Ed Sheeran is one of my favorite artists. His performances are a boggling display of talent. So, of course, I had to buy his newest album ÷, not a typo… it’s called ÷.
Lot’s of the songs touch my heart, but Supermarket Flowers has been on repeat for days now. I have already memorized every word. If you haven’t heard it, it is about losing one’s mother and coming to terms with the loss.
This one hits home and though I don’t blog more than once a week, due to time restrictions, I had to share today because my soul is so full of so much and the pain is excruciating. I don’t talk about her often, but I think about her almost every moment of the day. Some days are just like that.
Well, those that know me, know that I lost my mother, quickly from liver cancer when she was 50 and I was just 9 days passed my 18th birthday. The tumors were the size of baseballs. My mother was my best friend. She was my everything. She was the one that held my hand and let me cry on her shoulder when things got rough. She would lay on my bed and just listen to my music. She devoted time to the American Cancer Society, planning events and raising money to help with cancer research. Little did she know that she would need to be the recipient of that money for experimental therapies. She was such a special woman.
Two days after I started my senior year, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, something that is terminal but she vowed to fight. She was given but 3 months. That would have taken us to Christmas. How can one die at Christmas? How can you just leave your family at that time of year? That was just her. She wanted to keep living her life. She didn’t want to leave us all. She threw herself into whatever treatment they thought might extend her life. She was a fighter.
It is amazing that she did the things that they asked her to. Chemotherapy was still archiac at the time. They pounded her body for days with a combination of horrendous drugs that they thought “might work”. She was willing to try it all, no matter what happened to her, and what she needed to endure. Her strength and determination was like none other.
She was deeply religious and a strong Catholic. Church gave her more strength than I could imagine. I have realized in the last couple of months what religion can do. Doctrine is one thing, but believing that you will be taken care of by God is the main tenant that I know she devoted herself to. No matter what was thrown at her, she could endure it because, “God would never give her more than she could handle.”
She was never vain but always proud of her appearance, in short, she would have never left the house in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, no matter what. The same was true for her sick time. My Aunt Jane went with her to find clothes that were comfortable but not sore around her waist. At this time, even to touch her belly was uncomfortable. She always put on makeup and lipstick. I walked in on her one day in the bathroom as she sat crouched in the corner. Her hair brush full of her hair. I rarely saw her break down during this time, but this was a blow. Maybe it was because it was a sign to the world that she was struggling and sick now. We went to the salon and one of her best friends, Karen Yetten, washed her hair as it fell out in the sink. She fashioned a wig for her. My mother ended up opting to just cut it all off and wear a scarf.
She survived through Christmas, even showing a reduction in her tumor size. It gave her hope. It gave us all hope.
It didn’t last and chemo was given up. In April, she went to Long Island where they installed an experimental pump to directly send a new form of chemo to her tumors. It was barbaric. It was huge, at least 3×5 inches and stuck out from her skin another 2 inches. She said she felt so ugly with it. She felt like a monster. It hurt her. But again, she was willing to try anything to extend her life. She wanted to see me graduate from high school and see my cousin, Cheryl, get married. She had goals.
It didn’t work and we finally excepted that she was going to die. We were going to lose her. Her fight was gone and she gave in to dying in the most beautiful ways. She embraced it. She wanted to see her friends and be with family. In May, she turned 50 and spent time with her friends at the Cape, her favorite place. We had cake and it was so bittersweet. It would be her last birthday with us. She loved the beach and it spoke to me too. That weekend, we borrowed a golf cart from the golf course and rode out the first hole to the beach. There she sang to me and a video camera the songs that she sang to me as a baby. It was a video so that my children would some day be able to hear her voice and know that she had been on this Earth. That she would think of them always. They were her legacy. She loved those babies who hadn’t even been brought into the world.
In secret, she had shopped in secret with my Aunt, buying gifts for me for the moments she wanted to be present for. They were wrapped and I didn’t know of their existence. A wedding gift, a handmade garter she wore, a penny for my shoe and a hankie. A card. A wedding card. I opened it shortly after I was engaged. Another present came when I was about to give birth to Conor. A baby card, a quilted bib that she sewed herself. That was the person that she was.
She saw Cheryl’s wedding. She saw me graduate and then she went down hill quickly.
I came home from work to her completely out of it in her bed. In that moment, I knew I was losing her. I had just turned 18. My uncle carried her to the car as my father followed and prepped the car. She was so frail and small. My uncle’s face spoke of so much love. So much despair. She was a shell and a testament of all that she had gone through. And then they were all gone. She was never to return.
She slowly died in Boston for 9 days while we tried to make her comfortable. She was in and out of it for the first two and then it was time to start morphine. At day 8, I asked her to let go. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was time for her to stop fighting for me, for my father, for her family, for her friends, for her life. She passed so peacefully, with us standing around her early in the morning light. Holding her hand.
Ed Sheeran’s song says that “a heart that has been broken is a heart that has been loved.” It couldn’t have been more true. My heart was and still is broken for her. She loved me.
She was truly an angel on Earth. She was one of the best. “You were an angel in the shape of my Mom. You got to see the person I have become. When I fell down, she was there holding me up. Spread your wings as you go. When God took you back he’ll say, “Hallelujah. You am home.” She is home.