Seven months ago, I wrote a Mother’s Day tribute to my mom. The thought of losing her made me cry. Two weeks after I wrote this tribute, we learned my mom had stage IV colon cancer. Before learning of the cancer it had spread from her colon to her liver. She had lesions on her lungs and brain as well. My mom was very sick and within two months of crying at the thought of losing her I knew my thought would be a reality.
I looked up everything I could find in those months to learn how to deal with the loss of a parent. My relationship with my mother was not typical. Our relationship was better. I grew up very sick and was in the hospital many times. Cancer was the culprit in my illnesses as well. It seemed then and now unfair she fought beside me through all my battles and then had her own to fight.
No one can prepare anyone for the loss of a parent. My mom died thirteen days ago. Because her death was from a pulmonary embolism caused by treatment for the cancer, she died prior to when we expected it. One day after my sister’s family and my own put up the Christmas holiday decorations at our parents’ house my mom went into the hospital with breathing problems. It took until 8:00 pm the next day to learn the breathing problems were caused by massive blood clots on both lungs. Three hours later mom fell asleep and simply stopped breathing.
I felt emotions over the course of my mom’s illness no one told me about. Since she has been gone, I’ve felt many more emotions. Is it normal to go from crying for two hours to feeling numb about the situation? Is it alright that I am so incredibly angry? I have learned no one grieves the same and am accepting the fact that most emotions are normal. Because my mom was a Christian and my family is Christian we believe the essence of who she is no longer resides with her ashes. In spite of my beliefs I find myself not wanting to let go. Do I want her to be suffering and in pain? No. My mom loved life and fought a battle with all she had for six months in spite of suffering and being in pain. I mourn the fact that she lost the battle. I mourn for my dad who was married to her for 43 years. I mourn for my children who are very young and may not have many memories of this incredible lady who loved them so much. I mourn for my mom who wanted to be here at least until Christmas.
I also mourn for me. In my life she was there making me not want to give up. Perhaps she sensed this in the last two months of her life because after “I love yous” she would say, “take care of my grandbabies.” I constantly hear her voice telling me about my children needing me. I hear her voice going from scared to forced positive with, “I think I am going to be stronger today”, to “take care of my grandbabies.” In my head it is a vicious repeating cycle along with the question, “could it have been changed?” The painful answer is if my mom had learned of the colon cancer nine or ten years before she did there is a strong chance she would be with us. If, if, if-all another side of grief I never expected.
I cannot believe she is gone. When I was a younger person, I thought cancer would be an ok way to die because at least people could be prepared. No one can prepare for the loss of someone they love. Our grief is as raw as it would have been if her death had been instant. Mom was my family’s glue. Now my family struggles with where our new positions are. We desperately miss our glue. My mom’s death has been a nightmare in every possible way. Spending time with my dad talking about my mom helps both of us heal. My bill for pictures over the past month is higher than what it has been for any other month because so many are of mom but we do not have nearly enough. Mom’s memory will always be with us and that has to be enough. I am not far enough into this to give more advice about how to cope in the grieving process. Day-by-day I take care of my babies-her grandbabies- until I see her again. The world lost someone special on November 29, 2010 but Heaven gained a trooper.
With al the bad in her life (and there were many who could just see the bad) my mom was asked how she got through it. Her response, “I didn’t have a choice.” I would do anything to be able to tell her that yes, sometimes things happen beyond our control but it is how we handle them that counts. She handled them well and with a ton of grace. I am her daughter and do not see how she did it except to say she was God’s gift to my family–the most wonderful lady I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I miss you mom.