To be fair, my mind is on my family today, as well. But, to simplify it all, this week, my mind is on my mama.
This Thursday will mark the one-year anniversary of her death. I find myself re-living the moments before and after her death. It’s haunting -not in a scary way- but in a numbing, time-slowing way.
You think you’d forget after a while. Not that it happened, or how much I love her or miss her, but all of the moments surrounding her death that still come through so crystal clear it’s like it’s a movie I’ve watched a million times.
I remember talking to my dad on Monday like everything was normal. He was going to pick up my mom at the doctors because she was feeling dizzy and didn’t want to drive. Then I got a call a bit later, she wasn’t just dizzy, she passed out in the parking lot. Then a call: she’s being life-flighted to Salt Lake City.
But through it all my dad insisted (and I know desperately wanted to believe): She’s going to be fine. Don’t worry.
Because there had been so many times where it should’ve been the end, but it wasn’t.
The next day, Tuesday, I was substitute teaching for a friend and the texts were coming in:
She’s experiencing heart failure.
Her kidneys have shut down.
No, don’t come up.
She’s going in for more tests.
They’ve intubated her.
She’d like you to come as soon as possible.
So I went home and packed. I remember grabbing a black dress because something practical in me knew what was going on, but I shoved it to the bottom of the suitcase and pretended it wasn’t there.
My sister and I were going to take our youngest child each and drive through the night. Then, if our husbands had to come later with our other kids, they could come in one car. Why would they need to come, though, right? We kept insisting. Even as we made plans for the worst, we kept hoping we were wrong.
I remember the conversation through the night; the good memories. The regrets. The yearning to make it in time.
Something about no sleep and waiting for death does strange things to a person. By the time my sister and I arrived at the hospital the next day, we were 8 & 9 again and everything we did annoyed each other.
This week, I remember how I frizzled, snapped and popped at my sister that week…and I am sorry.
I remember meeting my dad -he was exhausted- warning us not to be shocked when we saw our mom. Which when we did, we cried. She was so small, so still, so covered in tubes and tape. She was intubated so she had a notepad and a pen.
She wrote: What are the tears for? Do you think I am dying?
We held her hand and said yes.
She wrote: I hope not, but I don’t know if I have the strength to turn it around this time.
She wrote other things throughout the day. Things that made us cry. Things that made us laugh. Things that I have forever in a “mom’s last days” box in my closet.
I remember when my dad broke down and admitted he thought it was the end. I remember calling my brother, who was in the hospital with his wife who had just had a baby girl the day before, and telling him he needed to come say goodbye.
I remember him asking why? Why would he be required to do such a thing?
I remember saying goodbye to my mom for the night, that worried look in her eyes, and telling her everything would be okay. That her parents and sister were on their way from Canada and she’d see them in the morning.
I remember thinking how much I loved holding her hand. Loving how much mine looked just like hers.
I remember calling my husband and saying I didn’t think she’d make it through the night.
I remember kneeling with my siblings and praying her pain would end.
I remember half an hour later my sister screamed and threw her phone at the wall.
My mom was gone.
I remember my sister-in-law, who had roamed the hospital begging for an early release and left her newborn girl in the NICU so she could some say goodbye…getting to the hotel just in time to find out it was too late.
I remember going back to the hospital and running to my mom’s room, where the doors were now closed. I remember doing that thing you see people do in the movies. I knew she was in there. I knew I had to see her. But I still paused, took a deep breath, and let my shaky hand hover over the doorknob while somber nurses watched our family arrive.
They had set up a table of granola bars and orange juice. It’s important to drink, they said. You’ll need to remember to drink. I remember finding that odd.
I remember my sister-in-law getting the call that somehow their newborn in the NICU was better. Un-explainedly better. I remember knowing where my mom had gone. She’d been waiting for this grandbaby; her grandbabies were her reason to live.
Sometimes, some things, are still just not enough.
I remember my aunt getting the news of her sister passing, only hours away, and having to pull to the side of the freeway just to scream and cry for an hour. Then she got to our hotel where we all pretended to sleep all night but actually sent our thoughts up to the stars and cried as my dad posted his sweet goodbye/broke the news to the Internet.
I remember not being able to get a hold of my mom’s parents and then getting a call the next day saying they were standing at the hospital information desk and being told my mom wasn’t a patient there. They were begging us to tell them they were at the wrong hospital. We had to tell them the truth, that their daughter just couldn’t hold on, that we tried and tried to call them, then wait for them to show up at the house with a jar of Canadian soil for the casket and some old pictures of my mom.
It was those little things. We all somehow knew, but didn’t want to.
I remember writing this post.
After that, I remember picking out the perfect casket -it was so beautiful, so perfect for her, meant for her- something you’d never think would be a joyful moment.
I remember being asked to write the obituary and thinking no task ever held so much honor while at the same time being something you never want to be asked to do.
I remember such love from the neighbors. Hugs. Meals. Cinnamon Rolls. Life-long friends buoying me up.
I remember laughing in our final moments with my mom. Placing things in the casket and finding that even after death, my mom could make us laugh.
I remember finding a card my mom had made that said, “I am here for you.”
I remember having to go back to real life and knowing things would never be the same.
Now, a year later, I remember these things. And so many millions more in between that I live through repeatedly but won’t write here.
And I still wake up everyday, knowing things are not the same. And hoping one day the different won’t hurt so bad.
But, there is happiness. Things are okay. Things will be okay.
You are on my mind, Mama. Forever and Always.