On April 25, 2018, my world imploded and I’m still living in the aftershock. Every day since has felt like wandering through ash and wreckage blindly, arms out to brace a certain fall, feet shuffling to feel my way through the entangling debris.
I had returned to work that day after a few days of being home with sick kids and being a little under the weather myself. It was my mom’s birthday and I was saddened that she was going to spend it in the hospital, but I was hopeful that she’d return home soon. Her battle with uterine cancer gave her the problem of excess fluid buildup which had to be removed quite often since the pressure caused trouble breathing and general discomfort.
She couldn’t go to her regular treatment facility because the issue occurred over the weekend so she was admitted to the hospital. This particular incident left her especially weak because she had not been able to eat much, due to the extreme nausea the chemo gave her.
The day before I had taken my son, who was on the mend from an ear infection, to visit her. She seemed weak and disoriented and we were worried, but we never really thought about her not coming home.
After the visit, I went to Kohl’s and picked out a few small things for her birthday and Mother’s day, which was just around the corner. Hoping to make the best of the situation at hand, my family planned to gather at the hospital with small tokens to brighten her day, bed-ridden on her birthday.
That morning when I arrived at work, I sat in the parking lot for a moment, soaking in the subtle pink hues of the sunrise, and the song, “10,000 Reasons” came on the radio. The lyrics grabbed me like they never had before as the verse rang out these words:
“And on that day
When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will
Sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
And then forevermore”
I couldn’t help but think of my sweet momma laid up in that hospital bed. Her skin pale, her head bare from the chemo treatments, the way she forced a smile when her loved ones entered the room even when I’m sure the emotions she was feeling were far from happy… My heart quickened and my blood ran cold and I faced, in that parking lot, the very real possibility that my mother may not leave that hospital bed. I did my best to gather myself and wipe the hot tear stains from my cheeks as I walked into work.
I wasn’t there for but an hour or two before I got the text from dad that read, “the doctor is advising loved ones to gather.” My legs threatened to fail beneath me and I forgot how to breathe. My eyes widened and the color drained from my face, my sweaty hands grabbed for my belongings and I stumbled toward my car.
My husband met me near his work after I called him sobbing and he felt it was unsafe for me to drive. He sobbed with me all the way to the hospital and never let go of my hand. He loves my momma dearly, but I knew that the events unfolding were all too familiar to him as he knew the sting of losing a parent all too soon.
In my moments of weakness during mom’s fight with cancer when I feared what could become of her, the thought occurred to me that God had brought Joe and I together for such a time as this. That our Almighty Father knew the pain we would face in common and how we would have to hold each other up… That God knew I would need an understanding heart to love me through the pain I would feel and the mornings I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. I fought that notion like crazy. Oh how I didn’t want that to be true.
I know it sounds cliché, but my momma truly was my best friend. We did everything together. If one of us had to run to the store late at night, we’d go together. We’d peruse the craft section, the holiday section, and go for a drive afterwards. We’d dance to music on the way home and maybe stop for a drink or a late-night treat. We were silly together, oh how I miss her laugh. She was my best friend, and oh how I felt her absence after she left this earth. She was my safe place.
When we were finally ushered into her room in the ICU, her family swarmed around her and assured her that she was so loved. We held her hand and kissed her face. I will never forget how in all of her discomfort, in her few moments of consciousness, she would pucker her lips the best she could to kiss us back. I will never forget her beautiful eyes, they were so big and filled with compassion even in her last moments.
Sometimes I startle to see those same eyes looking back at me in the mirror.
It wasn’t long after that my momma passed from this life into eternity.
At one point, my husband went to grab a bite to eat for everyone and a jacket for me. I let him know that the moment was close and he hurried back. It was shortly after he returned that my momma breathed her last. I believe she waited for him.
I remember my dad saying, “they say that a spirit leaving the body can see us on their journey to Heaven.” We all looked up and imagined what my mom was seeing, feeling for the first time.
In healthier moments, as her birthday was approaching, we’d ask her what she wanted. She’d reply, “a cure for cancer.” The only consolation we left the hospital with that day was that our sweet momma got her birthday wish. Jesus gave her a cure for cancer on her birthday. It wasn’t the cure we prayed for, but her suffering is over. The cruel disease that ravished her body in a matter of months could no longer touch her.
I woke up the next day hoping it was all a bad dream. Then reality came crashing in, sucking the air out of my lungs once again.
Images from the day she died still haunt me. My prayer is that in time, God will redeem those moments for me.
In the first year you get pretty good at putting emotions on the back shelf to survive work and functioning in general, but there are many mornings that a memory, a song, a thought or a longing just reduce me to a puddle.
I try to think of my momma rejoicing in Heaven with her Jesus and her loved ones that have gone before her, and the confidence of her heavenly home does give peace.
But I can’t help but feel like a part of me died with her on that day.
I’m still reeling. My ears are still ringing from the after-blow. I’m still stumbling through the blinding ash with my arms extended, certain of the perils around me. Wondering if I will ever see the light of hope through the haze.
I’m just a girl grieving the fact that my momma will never get to be the grandma she wanted to be.
Even though she met both of my children, she was sick for a majority of the time she knew them. Her love still made a lasting and deep impression on them both, but I know it killed her that she couldn’t play or adventure with them the way she wanted to.
I’m just a girl grieving all the “you should be here” moments.
My brother graduated college right after mom passed. Shes going to miss adoption day for her first grandbabies, shes going to miss their first trip to Disney. She wasn’t here to witness my sister start a new life for herself, something she never stopped praying for.
There is a lot of speculation as to what a soul experiences in Heaven, what they know and can see about life on Earth. However, I’m still living in the ever-poignant absence of my mother’s physical presence.
So forgive me, my friends, when I can’t immediately sense the immense joy that is supposed to follow a saint gone to glory. I hope that day will come for me.
But for now, I’m just a girl missing her momma.
And to my momma on her 58th birthday:
It’s been a year and I still can’t believe you’re gone. I know you’re enjoying Heaven right now and I hope it’s more than anything you’ve ever imagined it to be. I hope you’re having long chats with Jesus and singing in the angel choir.
Gosh, how I would have loved to see you lay eyes on your momma for the first time in a while.
I know you’d be so proud of all of us, momma.
We walked for life in your memory and Daddy was determined to make 33 laps to honor 33 years of the marriage you shared with him, and he did it… blisters and all. Your grandbabies found your pictures on the luminaria bags and Ricky bent down to kiss your face. Kassie thought you would be resurrected on Easter just like Jesus. 😊 You’d love the little people they are turning out to be.
Your grandbabies will be officially yours in about a month or so. I try every day to be the mother you taught me to be. A mother that never misses an opportunity to let their children know how loved they are. A mother who always finds time for laughter and fun. A mother who teaches her children to love Jesus and walk in His way. A mother who prays.
Sometimes I hear your voice in the back of my head telling me to “loosen up” a little. Thanks for the reminder. 😉 You’re right, this life is too short to get hung up on the little stuff.
I miss you so much. That will never change.
All my love,