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I sat in a place yesterday that I wasn’t ready to sit in. It is a place of darkness without being dark; of sorrow and sadness; where tears are the norm and the sound of hearts breaking echo from the halls long after everyone has gone home.
I sat in the front row yesterday; tears steaming down my face as I struggled to keep a total meltdown from happening. My body shook as I choked back sobs from the very depths of my soul all the while feeling as if that soul was being ripped from me and torn in half. I sat in the front row staring at the lifeless body of the woman who gave me life, who had been seriously ill all of my life, who raised me to the best of her ability and who, shockingly left this Earth on Thursday, Feb 15, 2018.
My Mom was gone and I was, for the first time in my life, without a parent to turn to. Sure, I’m 35 years old but that doesn’t make me any less an orphan. My Father passed in 2006 and in 2018, she joined him.
The call came around lunch on that Thursday. “Your mom is in ICU. Come now.”
Then, a 2 hour drive followed by the realization that even though she had been sick my entire life, there would be no getting better this time. A heart that wasn’t strong enough to pump the blood that her body needed, lungs that couldn’t provide the air her body needed and a tube in place to breathe the breath of life into her lungs for her. Medicines that kept her blood pressure at a normal reading…
And the hardest decision I’ve ever had to help make. I say help because I didn’t make it alone. Her friend and conservator had legal rights to do what she thought best. She included me in the decision though and for that I will forever be grateful. I sat in a conference room with her and a doctor three times listening to words like “artificial life support,” “DNRCC,” “septic,” “influenza A,” and “heart failure, lung failure, and kidney failure.”
She didn’t want that.
I stood in a cold, sterile ICU room, wearing a yellow face mask, tears coming faster than I could keep up with and told her that she could let go if she was too tired to fight again; that Emma and I were home for good and would be fine; to tell my Dad that I missed him and to hug my babies when she got to where she was going.
I stood in that cold, sterile room wearing a yellow face mask to protect myself from the very infection that was taking her from me while three nurses filled her with pain meds to keep the pain of what was about to happen away and removed that imposing tube, shut off the IV’s that pumped that blood pressure medicine, and quietly shuffled out to leave us alone, waiting with held breath to see if a body that had fought for so long was strong enough to fight once more.
I was still standing in that room, in the exact same spot I had been, 18 minutes later when she let go. 2 ragged deep breaths later and my world collapsed, my legs failed me and in my haste to back away from the sharp pain of loss I now felt, I slid down the wall behind me and simply sobbed on the floor.
I sat in that funeral home the following day, dazed and unsure of what had actually happened. She had planned most of it already. I changed the color of her casket. I have no real idea why I did, but I wanted her to have a white one with pink lining instead of the cold looking black and grey one they had on record. I chose pink carnations for her flower spread. They were what she chose for my Fathers spread. I made a point of telling the mortician that she didn’t wear makeup and to please not pile it on. It was a small thing but one that felt important to me.
I walked into that store with my best friend and bought that blue floral dress she would be laid to rest in. It is truly disturbing to have to shop for clothing you know someone will be buried in.
I walked into a room at that funeral home on Monday and faced the second most important person in my life (my daughter is first), lying silent and still in a pink and white casket, my Fathers military flag laid across her chest to be buried with her. They did an amazing job on her makeup. She looked identical in death to what she had looked like in life.
I sat in that same room yesterday and listened as my cousin spoke of her in what really was a beautiful service. He told his favorite stories, but I also heard words like “strength,” “faithful,” and “loving.” I had listened to the people around me the night before tell story after story and laugh (lovingly) at how stubborn she could be. To those same people talk of how strong she had been to go through everything that life had thrown at her. To those same people speak about her in a way that I had, for some reason, never seen.
And I sat in the front row yesterday realizing that my mother, even with her faults, was the most amazing and remarkable woman that I have ever known. That the same woman who had comforted me with off key songs and hair strokes when I’d lay my head on her knee as a child, inspired the people around her to be more, to be less bitter, to be less angry, to have faith and to fight a good fight. I don’t think she knew.
People tell me that I’m strong; that everything I have gone through in life has made me a strong woman. I sat in that room yesterday and finally understood that if I am strong; I learned it from her. That her strength taught me how to be strong.
I never saw her as the woman that they did. Maybe I was blinded by it since her illnesses were the norm for me. Maybe I simply didn’t want to see it. It is too late, but I see her now and I am damn proud to say she was my Momma.
She’s gone and I never saw her for the beautiful woman that she was, but I am so glad others did. At least her light wasn’t ignored.
I sat on my porch tonight and realized what the last words she and I actually spoke to each other were.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I sat in my porch tonight and finally understood the woman that I had been blind to for so long.
I sat in my porch tonight and finally felt the strength of my mother pass through me.
She is okay. I am okay.
She was strong. I am strong because of her.
Sleep well, Momma. You are loved and missed so much already.