People always say… you can put this behind you and you can move on to something better. Well, what happens when you just can’t? I mean, what happens when you slowly stop thinking about it and then you can’t remember when the last time you heard it… but it then comes back full on haunting you, at least for one day. There is a legacy to these things that stays with you for a long time, maybe forever… It bubbles up. It revisits you like a dream that continually reoccurs until it is just knit into who you are. You expect it and embrace it.
Whether I can put “all this” behind me remains to be seen, what is fact is that “all that” from the past keeps haunting me. I mean, days like Mother’s Day come and draw me into the past. It is without fail that I am thrown back to so many things. No matter how many breakfasts in bed or smudgy Mother’s Day cards I get, will never push it out of front and center on Mother’s Day. It makes me realize that there is so much that I have never dealt with. Never dealt with feels of loss and abandonment that sting and hurt and seriously won’t go away. I hope that at some point they can meld into just who I am, become just a stitch, and not be the entire fabric of my life.
I have never made it a secret with you all how tough things have been lately. I have made it no secret that life before “all this” was sometimes very difficult. Maybe today, the day that always haunts me, is the day that I put it out on the table and make it more real than it ever has been. By sharing it, maybe I can finally accept and let all the good memories back in, instead of those that haunt. In getting ready to write this, I can feel my mother wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind. A bear hug that I always “know” as her being there, that she is pushing me forward into this thing… so here I go.
I have so many memories of my mother. So many wonderful memories, that always get over shadowed by the others. I am going to give you “another” in hopes that it will truly fade away, so that I can love other Mother’s Days and not dread them like I do.
My mother valiantly fought cancer for just over ten months. I remember strength from her. I remember her beauty and who she was, but what I most remember are moments from the last days of her life. Quite sad if you really think about it. She had her whole lifetime, almost half of mine, at that point, and I remember the sad and terrible parts.
In my Mother’s last few days, she was in the hospital under the direction of doctor’s to mediate her pain with morphine. It was no secret that she was not going to leave the hospital. Perhaps at the time, I didn’t totally believe it. I was living in hospital scrubs because there was no going back to the house. I guess it never truly sunk in that it was because there was a moment that was coming that I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t miss.
My mom had been lying in bed for days. Days of quiet that was not like her. She talked. She laughed. She lit up the room. Now she was the center, but really just an accessory around all of us. It is in these moments that my memory always drifts on Mother’s Day.
My Mom’s face was ashen and her mouth hung open. She didn’t look like herself. I couldn’t stand another minute looking at her. I needed her makeup. When I had packed a bag for her… I packed her makeup bag. She would have never have left the house without lipstick or blush.
It wasn’t even an option of whether I would make up her face. She would have wanted it that way. I carefully applied her makeup as she would have wanted it. To give her the dignity that she deserved.
She was less ashen after, but the pallid color of her skin still came through. It was a mask of what was going on. It wasn’t until days later when the makeup had started to fade that the mask would come off.
She hadn’t responded to talk for days. No squeeze of the hand, no blinks, nothing. Her body was giving out.
I had taken to calling her “Mama” which was odd. I had never used that name for her. I had talked and talked to her with no response, but with Mama at the beginning of each sentence. Maybe it was because the mask was starting to slip off and to me, she was started to look and act like another person.
Her lips were so dry. They were cracked. They looked so sore. We had been directed by the hospital staff to use these sponges on long sticks to wet her lips, to wet her mouth that had long since dried out from breathing for days straight like that.
I dipped the swab into the small paper cup full of water. When I pulled it out the sponge at the tip was soaked through and dripped back into the cup with the excess. I squeezed a bit out with my fingertips. No worry about germs. It wouldn’t matter. Every time I squeeze the suds from my sponge in my own sink while doing dishes, I remember this moment.
There were others around us, but for me, it was like I was in a vortex and nothing else existed but me and that instant. I wiped around her lips and started for the inside of her mouth. In that moment she closed her mouth and swallowed. The struggle of it was so painful to see. No! She was strong! She was a rock! She couldn’t be working so hard to do something so small as to swallow.
To see her lifeless body perform a basic task made me know she was still in there. The sadness I felt wasn’t from the fact that it was so hard for her to do such a thing though. It was because she was still in there. She was holding on. She hadn’t totally given up. In her last days, she was holding on because we hadn’t asked her to let go. I hadn’t asked her.
That’s what moms do. They never give up. They never stop until their kids ask them to stop. They do what’s best even if it is excruciatingly hard.
I did finally ask her to let go. “Mama, it’s ok. You can go. Please just let go. We will be ok. I will be ok.” She did. She let go in the early hours of the next morning.
That’s why Mother’s Day is so hard for me. I see that moment all day every Mother’s Day, every day. I don’t think back to her last moments on this Earth, but I do remember that moment.
It doesn’t matter if I am a good mom. It doesn’t matter that I won’t let go until they ask me to. All that matters for me on Mother’s Day, is that she wouldn’t. I had that. What I still need to remember though is that the bear hugs that I feel mean that she still won’t ever totally let go. Ever. She will always be here. Holding me. Loving me. Pushing me forward through every moment. Supporting me in those really tough ones and enjoying the really good ones. There will be really good ones. She will be there.
Maybe that moment is meant to stick to me. Maybe I need to look at it in a new light to move on from it. I will always be there for my children and she will always be there for me. That is what I need to celebrate on this day. The reality of that. Maybe then I can enjoy the runny eggs and wilted flowers..