It’s been 2 weeks since my mother passed away. A lot people who read this won’t have even known she has gone. I haven’t been able to really go into detail with people about how this has affected me. There are really no words to express the depth of feeling. How do you condense the life of your mother into a few words? There’s so many things to say about her. I won’t tell you she was perfect, nobody on this earth is, and I have never felt that death changes that. People like to forget all of the flaws in a person once they are gone, they feel speaking ill of the dead is disrespectful, but hiding parts of them seems like their loved ones are ashamed of who they were. Their flaws aren’t your shame to carry, it is what made them human. She was guarded, not really nurturing. I believe it was because she had a rough life and carried a broken heart, but she was still beautiful both inside and out to me. I loved her through everything and she loved me. She was always the one I could go back to no matter what stupid decision I had made and she just accepted me home. Always.
She had an inoperable brain tumor. We went from just having dizzy spells to being in hospice in a matter of months. When we realized that there was nothing that could be done I started looking back and realizing that were probably signs long before, but she kept things like that to herself. Perfect example, while cleaning out her things I find paperwork where she had been sent to the er for an evaluation for heart attack. This was 2006. She was living with my aunt and even she didn’t know. So there is no telling how long she had known about her symptoms. She was a nurse, she had to have considered it. I just remember one day about a year ago looking at her and thinking “when did my mother get so old?”. She had always been young and beautiful to me. That day, she looked different and I came to the realization that I was getting old too and maybe I was just noticing age in others. Now I feel I was seeing her sickness, showing itself in the glint of sun shining on her face, showing itself to the world, but she was so young I never even considered her leaving this world so soon so I ignored it. I wasn’t prepared.
I spent the last few months of her life before we knew, being angry at her. I told her “you have to eat, you are just withering away to nothing. I can’t just sit and watch this.” But she wouldn’t. She said she could only eat a few bites and she was full. We went to her doctors and the emergency room, many times. They had no answers. They thought it was cardiac related, then they she got colitis and became septic and they thought that was the cause, then she fell in the garage and finally they did a ct. Even then they said they weren’t certain it wasn’t residual damage from encephalitis. So they went the wait and see route. 3 weeks later she was back in the er and from there hospice. At the time, we were all saying that it happened too fast, so fast we had a hard time processing it, but in all honesty I was praying for her release. I had spent many hours in the hospital rooms and rehab and icu and emergency rooms, all of those times I was on a roller coaster ride, undulating between hope and resignation. Once she went to hospice I couldn’t stand to see her like she was for another minute, so I started to hope that she would just die. It’s probably a harsh thing for people to read, but seeing her, a former shell of herself, unable to even open her eyes or acknowledge those around her was torture. My poor, beautiful, tragic mother was dying. It was surreal. Still is.
I gave up believing there is a God long ago so for me heaven is a fantasy. I feel certain that once you die you are returned to the universe, just a drop of energy. Humans have an innate need to search for deeper meanings, to find their purpose. For me, it’s just biology and chemistry. But I still find myself, sitting in the quiet, wishing she would say my name from wherever she has gone. Wanting to feel her presence in the room with me. All I feel is emptiness. And regret. The “I should have spent more time, made more calls, not been angry” thoughts consume me. I catch myself taking pictures of beautiful flowers to send to her, only to remember she won't receive it. One day I’m hoping these things pass because they remind me of how imperfect I was as a daughter. The old saying is true, let the ones you love know that you love them every day. Call them often just to hear their voice. Go have dinner with them or lunch or a bottle of wine. It doesn't matter how you spend the time just spend it. Our time here together is a luxury so revel in it. Once it’s over you can’t change it, you just have to live with the guilt.