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I will ALWAYS want more time, always.

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The best we can do is not die while we’re still alive.

Grief is personal.

Live for those who are no longer alive.

Don’t stop living in their memory.

Don’t feel guilty for being happy after you’ve lost a loved one.

There is no rule for how long to grieve, but if you are not moving forward with your own life, time to rethink. Sometimes we have years to say goodbye to our dying loved ones and sometimes we replay all the things we wish we had had time to say. I know now that for the rest of my life, I will always want more time. Always.

January 2015 is when mom first went into the doctor with some pain, early February 2015 it was confirmed the pain was cancer and it was everywhere. All over her body, in or on every major organ, up and down the spine, surrounding the skull, everywhere. The defeat came with the first results. Mom knew it, we denied it, we fought against it. We wanted different results we would never get. I got mad at my mom because I didn’t think she tried hard enough, I wanted her to fight, fight DAMN IT! DO SOMETHING TO MAKE YOURSELF BETTER!!! Moms are supposed to fix these kinds of things right? Right?!?! Well, this kind of sickness can’t be cured with some chicken noodle soup, ginger ale and kisses, so I guess I was outta luck.

Valentines Day, I get a call from mom and she is crying. She feels bad that dad is taking care of her, she doesn’t like pain medication and she is scared. Having that conversation with my mom was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life. I sat there, letting the tears roll down my face as we talk, hoping that my voice doesn’t crack and give me away.

There was one scary day where she had to be air lifted due to blood clots in her lungs, in the hospital after a long and scary procedure all my mom could talk about was how pretty of a day it was for this helicopter ride, “Oh the sky was perfect and I thought, how neat”, she said. Only my mom.

I only got to go to one doctor appointment with mom and dad, I took that time to ask about mental health. What can or are you doing for my mom to make sure she is mentally sound as she goes through this journey? When the doctor said they had someone for patients to talk to, I looked at mom and said (keep in mind she had made up her mind to not do chemo anymore), “You need to be able to talk to someone and say, I don’t want to do this anymore”. She started crying because she knew I knew she had given up and she didn’t want to disappoint us. Us meaning me, my dad and my two sisters. What she didn’t know was we all already knew, dad more than any of us. Leaving the doctor that day, mom and I waited by the door as dad got the car because mom was having trouble walking at this point, we held hands as we waited.

She told me she worried less about my sisters and I because we were young and had our whole lives ahead of us, but she was most worried about dad. This makes some sense since her and my dad had been together since they were 16/17 years old and were now 59/60 years old. But it was then that I got a bit selfish. How could she tell me she was ready to go and she had lived a full life? I don’t have any children (yet or maybe never will) but what if I do? They will never get to play those games kids make up to play with their grandma. They will never get those wonderful hugs or that over excitement my mom gets about everything and anything anyone does. They will never get those special grandma treats. I’m also not married, so that means no mom to gush over wedding things with and no mom approval over the person I choose to spend my life with. Who I choose will never know how we tease her because it’s easy. Or how accepting and loving my mom is. How she cheers for you even if you are playing a game against her.

But those are just my thoughts as I stand there holding my mom’s hand. We talk awhile longer and she suggests I be her therapist…um, no mom, I can’t handle that. I’m sorry, I wish I was strong enough for that but I’m not. I let her talk anyway since it makes her feel better.

Family 1

Family Photo 2010

Both my sisters came for visits with their children, my amazingly wonderful nieces and nephews (6 of them BTW, by the way). One sister from Indiana, one from the United Kingdom. It was good to see them, it was good they got their good byes.

Grief is personal.

Even though my sisters, my dad and I were all going through this very real thing together we were all having very different experiences. Again, I don’t have any children so I didn’t have to tell my kids they we’re going to lose their grandma they adore. I asked one of my sisters how telling the kids went and she said, “I really can fit all four of them in my arms at the same time”. I lost it and my heart ached for my sisters who had to be strong for more than just themselves.

My family is annoyingly realistic. I am not sure I could fathom a better, more level headed group of people to grieve with. But the problem was, everyone who has ever met mom loved her, so we had to let all those grieving people in too. Comforting others when you’re so broken is really hard. But there we were, keeping everyone in the loop and keeping track of visitors.

I came up to visit mom for mother’s day, May 10th, 2015. It was the last day I got to talk to her. I walked in the nursing home, she took my hand and said, “I’m sorry”, with tears in her eyes. I didn’t know it then, but now I think she meant; I’m sorry for all the things I’m going to miss, I’m sorry I have to leave you, I’m sorry that this will hurt you, I’m sorry I’m leaving this earth before we’re done. I’m sorry too. I held her hand before I left that night and I simply said, “I’ll see you when I see you”. Goodbye seems so unfair in times like these.

Hallucinations came shortly after that. Remember when I said my mom called me crying on Valentines Day was one of the most heart wrenching things ever…well, I had no idea. This was worse, I could have gone a life time without having to experience that. But then again, if had I not been there this time, dad would have been alone, again.

On Tuesday, May 12th, 2015, I called dad to check in on him and ma, mostly hoping the hallucinations had stopped. This is when he informed me that hallucinations weren’t happening because she hadn’t woken up much since I was there last. The hospice nurse had been in and said mom had maybe a few days left. The next day I drove up to be with dad. We’d try and wake her, but she just slept. When dad tried to wake her again, and again, I thought, she isn’t going to wake up dad, holding back the tears. Getting ready to leave, I held her hand again, but this time I said, “I know you don’t need my permission, but I’m here with dad now and we’re ok, we’ll be ok and it is ok if you’re ready to go, we understand and we love you”.

Dad and I came home, had some beers and snacks while playing cribbage and talking about mom. The next morning on Thursday May 14th, 2015, dad was out to breakfast with a friend and I was home asleep, until dad called to tell me mom had passed sometime between 7:15-8am that morning. I think I’m still in shock, denial, dazed, etc. It’s a lot of emotion to be having all at once. Dad and I agree that the worst part is thinking about all the things she won’t be here for in the future. Which is all the things you try not to think about because if you let yourself go down that path for too long, it’s hard to come back. I have to remember that she will always be a part of me.

My mother is the best one I know. She made me who I am today. She taught me how to love unconditionally, to see the best side of people, to care for others and treat them with love and respect – no matter who they are. She wasn’t as much of a fighter and she didn’t stand up for herself like I thought she should. That would bother me, and in turn, taught me that it’s ok for me to be a lover (like her) and a fighter (for her). She always thought of others first and there wasn’t a single person she didn’t love or embrace even if she didn’t like them.

Taken summer 2014

Family 2014

Grief is personal.

We all mourn differently and that’s ok. Some people take comfort in their god(s), thinking mom is with the angels looking down on us. I hope that brings people peace. I like to think that she is a spirit that now surrounds me, in the wind that hits my face and rustles the trees, the rain that falls from the sky, I want her to surround me. She is what grounds me. I want her to be a part of my life and not just looking down on me.

She was my home.

I was telling my mom one day long ago that I didn’t really feel like I had a home because of all the moving I’ve done in my life. She was very offended and said, “Stacy, home is where your mom is. Where ever I am, you are home”. She was right. And today, I feel a bit homeless. There are somethings only your mom can fix.

You can never replace someone who loves you unconditionally.

Now here I am today, summarizing the last six months of my life into this short story. I have actually been writing this off and on since the day I lost my mom. But I finally feel like I believe myself when I say I will use her death as a strength in my life and not a weakness. I know now more than ever the importance of telling those in your life how you feel about them. What’s worth your time and what isn’t. I know how easily you can spiral down and feel guilty for being alive and happy. I know that is never how my mom would want me to live my life. And most important, I know how amazing my support system is, how much I am loved and how many people I have to love back. It keeps me busy and it brings me solace.

Grief is personal.

The best we can do is not die while we’re still alive.

That’s just my opinion.

– The Street Sage

Me & Ma

Ma & I