My mother passed away a little over a year ago. The anniversary of her death was July 24th. I’ve put off updated this, because I feel like I should write something about her. Unfortunately I haven’t had much luck. Most of what I write concerning my mother comes out very raw. I have written about her a little bit over this summer, as it was one of my goals, although in truth I haven’t written nearly as much as I would have liked, and none of it came out like I expected it to. These are just a few excerpts. (Each paragraph was written separately.)
One of my goals for this summer was to take some time out to write about my mother. I’ve started to on many occasions, but each time it just gets too hard. I imagined that what I wrote would be monumental and beautiful, and maybe even a little bit poetic. I thought I could write something life changing, because my mother was life changing; but every attempt that I have made has fallen short of my epic expectations I miss my mom. I miss her every day…all the time. I have said many times how lucky I was to have her and to have had the relationship I did with her and to have spent the amount of time that I did with her. All of that is true. On the other hand, and I’m going to be honest, this just sucks. There is no pretty or poetic way to put it. I miss calling her and I miss her constantly calling me. I miss hugging her or hearing her laugh. I miss breakfasts at St. Luke’s. I want to go to a family gathering and have her there. I want to go out of town and have her worry about me. I want to go to Lowe’s with her. I want to play croquet in her yard on Mother’s day and make margaritas with her and Ken on Christmas Eve. It is amazing the amount of space one person can take up and colossal hole they can leave once they are gone. She was my center, and still is. Only now that center is located inside of me.
A little over a year ago, I watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the top floor of the St. Luke’s hospital. Initially my mom was going to watch them with us. One of the CCU nurses during the daytime had given her the idea, but by the time they had transferred her to the Oncology floor and the night nurse took a look at all of her cords and excess baggage, my mom had changed her mind. She said she was tired, and she was, in more ways than one. But, in truth, I think she just didn’t want to upset her new nurse for the night. I watched the fireworks with my face pressed up against the side of the window, with Fenix’s head below mine and Brooke and Dennin’s head in the window next to us; the fireworks exploded, multi colored, one after the other, without a sound. That fourth of July night was much like my summer. Life kept going at full speed and full volume, yet I couldn’t hear a thing. My life was on pause. My life was contained in the walls of St. Luke’s hospital. I knew what floors had the good TV’s, which vending machines held which snacks. I knew what departments let you help yourself to the soda in the fridge. I spent hours watching HGTV on silent. I waited for doctors to come in. In many ways, I grew up. I became dependent and even attached to some of my mother’s nurses. Once my mother was transferred to the oncology ward I had even had my own bed. It sounds silly, but there are times when I miss that bed. I can still remember how cool the sheets felt and they way I had to pile two thick hospital blankets over the sheets every night just to keep warm. The fourth of July was my mother’s first day on the Oncology Ward, and her last day in CCU. I had to teach that morning, and because her health was doing better, I had slept at home that night. In the CCU the back wall to her room was a window, from top to bottom. She watched her last sunrise that day, and she cried. The nurse turned her bed around so that she could look straight out the window without getting up and then she stayed past her shift that morning to hold my mother’s hand.
My mother and I exchanged a lot of words while she was in the hospital. I told her I loved her constantly. She told me she thought I’d be O.K. She said she thought Ken and I would be fine and how happy she was that she got to see us get married. She talked to me about how she used to “bump” into her mother after she had passed in the small bedroom of her house, where she kept her mother’s things and that she would “bump” into me in the spare bedroom of our house, because that’s where Ken and my children would sleep some day. I told her how full she had made my life, because there really is no other adequate word to describe the life my mother gave me. It was a life that was full. It was filled to the brim with love and support. Full of laughter and hugs. Full of Saturday mornings at the market and trips to Lowe’s and phone calls going both ways. It was full of movie nights. It was full of “I love you with all my heart”s. She told me how full I had made her life too. She said that I had given her things and allowed her to do things she otherwise wouldn’t have. I never asked my mother how she was feeling while in the hospital (other than physically). I never really asked her what she was thinking, because to be really honest, I was too afraid of the answer. That’s one of my regrets. I didn’t openly give her the venue to talk about her fears because I didn’t feel like I knew how to respond. I didn’t ask because I imagine that I knew how she was thinking and feeling, but was too afraid to hear it out loud. Some of the hardest moment in the hospital came at the end. The Monday evening before she passed the respiratory therapist came into give her nightly treatment. I already had my bed pulled out and I was curled up in it reading as my mom and the R.T. chatted. Out of nowhere, in the middle of my mom’s treatment, she removed her breathing mask, grabbed the R.T. hand (at this point, the R.T. had become like a friend) and said “I’m afraid I’m going to die tonight.” I couldn’t say anything other than I love you to her, because the truth was, at the point, she could have, and she would four days later. Nothing can prepare you for a moment like that. We are programmed to diffuse situations, to find the positive. We are programmed to say things like “It’s going to be O.K.” or “Don’t say that, you’re going to be fine.” Only my mother wasn’t going to be fine. My mother was going to die, and we were all expected, including her, to be prepared for that and accept it. It is the first time in my life where I have faced something I could not change. It’s the first time that I have had absolutely no control.