cancer, death, finding myself, kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, mother, mother loss, Mother's Day, pain, Uncategorized

A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day

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..

 

 

betrayal, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, pain, Uncategorized

People Always Ask

People always ask,

“How are you doing?”

It’s a tough one for me to answer.

People want to hear how you are doing, but the real answer is often too awkward to hear. They care. I get it. They want to know how to help. I get that too. People feel helpless when they can’t help someone through a difficult time. But the true answers would make both of us uncomfortable. Me admitting that things aren’t great and that moment, well… what do they say…

It puts me in a strange position. I want to answer people with what they want to hear. I want to take away their discomfort with the situation. “I’m great”. Or, my new favorite, because it shows forward progress, “I’m getting better”.   I want to tell people, that I am immensely better. That my world has rightened itself. That the sun came out and I ran through a field of daisies and spun around in the sun.   In fact, a big part of me wishes that those words were true, that they were my reality. But they are not.

The real answer would be, “Sh*tty” but does anyone really want to hear that answer?

Truthfully, every day is an extreme struggle to perform the most basic tasks. The bottom of the pain seems endless. It claws at me at all the wrong times and hides when I have the moments to succumb to it. It feels like I am steadily drowning in murky water and I can’t see the surface. How would everyone feel if I told them that terrible truth. I feel like I need to sneak away to have these tough feelings because of other people’s discomfort.

I am fearful to proceed with this, but I am reminded that when you feel fear, it is a sign that you are about to do something brave. I am about to be brave, but it is truly a façade because I know fewer people will read this week. Marathon Monday. Easter. April vacation. I am banking that people aren’t on facebook, aren’t trolling blog sites.

How can I describe it? I want to tell people how I am feeling. After all, isn’t that what this blog is supposed to help me do? To open up? So here we go. People ask and if they want to know, this is the best answer I can give. It is like this…

 

I am deep in an ocean. So very deep.

It’s a hot day at the beach where soda cans, once cold, hold condensation that drips down then wets the sand where they are embedded. The noonday sun beats down on my skin as I sit in the beach chair, eyes trained on child movements in five different locations across the beach. Watching for the strangers. Watching for extra pink skin and the need for the sunblock reapplication. Watching the swimmers. Making sure no one is being pulled under, stung by a jelly fish, hit with a boogie board. Unofficial lifeguard that I am at the beach, but really no matter where I am, I always guard. I watch them. I protect them. Mother bears watch their cubs.

The sun burns my skin. It is first warm, but then burning. knees are first hot. Hotter. Blazing hot. Then the sting. I can feel the burn. I should have put on that protective blanket of sunblock but it’s now too late. The burn is there. I have to dunk in the waves. I hate the idea of swimming in the ocean.  The ocean, is full of the unknown. I much prefer the predictability of the pool.  There is no choice though. I have to find some relief in the cold water. It is calling to me.

I feel the splash of water from the kids who play around me. It is freezing and almost unbearable. I shrink from it, taking a couple of steps back up the beach. It is hot on the beach though. Too hot and I know I have no choice but to head in the water. The water rushes over my feet and it is shocking but after it rolls over me a couple of times, it is painful but cooling. I have to explore it. I know that no matter how bad it is, I have to go into it. I tentatively take steps in. The waves become rougher and I can feel the undercurrent pulling on my legs as the water recedes back home. I resist the pull, but it is strong. Stuck in my dug in spot in the sand, yet being yanked towards the darkness. The water swirls around me and the waves fall on my legs, pushing me back as much as the tide is pulling me out. It is a fight to stay standing. I want to run back out. I want to get out of this situation. I want to sit on the beach even though the sun is blistering my shoulders, my knees are flaming red from the heat. The peace that I feel in my chair isn’t real. My body rages a war against the sun.   It is a quiet pain though. Sure I will feel the sting later but for now, I can handle it. One that I can endure. The water is pulling me today. I have to be in it. I have to release it all even though it is threatening to consume me, body, mind and soul. I have to give up my guarding and pray for someone else to watch my kids while I go out. The memories full of laughter are back on the beach. The fun times of sand castles and play. The memories shared and cherished. The ones in front of me are dark and swirling like the water. Tempting me to forget all the others. The tears, the broken promises. The dreams that were destroyed with only a couple of words and a lifetime of lies. Why are they so enticing? Why do I want to dwell in them? I want to drown in them. The sweet memories pull and call to me but the darkness is too much. Engulfing. I walk forward. I step deeper. I am drawn into the silky darkness.  I can feel the stones under my feet and know that the crabs will nip at my toes. I will feel pain from it all. It will hurt. I will yelp and pull my feet up, but there will always be more underneath that I can never see. More pain. It will come. It is inevitable.

The water is making goose bumps on my flesh and they rise all over my body. Splashing the water on my legs and wiping down my arms eases the cold sting. I slide deeper into the depths. It becomes darker. It pulls more on my legs. Up to my waist, up to my chest. I slip deeper into the water and the pull on my legs increases. The seeping cold on my skin starts to numb all feeling. I can no longer feel the cold. I can no longer feel the stinging heat. The relief is now everywhere. I am baffled by how the dark and the fear have slipped away and all my concern is faced towards the numbing. I no longer fear the crab pinches. I no longer fear the stones tearing at the skin on my feet. I want to dunk my head in it. I want to numb it all over. I want to not feel. I want to not hear the past and all that was special. I want to be engulfed by the dark, the pain, and not feel for a while. I hope that each time that I swim into it, I can come back up and tread water. That is the only way to survive it. I hope that I will always remember to walk back out.

That is my pain, my daily pain. It is a decision each and every day to dip my toes in the well of heart wrenching pain. It overcomes me every time I walk in it. I can choose to ignore it and sit on that beach, but the stings and burns of turning my back on it will be worse later. If I walk deep enough into it, I numb out. It is that consuming.

 

It is a daily struggle that is, for a lack of a better word, sh*tty.

So when you ask how I’m doing out of concern or pleasantry, know that I am going to smile and say “doing better”, but in reality, I’m just a girl at the beach trying to pick between two discomforts, both destined to hurt.