“THE UNBREAKABLE SPIRIT- PART TWO” 

Mom’s final journey 

 
 

  

 
 

 

The boys and I used to joke that Mom must be like a cat with nine lives, surviving two bouts of breast cancer, a five-way by-pass, lymphedema, gall-bladder surgery where she’d forgotten to mention that she’d drank liquid prior to her surgery, causing complications and irritating her surgeon, congestive heart failure, thyroid complications, pituitary complications, kidney failure and a brain tumor. My little brother said if he was ever in a plane crash, he wanted to be sitting “Next to Mom, because SHE would be the one person whose area would be unaffected!“ She was that determined in her survival instincts. 

She took it in stride, refusing to worry anyone, maintaining practicality, sense of humor and a clear head until she was unable to process information correctly which would frustrate her, occasionally moving her to tears. 

Despite her long relationship with illness, she remained relatively well until 2009 when her health took a serious turn south and she was told she’d require another heart surgery to repair faulty aortic and mitral valves. Various complications prevented her surgery numerous times eventually disallowing it altogether. Her window of opportunity closed mid-2010 with the news that she was too ill to survive another round in the operating room and that she needed to spend time with family. 

Second opinions yielded similar results and although Mom was referred to Swedish in Seattle, known for their peerless handiwork in cardiac science, Mom’s condition declined further before Swedish was able to confirm her potential placement in their study for problematic procedures. We were devastated, especially when days after this event, Mom decided to check herself into hospice. 

I drove up from California, meeting my brothers and their wives, nephews and niece, aunts, uncles, grandmother and friends who gathered around her to spend her final days together. We downloaded her favorite music on I-tunes, snuck in her favorite foods, sung to her, (she used to sing to us as children, especially the song, “You are my sunshine”) and slept in shifts with the others keeping vigil in order to not miss anything, whether it was her ‘awake time’ or the possibility of her leaving without our knowledge. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of her life much like she hadn’t wanted to miss even a minute of ours while healthy. 

At one point, my little brother brought in key lime pie, one of Mom’s favorites. Her eyes lit up a bit. He started spoon-feeding her tiny bites off of the top, careful not feed her the crusted portion, fearful that she might choke on anything too hard. She caught on quickly and glared at him, using every bit of her breath to blurt out “CRUST!” (her favorite part was the crust) Startled but laughing, Bob gave her a bite with a bit of crust in it, crumbled up so she wouldn’t choke. Our last few days with Mom were filled with similar experiences, laughter through tears. One of her biggest fears had been leaving family, making sure we were ok and at one point, my brother, knowing she was suffering leaned in and told her it was ok to let go and meet Jesus because we were all ok and loved her so much. She had been non-responsive nearly all day but right then, she opened her eyes, looked at him and defiantly said, “NO!” which made us laugh, her resolve and strength knew no limits and although she had previously asked us ‘permission’ to go, now we all felt a little guilty for laughing at her response or for even asking in the first place. Her ‘no’ made it sound like he was suggesting we simply toss her out with the trash. 

Wednesday, June 9th at approximately ten p.m., we noticed that her breathing was no longer labored and within a minute or two she was gone. Oddly enough, she had the appearance of a smirk on her face, like she harbored a secret that we were not yet privy to and would have to wait to find out what the fuss was all about. Mom, a deeply spiritual woman had been excited for days to go and finally meet her maker and expressed absolutely no fear whatsoever. Her only reservation about her death was the potential suffering that may lay in wait for her – she did not wish to endure that part and we truly would have taken that away from her if possible. 

She wanted others suffering from cancers and dysfunctions to understand that help and hope is available for those willing to reach out and help themselves. She always served as her own advocate and refused to accept lower standards for herself or for her children. After her first diagnosis in 1981, her gut reaction was panic and depression and her Specialists told her without reserve that her success was determined by her attitude, therefore she must shift gears, anyway possible and suggested ways in which she might do this. Counseling, swimming, nutrition, writing in a journal, group support, anything. 

Even back then, Mom understood the correlation between body and mind and took advantage of this advice and decided to live – and live she did. They had given her three to six months and instead, this extraordinary woman survived twenty-seven years, raising her own children, seeing her kids find appropriate mates who gave her grandchildren, watched her siblings kids grow up to have their own families, endured happiness and pain, (one Sister buried two sons during this time from complications of diabetes, one of the deaths occurring on the morning of one of her grandchildren‘s birth, she lost her father, an aunt and various other relatives and friends

She got to live her life in her own unique way…the same way she handled her death. Mom snubbed her nose at crowds, that was for conformist types. She preferred to do her own thing, digging her heels in with determination once she’d made her mind up. She had a bit on a naughty innocence about her, invented funny words for body parts, swore that ‘Mothers never use the bathroom’ (but then we believed her until we were quite old) yet on the other hand did not want us learning about important things on the playground so she developed a policy that invited “any question or concern, regardless of how embarrassing or terminology used, no rejection!” and she honored it. We were to take anything we heard from another kid, stranger or cousin to her and she would explain what it meant (or she would find out and get back to us) and she would give us the facts, nothing more or less, straight face. (although our father often had a red face and shocked expression during one of these little ‘educational episodes’) it was effective and kept us out of trouble. She also had straight talk about drugs, sex and other behaviors and what people really thought about kids who engage in such behaviors. She was so influential, eyes blazing with passion, we usually listened to her. 

Jeanne Marie (Knapp Belvin) Longpre’ is survived by her devoted husband, J. Timothy Longpre, of Puyallup, WA, Mother, Virginia, of Tacoma, WA, brothers, Max (and wife Joie) in Juneau, Alaska, Chuck (and wife Ellen) in Boulder, Colorado, sisters Donna (and husband Joe) in Tacoma, WA, and little sister Bobbie ’her Irish twin’ (and husband Rick) who divide their time between Washington and Hawaii, her children Mike (and wife Stacy) who live in Battle Ground, Washington, Annie (and husband Rick) in coastal Los Angeles, Bobby (and wife, Teirsa) in Spanaway, Washington, Timothy Longpre’ (and wife Nicole of Bellevue) and Maria Cook (and husband Clint), of Portland, Oregon.  Mom is survived by 13 grandchildren, relatives and friends who loved her with a passion and will continue to be influenced by her wisdom, humor and insights for our remaining years. 

Although this is a time marked with an incredible loss, it’s not a time for sadness, because she’s in a new body now, doesn’t have to struggle for breath to make her points, laugh or sigh. Mom’s better and so are we all for having had her in our lives, especially that last nearly three borrowed decades. I’m fortunate to get to call her Mother and friend and I’ll love her always. 

NOTE: she was born 1/27/45, died 6/9/10 and her Service will be held on 6/19/10 at 3:00 p.m. at Lutheran Church of Christ the King, 1710 85th St E, Tacoma, WA 98445 

In lieu of flowers, we’d love for you to contribute to the hospice house instead. They were wonderful to mom and made her final days as comfortable as possible. Thank you, the family. 

Franciscan Hospice-Palliative 

2901 Bridgeport Way West
University Place, WA 98466-4614
(253) 534-7000 

Annie Hamilton is a Researcher and Writer with published chapters featured in medical journals as well as Townhall, Stand up America USA, The Competitive Advantage, Forbes, Gold Coast Chronicle, House Conservatives Fund, National Institutes of Health, American Daily Review and dozens of other publications. Her columns, chapters and work has appeared in libraries, medical institutes and teaching facilities throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, South America and the Middle East. Hamilton continues to write about current events, cultural affairs, America’s Founding documents, Economics, Health Care, Islam/Sharia in the west, Gun rights, Cancer/Neuroendocrine medicine and a variety of other subjects. She can be reached at  annie.hamilton@gmail.com  

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