April 26th I lost a pet. He was about 11 years old and we adopted him from a shelter almost 6 years prior. The following week I got the news that my mom had cancer on May 5. By May 7th, she had moved in with us only to pass away on the 28th. Grief stricken and full of heartache was I.
I hadn't really had time to fully process the loss of my dog. If you know me, you know I love my dogs like family so it was like losing a family member. He came to this earth to love and that was abundantly clear. We could probably count on one hand the times we heard him bark in 6 years. Any time he growled we laughed because it was so surprising! He was just not vicious in any sense of the word. He loved everyone and he let you know that. Losing that kind of unconditional love truly sucked.
The news about my mom shook me to my core. How quickly life changed for her and my immediate family was incredible. Looking back it literally feels like a tornado hit my life in one month's time. The days spent in the hospital seem like a blur. Wednesday, then again on Thursday (she checked herself out both days which caused me more stress) to be followed up with an ER trip the following Tuesday. Surgeries (first attempt failed, second was a lot, then a third two days after the second) and the time spent waiting and then watching her sleep when she came back to the room. I never left. I stayed with her for endless hours and I don't regret any of it, regardless of how I felt at the time.
I remember going to get some of her things and just looking around at her things when the world starting to move in slow motion. It was the realization that it truly is just "stuff" at the end of the day and it wouldn't keep my mom alive. I took a quick video that day while standing in her living room to remind myself of the way things were and would never be again. My heart is breaking all over again as that memory comes flooding in. Hearing her say if I wanted anything to take it off the walls was so oddly morbid to me. I just went through the motions as my body was in shock. That was the last time we would be in her home with her there, just two days after they found the mass. Life was flying by at warp speed.
My mom decided to go back up to her home just two days later by herself, on mother's day. I understand she wanted to see her friends and try to organize some things. We thought she would get better after surgery and she could go back up there on a weekend. She wanted to cook breakfast for a few people and had even told a couple of them about her plans. In all fairness, it's good to make plans. It keeps you less focused on dying and more focused on living. The problem was we both thought she/we had time.
My daughter and I went up there on the 17th, the Monday following the two surgeries mom had. She wasn't well enough to go in the car for that long so we went instead. We left with a list of things my mom wanted either her or I to have and to go get. We had no time to organize anything because I was the one that took care of her bile drainage bag and her home was over an hour away just one way. We had about 30 minutes to collect and load the car and get back on the road. The vacuum cleaner, the food, her medications, some pictures and other miscellaneous items and we were out of there not to return until after she passed.
Walking in without her there left me with an uneasy and raw feeling. It looked like her house. Most of her things were there. Her kitchen table had the ashtray and her lip ointments, pens, and paper like it always had. She had struggled on mother's day to try to organize and the bathroom was a disaster. She took everything out of her medicine cabinet and threw it on the counter and in the sinks or on the floor. There were things all over her bedroom and boxes in her living room. She told me later that she was overwhelmed when she tried to discern important of her "stuff" and what to bring to our house. All this "stuff" was there but she wasn't. It was gut wrenching to know that life would never be the same for any of us.
The day of May 24th would be the last time my mom would be in my home. I checked her into the emergency room that evening around 5-6 pm or so and she would remain there until she passed. The fight we had was terrible yet I believe necessary. I am a firm believer in that even though I know it was hard on both of us. She was refusing to go to the hospital and I completely lost it. I told her she was going to get into the truck and go and of course she said she wasn't. I told her she was or I would call 911 to which she replied that was still of sound mind and wouldn't go with them either. I told her I couldn't believe she was 62 years old and acting as she was (she was sincerely throwing a tantrum like a child). She told me first she could die here and now she can't. I told her we didn't even have any pain medication for her and she wasn't eating so how were we supposed to keep her comfortable. And she wasn't going to die in my bedroom. Call me selfish if you want people but that's a boundary for me. She was in our bedroom (that we will one day return to). She was angry and taking it out on me and I was doing the exact same. It wasn't good enough for her so I asked her what else wasn't good enough because nothing I had done my whole life ever had been. She replied with same to you. We were both a mess and that fight showed our darkest side.
We all know how this story ends. We did talk about our fight in the hospital and squashed it. We both were pushed past our stress threshold. No hard feelings were kept on either side which is exactly the way things should always work. We just know in reality that's not generally how they worked for us. I went 6 1/2 years without speaking to her. I do not regret that time, even if it was difficult to hold that boundary in the beginning. The day I drove her back to her vehicle in Shawano where it had been left and went back to her home, we hugged before I left as she stayed there that night, neither one of us knowing just how bad her condition was. That hug said everything the two of us ever really needed to say. I told her I loved her and she said she loved me too, even when we weren't talking.
The night she died, I wasn't with her. My last day with her was Thursday because I didn't want to remember my mom any differently than the visions I already had. Her body was changing and I knew it would continue to deteriorate and I couldn't manage that vision. It's what I still have of her husband the day he died of cancer. Thursday her body was already different and she was non verbal but for the first time, she was relaxed. Her body looked relaxed. She was no longer tense or irritated or anxious. That was a relief. She was still in there that day because she squeezed my hand when I held hers and talked to her and told her I was there. In fact, when I told her I couldn't stay, she pulled her hand away. If you know her, this is something you could see her doing as she gets an attitude about it. Don't worry, I didn't let that be the last thing that happened before I left. I rubbed her forehead and I touched her hair and I gave her a kiss on her forehead before I left. I told her the next time I saw her would be in my dreams or in heaven.
I'll be the first to say I don't have an answer for grief. I know my body went into auto pilot for about the first week after she died. There were things to do, important things that had to be done, that occupied space in my mind. I was numb but functioning. It was like being at the top of a slide not realizing the only way off was down. I went to her house two days in a row to get some the things that we would keep of her hers, leaving the rest. I met with family and had help from my aunt. I slept for more than a couple hours at least one night that week. I met with the funeral home since Science Care denied her body with whom she had signed up in January of 2010! (I don't recommend them and never will. The woman I spoke with had the audacity to get an attitude with me in regards to how we were supposed to know "they didn't have any programs right now") Lots of things kept me busy that first week. And then I was supposed to return to work and act like my life had not imploded in the past month.
I worked a day and a half and then had to pick up mom's cremains. That day everything hit me. I was at the bottom of the slide and it felt like I hit rocks on the way down. It was not what I expected AT ALL but then again, grief is not linear. I cried and cried for the days to come. I didn't sleep and really hadn't been except for that one fateful night that my body shut down likely out of exhaustion. Workplaces have a 6-12 week family medical leave act when babies are born yet when someone dies you get 1-3 days, depending on employer. So you're supposed to quickly get over their loss as if it didn't matter. There should be a 6 week family medical leave for grief. It is just as exhausting both mentally and physically. Alas, that is not the case in today's world.
I'm still grieving. Most of my days are ok. Last week Thursday (almost 3 weeks since mom passed) was the first time I felt any semblance of normalcy in my own body. I still have bouts of sadness and crying spells, much like I have trying to write this. I am resilient and I know this. I am just choosing to feel it when it comes so I don't have relive it in another experience years from now. There will undoubtedly be more grief in my lifetime. It has been 16 years since I lost my grandma whom I was close with. 12 years ago my dad passed but we were not that close. This loss of my mom rocked my world and not in a good way, yet. It is coming though. My new life. It's on the horizon. I can see it.