get involved in the communications controversy. This moment is too close to me and too painful to muck it up with politics and arguments.

Communication between parent and child, or between any two people, is just too vital to be embroiled in communication methodology. The simple truth is this: if you want fluent communication and a meaningful exchange of ideas, emotions, thoughts and love with your child, sign it.

Parents, don't let idealism and rhetoric get in the way of realism.

The point was made painfully clear to me that sad morning a few weeks ago. I shall always wonder what my mother wanted to tell me.

It's too late for me. Is it too late for you?

Last update date: 
2005 Nov 29