Posted by : Wendy B Thursday, 21 May 2015

When I saw my mom on Mother's Day, part of me knew. My dad knew too. He'd been talking over the past while with a woman whose husband shared the same illness. Mom's symptoms had followed his path and he had died shortly after. My mom was in pain. More pain than she had already suffered. I'd slept over the night before and helped her with her myriad if medications throughout the night, but nothing was working anymore. These were only bandaids on a wound that wouldn't close. The week before she had been at church, feeling good. But she knew then what we wouldn't have accepted (partially because my mom was the epitome of a drama queen and, while we never doubted the severity of her illness, we're sure there was some embellishment from time to time). Apparently, she told some of her many church friends that she was going home soon to see her own mother. God gave her that day to say good bye. The subsequent degradation of her body after that day was rapid. There could be no doubt, but how do you let yourself believe that?

My sister called on Monday. The doctor gave his verdict. He didn't sugar coat it, though I could have sworn I heard "weeks," not "days." 

I made plans to go see her on Thursday. I live two hours away. Not far, but mom had weeks, right? I would let my brother, father, and sister sort out the details to grant mom's wish die at home (or in this case, my brother's house, since my parents were in the middle of moving out if our family home of three decades). I would give them time to do this and not get in the way.

On Tuesday, my sister called again. We went to say good bye the next day. 

My husband and I told our daughters before hand. Their tears were hard to bear, as is to be expected, but the little one's sobs were like nothing I'd heard from her before. She is very intuitive and empathetic; so much older than her seven years. I feared how she would deal with this, but both of them have been incredible. They express their sadness, but they also make it clear that they want to be positive. Just  like grandma would have wanted. They are free with their hugs and come to check on me when I am too quiet. They are my little rocks.

My sister warned us that mom had gotten even worse since I'd seen her just days before. I worried how this would affect my husband, but he had no qualms about standing by her side and making her laugh. There was so much laughter in the house. Several friends were already there, along with the nurses and family. I am glad my mom could hear that laughter, even as we cried. The girls and I gave my mom fake tattoos, and then my eldest read to her from Robert Munsch's Love You Forever while I cried and held and kissed her hand.

Then the ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital where she had finally agreed to go after much deliberation and convincing from family in Jamaica. She had feared being in a hospital and dying alone. Many years gone, I had been in the hospital to see the dying mother of a friend. Across from her was another woman who looked very much like death had already taken her, though her chest still rose faintly beneath the sheets. There were all sorts of photos and newspaper clippings on the wall. But no one was with her. I went over and held her hand for a while and talked to her. When I left, I could only hope that her friends and family would be there in her final moments. My mom had no such issue and she needn't have feared. So many people rushed to her side that day and the next. I think, the hardest part of the day had been watching the ambulance drive away and wrestling with the unrealistic belief that maybe, at the hospital, she would be able to recover, and the fear that she would not be able to hold on long enough to see my other brother, flying in from New Jersey. "I don't have much time," she said, as I held her and thanked her for everything she'd done for me. If my brother did not have that opportunity, it would have broken him.

But my mother knows us. She knows what her children need. She waited for my brother that evening, just as she had waited for him to get a job after two years of searching. She waited for my issues to be resolved, and for her grandkids to be okay. And when she was certain we'd all be fine, she let go.

Daddy called me on Friday morning, May 15, 2015, 6:13AM.

So now I grieve, though I don't exactly know what that means. There are stages of this, apparently? Is there a handbook? I keep trying to go to work, but they keep kicking me out. I went to work on the Friday and organized everything I had to for the camp I'd been working on for months. Then I finally consented to letting my co-workers practically escort me out of the building. They get it though. I don't like leaving my work for others to do and there's nothing I could do for my mom at that moment and I knew my dad was in good hands with my brother and sister. We went down that evening to be with the family and stayed the following day. I vacillate between tears and laughter, I sing this song, sniffing her clothes, and I find distraction in my usual haunts. Sometimes, when I'm not crying, I get that numb feeling and wonder if I'm really the cold and uncaring human being I sometimes think I am.

My siblings are all dealing with it in their own way. My sister is even less emotional than I am. Or rather, where I can be intermittently passionate about certain things and will express my emotions when they choose to make their presence known, she is more reserved. But this has been an emotional drain on her because she's had to bear the emotions of others, especially my dad. My brother in the U.S., the one I worried most about, is doing well. He cries, of course, but he's happy that mom is no longer suffering and that it didn't take long for her to go--and of course, that he got to say good bye. Each of us has a bit of my mom in us, and my other brother has the lion's share. He's got the belligerence and the control, and has funneled himself into the task of organizing the funeral, sometimes without the consent or courtesy of discussing it with us. For the most part, we're allowing it. It's his way of coping. But this past Tuesday's trip to the funeral home could have gone sour. If there's one thing my family is good at, it's drama. We get that from my mom. Which is why, even through the sadness and frustration, we are confident that she's looking down on us and laughing at her legacy.

I'm home today. Every now and then, friends check in on me. At the office yesterday, and on my brief trip out to pick up some stuff, co-workers expressed their condolences. I tell everyone that I'm okay and sometimes I believe it, until I realize how many times I keep saying "I'm okay," and that I'm trying to convince myself, not them. Then they offer me their kind words and hugs, or I visit the guestbook of mom's memorial page, and the tears well and my throat tightens.

Tonight is the viewing and tomorrow the funeral. I've picked out my dresses. Dresses my mom bought for me. She never wanted black at her funeral. She was too vibrant for that. I suspect tomorrow will be my true breaking point, though there are others who will take it far harder. But tomorrow will also be the final moment of closure, though the wound will never truly heal.

I will be okay though. Mom made sure of that. We all grieve in our own way. Our own time. I guess this is mine.

Oh, and I'm totally gonna get a "mom" tattoo on her birthday.

ETA: Mom wanted a celebration of her life and that is exactly what we gave her. I thought that the day of the funeral would break me -- and it did, but it also lifted the weight from all of our shoulders. We miss her dearly--it's so quiet now--but we are so proud of the send off we gave her. It is just what she wanted.

WHAT IS THIS?

This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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