We buried my mom yesterday.
Part of me wants to write about the facts. No one saw this coming therefore I feel a need to share what all has transpired over the past few months/years. Part of me knows I should write about and share with you that we believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is healed and whole and in the presence of Jesus and that one day we will see each other again. Part of me wants to scrap this entire idea of even trying to compose this blog post because I'm afraid the words I type won't seem as elegant and meaningful as they sound in my head and feel in my heart. Then again, part of me doesn't care. Part of me just wants to talk about my mom.
Maybe I'll do a little bit of each.
My mom was a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed and fought and overcame Hodgkin's Lymphoma three times before I was barely in grade school. The first was when my brother was born in '79. The second, when I was born in '82. The third, in the mid-80s when I was old enough to remember that she wore bandanas but without comprehending why. Growing up, I barely knew the stories or details or the fear that was associated with cancer. All I knew was that mom was consistently in "remission" and "thank you God for another year of health". In a way, it was a naive optimism that I carried, never once imagining cancer would touch our family again. I had never experienced it the way my mom and dad did firsthand. Though neither of them lived in fear that it could return and that is testament to our faith in Christ. As my Dad shared with me weeks before Mom passed away, they've lived 30+ years knowing that God is the One who truly knows the number of our days and with that comfort, although it may be hurtful at that moment in time, we can cast out fear of death and fear of the unknown. Everyone will have that day. I'm pretty sure there's no going around it.
This past December, my mom's physician ordered extra tests due to something abnormal that turned up during an appointment: cancer. This time it was non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My parents waited until after the holidays to tell the family and close friends and pretty quickly my mom began chemotherapy.
She didn't want me to see her get chemo, but I needed to see it. I felt like chemotherapy was this giant monster that I had no context of and almost an even greater fear of compared to the cancer itself, and that I could not find a way to wrap my brain around it. I needed to be there. I sat with her for her very first treatment and we watched the movie Warm Bodies (of all things) on my portable DVD player, sharing one set of headphones because I'd been remiss to think of bringing two pair. We started the movie right as the first drip was hooked up to her IV and instead of dreading and waiting for any symptoms of the chemo to take effect, we spent two hours giggling quietly in our chairs over this genius zombie chick flick. (And if you knew my mom, she did NOT watch anything with zombies - this was one the exception.)
Over the past two months, I took mom to her chemo appointments when I could and some additional hospital visits as well. We talked on the phone every day and even got to bring the boys over to the house for a short visit. My sister-in-law and I went wig shopping with her and helped try on beanies and crazy turban bandanas and hats. Mom finally finished Downton Abbey too with all the time spent at home and she'd get so upset over the plotline for Anna and Mr. Bates saying, "I just want them to leave Anna alone!"
The weekend after Mom's third chemo treatment (one of those days in which I got to take her and even make a Walmart run after), she came down with an infection that without any immune system landed her in the hospital and slowly began to take her away from us.
We spent as much time, every day in that ICU room with her. Tuesday evening, my brother and I just sat for a few hours and watched some of her favorite shows with her that were on that night. (I still can never understand what is so great about NCIS.) Wednesday, we were there again but no TV, just words said. Words spoken that I never wanted to speak. Words to convey a lifetime of memories and love just hoping that they were enough. And final words that I would hear from a voice that I would never hear from again. Forever treasured and locked away.
We were with her on Thursday when she left us.
You know that feeling you have when someone has been to visit for a while and then you drop them off at the airport and afterward it's almost like you don't know what to do with yourself for the moment? You know that person is off to their own journey on their way home but you're just still...here.
I miss my mom. The urge that I get to call her or text her when the boys do something funny or sweet or cute - I don't ever want that to go away. This past week I've cried when I opened my first Dr. Pepper because that was her favorite drink and never once did we meet up together without one of us bringing a bottle along for the other. I cried when I heard a song by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons because we were going to get awesome seats at the theatre when Jersey Boys came back in town. She was my go-to theatre person because she also gave me a love for theatre. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was one of our favorites and although it took me years to come around, so was Fiddler on the Roof. She shared with me the classics and I in turn introduced her to current shows as they came around.
We went on two glorious Mom/Daughter cruises together in the past 5 years. My one regret being that we didn't get to do one more. I can close my eyes and remember a moment on our first cruise together as we just sat on the top deck, lying in the shade, napping and reading books and enjoying the gulf breeze and beautiful weather. We sat there for hours.
There are so many things I want to remember and share and tell the whole world about. I have told my husband for years that I always knew that when I grew up and moved out of the house, got married, etc., that my mom and I would be friends. I knew that mother/daughter relationship would expand. How I knew, I'm not sure. But I'm so thankful that I have had the last 10+ years being a daughter and a best friend to my mom.
It wasn't until now that I realized how much I want to be so much more like her.