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Saying goodbye

Author hopes work will help people deal with deaths of their loved ones

September 11, 2011
By RODNEY MINOR , The Leader Herald

Patricia Nugent can still remember the phone call that came out of nowhere to change her life forever.

The 58-year-old, who has a home on South Shore Road in Edinburg, said in the spring of 2003, her mother, Amelia, called from Florida to say Nugent's father, Nicholas, had fallen and broke his hip.

It marked the start of a period of profound change in Nugent's life. She would have to deal with a role-reversal that surprised her, nearly thrusting her into the role of caretaker for her parents.

Article Photos

Patricia A. Nugent reads from her book “They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad” at the now closed Borders in?Saratoga?Springs.
Photo submitted

"No matter their age, my parents had always been in charge," she said. "Now all of a sudden, I was in charge of what was going to happen."

Less than two years after her father's fall, both her parents were dead. From dealing with the pain of her loss, Nugent emerged stronger and with stories to share about her experience.

What started as a journal Nugent kept while helping her parents for the last 18 months of their lives, as a form of therapy for herself, is now the book "They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad."

Nugent said she hopes the book will help other adults deal with the loss of their parents.

"I wish I had a resource like this when I was losing my parents," she said. "I want to help other people feel better."

After Nugent's father broke his hip, her mother began taking care of him. However, she soon collapsed and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

That left Nugent - a full-time school administrator at the time - flying to Florida and back every weekend until arrangements could be made for her parents' care in New York.

"They are your parents. You do what you have to do to help them," she said.

After that, there was the continued stress for a variety of areas, not the least of which was dealing with members of the medical community.

"It is so difficult to see your independent parents laid low," Nugent said. "They played golf every day and entertained people."

Nugent's mother died in January 2004. Her father died that November.

After they died, Nugent later decided to give some of the vignettes from her journal to friends who also had recently lost parents.

Based on the positive feedback they gave her, she decided to go ahead and get the journal published as a book.

"It shows my foibles as a daughter. How scared I was, wondering if I was doing the right thing," she said. "It doesn't gloss it over. This is what really happened."

Since getting it published in December, she has done a number of book signings and is pleased with the response she has received.

"People have told me 'I feel like you wrote my story," she said.

While her parents were both in their 80s, their deaths were still a surprise and still painful, Nugent said. She noted many of her fellow baby boomers may be going through a similar experience of losing an older parent.

Nugent noted there are not many books available trying to help adults deal with the loss of their senior parents.

At one book signing, Nugent said, a 70-year-old woman came to her and recalled how when her mother recently died at age 91, no one sent her a sympathy card. No one acknowledged her loss.

"My hope is that [the book] will increase cultural sensitivity to these losses," she said.

Nugent said she decided to close the book with a quote from the famous James Taylor song, "Shower the People."

"It is important to let your parents know how much you love them and how much they have taught you," she said.

Nugent's book is available at the Adirondack?Country?Store in Northville.

For more information, visit her website for the book at



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