Five years ago today my mom died. On one hand, it seems so surreal to say that. I can’t believe she’s been gone for 5 years. And at the same time, it feels like an eternity. So many hugs and kisses I would have given her and gotten from her in the last 5 years.
Most days I’m okay. Some days are harder than others, sometimes for seemingly no reason. And some of the most random things can set me on a crying jag. Thankfully those are a lot fewer than they used to be, but I know I will always have a degree of grief in my heart and continue to miss her terribly.
My mom was my best friend. I’m so thankful that she was my mother throughout my childhood and not my friend, because that allowed us to develop a true friendship in my adult life.
My mother was kind, gentle, and thoughtful. She sacrificed so much for me. She was caring and attentive, never belittled me, and always made me feel valued and validated, even as a very young child.
Something’s not right
On Memorial Day of 2013, my parents and sister came over to our house to celebrate. My husband cooked out on the grill and it was a good day.
I couldn’t find my mom though, she sort of disappeared. I found her sleeping on my bed, which was so odd for her. She said she was so tired and couldn’t keep her eyes open. I also noticed she hadn’t eaten very much. I figured maybe she was just having an off day, it happens. But I had a strange knot in my stomach.
The next day my sister and I had a bit of an intervention with Mom. She hadn’t been acting like herself, she was sleeping all the time, and barely eating. I hadn’t known that all of this was going on, but my sister still lived at home and had started to notice that something wasn’t right.
After a long conversation, I got very serious with my mom. I was always respectful to her, but boy could she be stubborn! I finally told her that I was taking her to urgent care. It was up to her whether it would be today or tomorrow, but it was happening.
When I pulled up in my vehicle to pick her up to go to urgent care, she came to the door and motioned to me to come up. I kind of laughed and wondered what she could possibly be up to now. When I got to the door, she told me she needed me to help her get down the steps and get in the car. That’s when I realized this was far worse than I could have imagined.
She wouldn’t let me go back with her to see the doctor, so I waited in that urgent care for what seemed like hours. We’d arrived kind of late in the day, but even so, the crowd was starting to thin out and I was one of the last ones there. The knot in my stomach tightened.
They sent her downstairs for lab work and an MRI. I had to push her in a wheelchair because she was so weak.
They made her drink one of those contrast concoctions that help things show up better on a CT scan. They kept forcing her to drink more and more until finally her body couldn’t take it any longer.
She got violently sick. I panicked. But I kept it all inside and tried to comfort her. “It’s okay, Mommy,” I remember saying over and over as I did my best to clean her up. I’d never seen my mom like this. I knew it was bad. Very bad.
The urgent care admitted her to the hospital via phone. You know it’s not good when they just do it right over the phone.
I drove her across the street to the hospital and stayed with her until they got us up in her room. By then it was the middle of the night, and at that point, I knew I had to call my dad.
She still wouldn’t tell me what was going on even though I’m sure she knew. She got upset with me for calling my dad—her own husband—and telling him that she was sick and he needed to come up. (Like I said, very stubborn.)
It was early in the morning by the time I got home. I tossed and turned, trying to get some sleep but only waking up from nightmare after nightmare of what had happened at the urgent care.
My stomach was so wrenched with fear and panic. I’d never been so upset in my whole life. My mom was so dear to me. And I had a horrible feeling that I knew what was wrong.
And I was right. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver. It soon moved to her lungs and other places throughout her body.
She got a little better at first and could eat a tiny bit. Then she almost died. Twice.
She got an infection.
The chemo was too much for her.
Her kidneys almost shut down.
She retained so much water in her legs that her skin began to tear and weep.
My aunt had to shave her head because of all the hair she’d started losing from the couple of chemo treatments she’d had. And my sweet husband shaved his head for her as a show of support.
Finally, she was able to go to a skilled nursing facility. She began to improve for a bit and was able to eat a lot more. She had physical therapy and was able to walk for a few paces and be more mobile.
The best part was when she was able to come home for 24 hours! My sister and I helped her make her famous tacos and homemade guacamole. It was so fun and just like old times, apart from her being in a wheelchair. I’d even ordered a special cake from our favorite bakery to celebrate my sister’s birthday.
Eventually the nursing facility sent her home. I was so happy because I was planning to take her to all her treatments and doctors appointments and everything. I was ready to conquer this bad boy.
I talked to my supervisor at work and was able to go to part-time hours so I could take care of my mom.
But she never was able to get an appointment with the doctor that wasn’t a month or more out. And she wasn’t proactive about finding someone who could get her in sooner.
I had talked with Cancer Treatment Centers of America a couple months before, and they said she would need to be able to physically walk into the clinic without a wheelchair or any aid. I talked to Mom because she was finally at the point where she could just barely do that.
And do you know what she said? She said one of her friends had gone there and now they were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And I said, “BUT. SHE’S. ALIVE.”
Stubborn. And a whacked money mindset. (Find out how I finally conquered that ridiculous attitude about money and did a 180 from that mindset by clicking here.)
I started to see that my mom’s interest wasn’t necessarily in getting well but in just getting to go home.
She was at home for several weeks and slowly went downhill. She went back in the hospital for a while, then back to the nursing facility, and finally was put under hospice care.
For nearly two days before she died, she was unconscious with labored breathing. It’s a sad but necessary thing to sit and wait for someone to die. Just gotta be real. And that’s what we did. And there’s nothing else you can do.
I remember at one point everyone else had left the room and it was just Mama and me. I sat close beside her and told her through my tears, “Mommy, you know I love you so. You’re gonna get to see Jesus soon, and I’m soooo happy for you. And I know you love me so too. It’s not goodbye, for we shall surely meet again. Oh, but I’m gonna miss you though.”
And I was there a few hours later when my mom let out her last breath. For hours she was doing that agonal breathing (what a word), but I always wonder if she heard us and was aware at times.
We kept waiting as her breaths were farther and farther apart, thinking that each would be her last. Through tears I squeezed her hand to my face and kissed it.
She had one tear stream down from each of her closed eyes. And I know that was the moment that she saw her dear Jesus.
I remember the first thing I said was, “What do we do now? She always knew what to do.” And I didn’t stop crying for weeks. I’m so especially thankful for my husband during that time. He held my hand and let me sob uncontrollably.
It was truly the worst, most sorrowful time in my life. My best friend was gone. My loving Mama. She didn’t deserve to go through that.
So why did she? Why did she have to die? I prayed and prayed for my mom to be healed. Why didn’t God heal her?
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