Today marks 1 year since my mom passed away from breast cancer. Losing my mom has been so profound, so deeply sad and life changing, that nothing could have prepared me for it. For 2 months leading up to her death, she was in palliative care and then hospice, and I knew she would be passing away soon, but still, I was not prepared for this kind of grief. Part of this was due to the fact that I felt and still feel too young to have lost my mom, I'm only 36, I should have had years yet with her. It feels like a bit of a rip off. At the same time, I know I am also blessed to have had the time with her that I did, many people lose their moms as children. My husband being one of them.
In her final days on earth, my love for her only grew as I intimately cared for her, comforted her and supported her. I was her advocate and I was happy to do it. Every decision, every fight, all the dealings with insurance, doctors, social workers, the financial department at the hospital etc. etc. was my responsibility. My dad and brothers were just not able to do these things. I was the one who had to sign off on no more blood transfusions, I gut wrenchingly signed the DNR, it was me that my dad and brothers directed medical staff to talk to. I arranged her priest to make visits and phoned when it was time to read her last rites. I don't write this to sound self-righteous, believe me, I was humbled by this situation. I am just so glad that I was able to do these things for her. It kept me (very) busy, which I guess in a way was good and it made me feel productive, but mostly, I feel grateful that I was able to be there to voice her wishes when she wasn't able to.
I am lucky that my parents only lived 40 minutes away from where I live. I have friends who have had to travel quite far and be away from their husband and kids, family and friends for 2 - 3 months to be with their parent when they were dying. I am so very blessed with a very supportive circle of close friends and family, and a wonderful pastor who eased my guilt (of being away from my kids so much). For them, I am eternally grateful. They brought meals for us, they would take the kids out for the day and bring them to visit at the hospice or take them over night. They prayed with us and for us, cried with us and even laughed with us (I know it sounds a bit weird to laugh but some of her hallucinations were really funny!). One friend would bring her dog, Chica, to the hospice and my mom would cuddle with her. She loved dogs, they always brought a smile to her face, and she would sleep with her hand on little Chica's body. The dog also brought happiness to my dad, it would give him a few minutes of distraction while he fed her cookies.
My mom LOVED being a Nana and the grandkids adored her. They were able to say their good byes and she told them she loved them. It was right before she went into a coma, and it was like she had a moment of clarity as she brightly smiled at each of her grandchildren. I thank God that they were able to say good bye to her.
I often go back to a conversation we had late one night when we were alone in the palliative care ward. We were holding hands and her eyes were closed and I assumed she was asleep. I sat and quietly cried, already missing her. She opened her eyes and looked at me and asked me what was the matter. I said, "I don't know what I'm going to do without you, I am going to miss you so much." She calmly looked at me and very matter of fact said, "Well, it was bound to happen sometime. God is with me. You'll be ok." It was one of the last "normal" conversations we had. She was often confused and hallucinating after that. During really difficult times, when she would grab me and beg me to take her home, I would remember that conversation and how calm she was and I would be able to gently comfort her and hold her and hopefully bring her back some peace in her heart.
Even though I did take some slack for being away from home so much, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had to be with her and I had promised her that I would be with her when she died..and I was. She died in my arms at 12:20pm on March 30th, 2011. I do not regret for one minute the time I spent with her. She was with me when I took my first breath of life and I was with her when she took her last. It was an honour.
It's been one year and I still reach for the phone to call her. I miss her. I always will.
It's been therapeutic to write this. Thanks for reading. Now go phone or hug your mom!!
|Her last Christmas (she had just gotten the scarf!)|
|Little Chica cuddling with my mom.|
|The kids wearing the winter hats that Nana made.|
|This is how I remember her.|