She died May 10, 2011. Even though I knew it was going to happen and was completely expected, her death still somehow came too soon and unexpectedly.
Even now, four years later, every once in a while, I’ll forget for a split second. Oh my gosh, I have to call Mom and tell her …
Deep, long breath.
As I remember one more time she’s no longer here, I wonder how I could ever forget the absence of her at all.
I finally got the opportunity to go be with her. It was Palm Sunday weekend. She had recently had surgery and was recuperating. Even if she was in a little post-surgical pain, she looked good, was completely lucid and in good spirits. She practiced walking up and down the hall with me. Slowly we went, going a little further each time, as she held my arm. She was still Mom. It was nice to be with her.
I was in the room when the doctor stopped by.
That’s when I heard it. That’s when I knew. Something gave way within me. The realization. The knowing it was near.
During surgery, there was no place we didn’t see cancer.
At the news that the feeding tube was going to have to stay in permanently, Mom reached for my hand as tears welled up in her eyes. Despite all the information that was coming at us, I still somehow assured myself that we had a few months to go before… well, you know.
I mean, look at her — she’s still so Mom.
Two weeks after that visit, my sister and I flew down to be with her. When we arrived at the house, she was sitting up in a chair. A few minutes later she went back to the bed hospice had provided and I never saw her sit up again. She stopped talking. She had always hated taking medicine, but she let us give her the pain-relieving drugs. I began praying prayers I never thought I would. Please let her be free from her body.
It was a mere three weeks from my time with her in the hospital to her death. Three weeks from having Mom fully present and looking good to no longer with us. Oh how I hate cancer.
Mom had survived breast cancer twice, once in each breast. Apparently two different kinds of cancer even. But it wasn’t the breast cancer that got her. It was the pancreatic cancer, completely unrelated to her breast cancers, that brought on her final days.
She once had that test done to see if she had the cancer gene. Of course she didn’t have it. My brother wondered aloud to her why then did she keep getting cancer. When she told me he asked that, I said, “You’re just lucky, I guess.” She laughed, “That’s what I said!” She said he was upset with her answer, which made us giggle like little school girls.
Mother’s Day can be a bit tricky, can’t it? Some have good mothers, others don’t. Some want to be mothers but can’t. Some don’t want to be mothers and feel the judgment of a few too many. Some mothers, the good and bad who helped shape who we are, are no longer with us.
I’ve been on all sides of the equation for this celebration of moms. Single and cheering on other moms. Single, wishing for a husband and family. Married and infertile and wanting a child who seemed to be torturously withheld from me for years on end. Married with children. Married with children, striving to remember how much I prayed for those
destructive little imps precious angels of joy. Looking at their beautiful faces, hoping and praying I don’t mess up too badly.
The only thing that had been constant through all those Mother’s Days was the presence of my own wonderful mother. During both the difficult and not-so-difficult times for me surrounding this day, at least I could celebrate her even if I couldn’t afford to buy her a gift or remembered too late to get anything but a phone call to her on time.
Now she’s gone and I can’t send cards late anymore or call to hear her voice. What I can do, what I hope to do to honor her is to pass the love she showered me with on to my own children. I hope I manage somehow to mirror her wisdom and patience and understanding and perseverance, her steadiness and gentleness. To show kindness to others, especially those who irritate. To look for good in bad situations. To love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. To be a safe place of love for my kids.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. You are greatly missed.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Proverbs 31: 25-29 NLT