Have I Told You Lately How Much I Miss My Mom?
Before reading this, I want to warn you that I am writing from a place of sincere honesty. It is raw and probably easier for me to write than for others to read. People want to hear that we are doing great, that we are moving on and that it gets easier every day. If you need to hear that from me, this is not the post for you. It’s taken me a long time to sit down and write, and once I started I found it to be therapeutic and almost cleansing to be brutally honest about my feelings. It will be interesting to see if I have the nerve to post this as it was originally written or if I change it simply for the benefit of those who might read it.
I don’t come across many people who really want to talk to me about the extent of my pain. Some let me talk, few ever ask questions. I know death makes people uncomfortable. No one wants to be reminded that we all have to face monumental loss at some point in our lives. No one wants to hear how much it really hurts when you do.
My mom died one month and three weeks ago. The pain and emptiness in my chest and the tightness in my throat has not subsided. Some days, I swear it is getting worse.
When I lay down in bed at night and I’m alone with my thoughts, my mind immediately turns to her. She consumes me. I think about her last few days and I think about the last time I saw her. It’s inescapable. I think about lying in bed with her – my head comfortably resting in the nook of her shoulder, her last hug, the last time she told me she loved me, the countless times I told her I loved her. The last twenty minutes of her fifty-eight years on Earth are seared into my memory as if carved there with a hot knife.
I am not sure how I managed to walk into the room in the mortuary to see her. I’m glad I did. She finally looked like her again. She looked at peace, like she was sleeping. I wanted to crawl up on the table and lay with her. But it wasn’t even a table. She was on a drawer, brought up from the Bootz Manufacturing freezers that my grandfather/uncles had installed in the mortuary years ago. I kissed her but she was so cold. I knew when I walked out the door, I would never see her again. On one hand, leaving was the hardest thing to do. On the other hand, I was ready to go. It was difficult to be in there. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I felt like she was in the room with my sisters and me, but not in her body. At the same time, I wanted to shake her and wake her up. I wanted her to sit up and talk to me. My sisters and I held each other and sang “You Are My Sunshine” and it was a moment none of us will ever forget. At some point, my sisters and I slowly got up the nerve to profess our love to her body one last time and walked out the door holding hands.
These are not the memories I want to focus on. I want my mind to wander to the countless wonderful memories we made over the thirty years we shared together. Sometimes, I actually try to redirect my thoughts and these memories escape me. I become overwhelmed with guilt, sadness and frustration. I cry myself to sleep or lay awake for hours on end in the middle of the night.
For the most part, I think my sisters and I do a great job of getting up every day and tending to our lives. We go through the motions and have somewhat returned to our routines. My first day back in the office was torturous. Every time I walked in or out of my office, my head instinctively turned to “her” office to see if the light was on. It’s not even her office anymore but I couldn’t help it. I have been in and out of the office since and I have become increasingly more disciplined in telling myself not to look. I remind myself she’s not there. She’s not in the hallway, the break room, the bathroom, or waiting impatiently for me in the lobby or by the elevator. While I can’t deny this reality, I can’t help but feel disappointed every time she is not there.
There is not a place downtown where I don’t feel lonely. We used to car pool to work. Every lunch spot we frequented together. We would venture back out of the office late afternoon to find a treat, most often frozen yogurt or to share a cookie. We were typically downtown when she would receive a call delivering good or bad news, or when work or our personal lives would become overwhelming – on those days, we would take a walk or convince others an early happy hour was in order. It was in these places that we would sit, sometimes for far too long, and talk – we shared many laughs and many tears. When the day was done, we often picked up Blake together and she would have dinner with us. She’d go home after a glass of wine or two and we would do it all over again. Typically, we would start our day together around 6:00 a.m. for a work out which often consisted of boot camp, a hike, or a walk.
My point is this, how do you move on from the loss of a person who occupied space in nearly every corner of your life? There are very few places I can go or things I can do that do not remind me of her. There isn’t a time of the day when I don’t miss her. When it doesn’t feel unnatural that she isn’t with me.
Nicole was recently told me something a friend had told her, “it is one thing to lose someone you love so much; it is another to lose someone who loves you so much.” This struck a deep chord with me. Our mom loved my sisters and me with everything she had to offer. I know this sounds strange, but I don’t think there will ever be another person in my life who will love me as purely and unconditionally as she did. There is simply nothing we could have done that would have stopped our mom from loving us and standing by our side.
Some days I have been concerned about my ability to grieve. More often that not, I have no interest in being vulnerable to the pain building inside me. Sometimes, I just don’t have time and it is easier to power through my day. No doubt I have a lot going on. I think that is why it hits me so hard at night when I have no choice but to slow down.
I find it interesting that the world doesn’t stop simply because you are going through a great deal of pain and grief. No more than six weeks after my mom died, Pete’s dad was diagnosed with vasovagal caused by a diffused large B-cell lymphoma. Essentially, he has lymphoma that developed numerous tumors around his body. Mostly notably, there was a large, rapidly growing tumor wrapped around his carotid artery, which was cutting off blood supply to his head and heart. He has since started chemo and we are all very encouraged for a good outcome. Nonetheless, I feel so much pain for Pete as I watch him stand in the shoes I occupied five and a half years ago. I can sympathize with his fear of the unknown, trying to absorb medical diagnoses, test results, chemo treatments, etc. which are so foreign and overwhelming.
It’s worth noting, there was a moment when Pete looked at me and told me, “it really is different when it is your own parent going through this.” This was significant to me. I KNOW Pete loved my mom. They had a real friendship and spent a great deal of time together. She was a confidant and always there to provide him words of wisdom as well as a good laugh. He felt sincere pain watching her go through chemo and has suffered a great loss as a result of her death. Because I knew how much he loved her and how much he hurt too, I could never say to him, “If you hurt this much, imagine how much I hurt. She is MY mom.” He wouldn’t have understood that my pain was different, greater, and deeper. I certainly never wanted him to find out what it feels like when it is his parent. I hate that he has to go through it now. While I sincerely believe Pete’s dad will ultimately be okay, that doesn’t minimize the fear and anxiety he and his family feel justifiably feel.
This year has started off painfully not just for my family, but also for many other families we know. Some of our dear friends and family have also suffered great losses in the form of early and unexpected deaths of loved ones. There have also been additional cancer diagnoses and a great deal of bad news. It is hard not to feel surrounded by pain and sadness right now.
I am grateful that my mom’s death wasn’t unexpected. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have the opportunity to say goodbye to someone I love so much. My heart hurts for anyone who knows that pain. While I feel blessed for the time we had together, for the opportunity to say goodbye, and to be with her when she died. Admittedly, none of that really makes me feel better when I would do anything to have her walk in the room, to hear her soothing voice or infectious laugh, when I ache for a hug, for my phone to ring, when I want to tell her something exciting or get counseled through the challenges life continues to present despite her death. It doesn’t make me miss her any less or wonder why it had to be her when the world was so much better with her in it. My intellectual understanding and attempts to focus on the silver linings of life can’t save me from that longing I feel for her.
I started writing this blog nearly a week ago and I’ve had some time to reflect. As I re-read this, I think I sound like a real whiner. That’s probably because today I’m in a pretty good place. Part of me wanted to delete the whole thing or edit it significantly to match my current mood. I’ve decided not to do so. I think it’s important for everyone to know the emotional roller coaster has not slowed down.
As I finalize this blog, my sisters and I, our husbands, kids, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Kaytie, and a few special family friends, Kathy and Erin, are in Kaua’i to start the process of spreading our mom’s ashes. We will spread them this afternoon in a ceremony by the ocean. We are all looking forward to the opportunity to honor her and return her to the Earth, just as she requested. (We are not spreading all of her ashes here, some will be at the cabin and the rest my sisters and I plan to sprinkle all over the world.)
While we have many emotional memories from our last trip to the Grand Hyatt, it feels wonderful to be back. We feel her everywhere! It also feels so good to know we are here to honor her. As we enjoyed our week here, it has felt like she has been right here beside us. Yesterday, we finally took the rafting expedition to the Napali Coast that our mom wanted to do in January but was not able to. Despite our concerns for poor weather, the day was perfect. The water was calm, we were able to see sites that are typically are only accessible during the summer months, we saw whales breaching and dozens or more dolphins swam next to the boat. Little Billie even conquered her fear of the water and went snorkeling (this was seriously monumental for her). The bird that flew along side the boat yesterday left us with no doubt that she was right there smiling and laughing with us. I can honestly say I feel closer to her here than I have since she has passed. Her presence has brought me a sense of peace, calm, and comfort that I really needed. Although, it has done nothing to change how much I miss her. I can’t imagine anything ever will.
Before I sign off, I’d like to share a few pictures from our trip so far. I have to admit, it’s a more than a little strange to post so many photos that our mom is clearly absent from. Maybe it will get easier with time. I guess for now, the important thing is that it feels like she is standing there next to us.
Thanks for coming back to the blog after so long. Hopefully with time it will get easier for us to sit down and take you on our journey after our mom’s death.