Monday, January 17, 2022


Helen Kandler died on January 13, 2022 at 8:35 am. (Today as I type this bit.) She was 82, and had suffered with Alzheimer's/ dementia. She was my mother.

Mum was born in Ayr, Scotland in October 1939. She once told me that one her earliest memories was her mother hiding with her under a desk as the Germans bombed the munitions plant nearby. She never liked sirens or loud noises her whole life. Mum was the middle child of three, and she also had a half-brother. Her father was Irish, and her mum was Scottish- Clan Macintosh, of which she was very proud, and passed that pride to me. Of her family, only her older brother survives her.

Mum in Scotland, 1972

She met my father some time in the early 60s while dad was stationed in Germany. They married in January 1964, and were married for almost 58 years. As a gift to dad for their 25th wedding anniversary, mum became a citizen of the US. I helped her study the voluminous amount that she needed to master to pass a citizenship test. (A test I think few in the GQP could pass.) She last saw her native soil in 1972, when she brought my brother and I over to meet our grandparents.  

Mum is survived by my dad, my brother and his wife, me and my Wife, and 2 grandchildren.  

All of those are the facts.  And the fact is I said my goodbye to her a couple of months ago while she was still cognizant.  

Right now, I feel numb.  I should feel more- after all, she was my mother.  She accepted me as Sophie.

When I dressed as a teen, there was only one thing of mums that I would wear- a gold necklace with a heart charm, inside of which is a picture of grandmum and a tiny seed: thistle from Scotland.  I wore it often.  When I stopped dressing in 1983, was the last time I wore it.

The Locket

My father told me to help myself to her jewelry.  Mum wore a lot of costume jewelry, but she had some real stuff as well.  She favored opals, rubies, and diamonds.  I immediately decided that I must only take half of the good stuff, as it wouldn’t be fair to my brother’s wife (or their daughter) for me to take it all.  It’s strange, I felt almost guided to check little containers away from the jewel boxes- tiny boxes and decorative jars (mum had a LOT of them), and that’s where I found her diamond rings- all gifts from my dad.  

While I was looking, dad entered the room, and I asked him if her could identify her engagement ring.  He quickly pointed one out- and I kept it.  Someday, I will give it to my daughter for her wedding (assuming I’m around.)  Then again, all of what I took will someday be hers.  

Mum meeting her daughter for the first time: Feb 2014.

I thought I’d finished, when I felt the urge to check under one of the mahogany jewel boxes (gifts from her father).  There I found two bags, one a pink silk bag and the other blue and velvet like.  In the pink one, I found a string of tiny pearls.  In the blue one was the gold heart locket.  I kept both.  I left half of the valuable items for my brother's wife, as it wouldn't be fair if I took them all.  After all, they have a daughter as well, and she deserves some of her grandmother's legacy.

Believe what you will, but I think mum wanted me to find these items and keep them.  That's not all.  Earlier in the day, my dad and older brother were both outside, leaving me alone in the house.  I decided to speak to her, and told her that I'd try to make her proud.  I then went into a room that used to be where her massage business was conducted, now empty.  The room smelled like her.  She hadn't been in it since at least July, but it smelled like her.  I felt she was there.  A few other times during the day, I felt her presence as well.  Dad's dog also saw her.  He'd look at parts of a room where no one was standing and wag his tail.  She was there- I know it.  

The day ended with a grueling five hour drive back to State College.  During that time, mum was cremated.  I was tired, and my back hurt.

Now her pain is over.  My dad is alone in the house he shared with her.  I'm back in State College while the snow falls outside.  I have homework I should be doing.  The world continues going as it will after I'm gone as well.  I've received many kind messages over the past days from friends and well wishers, and I appreciate them all.  

I'm relieved in a way.  I'd waited for months for the phone call I received Thursday, and now it's done.  Mum was stubborn to the end, and, in the end, she died alone, as no one was in the room.  That was her way when I think about it- she didn't want a big fuss.  

Dad will get her ashes tomorrow.  They will be divided in two boxes: 2/3 and 1/3.  I will take the 1/3 and send it over to my cousin in Scotland.  There, my Uncle will scatter them on the same ground with her parents and sister.  At least part of her will be home.  


  1. She definitely was with you and guided you to those items. I remember when she took you to the outlets to buy you clothes she was ecstatic to have a daughter! I would say to hold those memories tight, but I already know you will. I think I remember you wearing that locket. Love you to the moon and back my dear friend. Peace and light.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. I would cherish such a lovely picture as yours with your mother. My mother passed away 14 years ago, knowing of - but never having met - the happy daughter she refused to acknowledge.

  3. Sophie,
    I really enjoyed reading your story about your Mom. I'm sending hugs your way.
    Sandra E.

  4. Your entry about your mom's life and passing was very real and touching. I am sad for you, Sophie. My reactions are not so profound, yet I hope that they provide you some comfort.

  5. Sorry for your loss, I went through this last June, and it is hard, but it does get better but there will always be certain day, or memories that will bring it back. just remember she is in a better place and although gone from us she will always be in your heart and memories.