That is how long I was lucky enough to have my mom. She died one month ago today and it seems like a lifetime without her already. I have never known such complete sadness.
My mom spent Christmas Eve with us at our home. I never imagined she would be dead 3 weeks later. Everyone says there is nothing like losing your mom, I am sure short of losing a child this is true. Try to imagine finding out as of right now you could never see, hear or speak to your mom again. Terrifying, right? Well, forget that feeling because that is nothing like it at all...it is at least a million times worse than anything you can imagine. The other day in talking with someone else that lost their mom she described it perfectly. Before you have kids you imagine what it will be like...you think you know what it is like. Then you have kids and realize you really had no idea at all. The instant intense love you feel the moment you become a parent is nothing that can be described in words. It was the same way when I lost my mom. She had some health issues and I had thought about what it might be like when she died. Then she died and I realized I had no idea at all. The moment she took her last breath the unbelievable sadness and emptiness I instantly felt, again, is something that can not be described in words.
I had to tell the girls when they came home from school. I have never dreaded anything more in my life. I honestly can say this was the most difficult parenting moment I have ever. My mom had only been dead a few hours, I wanted to just curl up in bed and sob but I needed to be the one to tell them. As a Child Life Specialist this is something I do...sadly, I have experience in explaining death to children. I have been the one to break the news to a child that their sibling died or given parents the words to use with their children. I know how to do it. I know what to say. I had been preparing my kids in the few days leading up to her death. They knew grandma was sick. They knew the doctors and nurses were trying really hard to make her better. They knew they were trying every medicine they had to make her better. They also knew that no matter how hard the doctors and nurses try she might just be too sick and there might not be any medicines left to try...and she might not get better. I know for their developmental stages I needed to give the physical explanation of death. That is what they would understand. I know I just answer the questions they ask and not to give any extra information. But you know what? None of that knowledge made a difference. It was the worst thing I have had to do. The girls were devastated. Sara loudly sobbed for at least half an hour straight. Anna quietly cried into my shoulder for at least an hour. Later on I found Anna crying behind her puppet theater. Several times they would lock themselves in their room and cry under their covers. It is gut wrenching to watch them deal with such pain.
In the midst of helping them deal with their own grief I had to help plan my mom's services. When someone dies somewhat suddenly their is no time to take a minute and catch your breath. We needed to get a cemetery plot, plan visitation and her funeral. It is all so overwhelming and unbelievably expensive! The funeral business is the business to go into. You can make a fortune! I think in the same way there are wedding planners, there should be funeral planners. There are so many decisions to make on the spot and at a time when you really are unable to think straight. You should have someone run all the errands; to Wal-Mart for picture frames, Office Max to print off the programs, the florist to order arrangements, the mall to buy appropriate funeral attire. It is all so overwhelming, yet it needs to get done. I had to get an outfit to wear...I needed a black suit...I don't wear suits to work so I had to get one. I was wandering the store aimlessly when a saleslady came over and asked the occasion I was shopping for. My mom's wake and funeral I answered. It was so surreal. I was shopping for clothes to wear at my mother's funeral. What the f*ck!!! Within 10 seconds she had 3 other sales associates at my side helping me pick out clothes. I was a blubbering mess in the store. I had to get a ton of picture frames for the wake. Sara came to Wal-Mart with me to get them. We wandered around the store for an hour because I couldn't focus. Finally we were checking out. I opened my wallet and my debit card was missing. I reached for my credit card and that was gone. I couldn't think straight. Are you kidding me? Now on top of everything else I have been robbed. I pull out my cell phone to call Chuck and it is dead. I start having a full on anxiety attack in Wal-Mart. This is not happening. Not now. Not here. Not in front of Sara. I find my debit card at the pharmacy and turns out Chuck had used the credit card to order my mom's flowers earlier in the day. But things went from bad to worse. I get home and spend a lot of time typing up a eulogy for my mom. With a few sentences left the computer crashes and had only auto-saved the first sentence. It all hit me. I have never felt such rage in all my life. I ran out on the porch and let out a god awful scream. It was a sound I have never heard before. Dogs off in the distance started barking it was so loud. I can't believe #1. I am having to write a eulogy for my mom...my mom who was sitting in my living room just a few days before and #2. my computer crashes so I have to do it all over again...it was so painful to write the first time now I have to do it again?
We get through the wake and funeral and I don't know how, but something came over me and I was able to get up and read my mom's eulogy in the church. My mom deserved it. She deserved more than just a generic funeral service. My younger brother also got up and gave a beautiful tribute. I also wanted to do it for my children. This was the first funeral they attended...it was going to leave an impression one way or another...I wanted to make sure that in addition to seeing great sadness they would also see me stand up tall and strong and talk about the love I had for my mother. We let them decide how much they wanted to participate, assuring them there was no right or wrong choice...they both wanted to go to the wake and funeral so we let them.
The first two weeks I was just numb. I couldn't sleep or eat. I was just surviving. The past two weeks have been even tougher. Now reality is setting in. My mom is gone. I will never see her again. My kids will never see her again and that just sucks. The sadness is always right there underneath the surface waiting to come out. I have 3 kids. I have to get up and get them ready for school. I have to change diapers and clean the house. Life goes on. But there are times everyday when the sadness just comes out. I was driving down to see my dad and Anna asks, "are we almost to Grandma and Bucka's house?...I mean Bucka's house?"...her innocent little correction killed me. Thankfully she was sitting behind me and couldn't see the tears streaming down my face. Another day they were off playing and come and ask me for a box. Thinking they were doing some craft project I ask what it was for. Oh, we are playing funeral they answer. I know that is developmentally appropriate and a normal, healthy way for children to work through their grief but it was like a punch to the stomach. Walking through the store the other day and I saw cards for "Mom" and I lost it. On Friday I asked Chuck if he checked the mail because my parent's had sent the kids something. I burst into tears just as soon as that left my lips...my dad sent them something...not my parents becuase my mom is dead.
Yesterday we had our first family event, a cousin's chocolate Valentine party, since my mom died. It was heartbreaking to see my dad walk up the stairs to my house without my mom. The kids had fun but for me it was so hard to have this party go on and not have my mother a part of it. She was missing and it really was hard not to notice the emptiness.
For the past 15 years I have been working in hospitals and one of the things I have told families to do when a loved one is sick or has died is to keep things as normal as possible for the other children. I want to apologize to every family I have ever said that to. F-ing Impossible! There is no way to keep things "normal"...so I am sorry for ever making a family more stressed or feel like they are failing if they weren't able to keep things "normal".
This year is going to really suck having all the first Easter, Birthday's, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. without her. This is my new reality and I don't like it. I am terrified of a life without my mom, but, like I said in my eulogy for her; my promise to her is this; though some days will be difficult, we will
get up. We will go on. We will continue to lead the successful lives
you worked so hard to give us. We will continue to draw on you for
inspiration as we raise our children in a way that would make you proud,
and, we will make sure all of your grandchildren know you and the
amazing person you were.