I had the pleasure of a wonderfully close relationship with my mother for 32 years. We talked everyday on the phone, sometimes more than once. She was the one that I told that my boyfriend (at the time) was “the one,” and he is now my wonderful husband. She was the first person that I would call when I left the pediatrician’s office to give her an update, needed recipe advice, or had great news that we were expecting a child. Sometimes, I even jokingly called her my “stalker” when she’d call me. Needless to say, our lives were intertwined.
Unfortunately, my mom unexpectedly passed away in March 2008 due to complications following a surgery she had had two weeks prior. I went to the ER that Sunday expecting to find her getting some tests ran for possible pneumonia and soon found myself hearing the ICU nurse on the phone tell me that her heart had stopped, they were “working on her,” and that she didn’t think that they’d be able to “bring her back.” I begged the nurse to tell Mom that we were here , that we loved her, and please do not to stop trying to save her. Minutes later, the doctors came out to tell us she was gone. Even now, the thought of that moment brings me to tears and I can feel my chest squeeze as if it were yesterday.
I find myself writing about this less than upbeat topic because I feel like it will be helpful for me as I continue to deal with the loss. I also know that grief is something that we all will experience in some way and at some time. I also know that it will leave friends and family feeling helpless. I also know that experiencing such a loss is not merely an event yet it marks the beginning of a process that will change your life.
Sometimes I find myself comparing the process to that of a chronic pain condition. The initial loss is like the falling off the ladder, getting in the car accident, or experiencing the injury. The pain is so intense but you need to survive so you just keep going. You stay positive and focus on what needs to get done and you make it through the initial days and weeks. The pain may remain visible to others who know you well for a while, as it is still fresh so you can’t hide it- like having a limp or wearing a cast. You still go to work, love on your kids, and make dinner. You just start realizing that something has changed in life. Something important and comforting is missing, and it sucks.
Eventually, you get to what I call the “chronic pain” phase. This is where I find myself now, almost 19 months later. It sounds cliché, but I think of and miss my Mom every single day. There is a silent yet ever present ache for her presence in my life. It is manageable and it is rarely visible to others. However, there are those moments when suddenly and often unexpectedly, the pain builds and comes to the surface. It is the song that reminds me of her, the kids randomly saying how much they miss her, my 1st birthday in 33 years without a card with her writing on it, or the thought that she will not be there to call when we adopt our next child that seem to sucker punch me.
I have chosen to use this “ache” as a reminder that relationships are a blessing, need to be attended to, and never undervalued. I have chosen to embrace the pain because I know that I could never feel such grief unless I had first been blessed enough to feel great love and "joy.” I had a close relationship with her for 32 years that others may not experience in a much longer lifetime. I also believe that my Mom has become a part of Heaven and I believe that my pain serves as a reminder that she is experiencing true bliss. I know that she would demand of me that I spend my efforts spoiling her grandkids, loving those she left behind, and laughing about the fun we had. After all, only my Mom believed in the healing powers of Vick’s salve, the use of a good old metal spoon for boo-boos, and that Breyer’s ice cream was much colder than other brands.
Patrick Swayze said in the movie Ghost, ““It’s amazing Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.” Here’s to my Mom who I am sure had a lot of love to take with her. Also, from the conversations I have with people who knew her, she left a little bit of “joy” with some of them as well.