My mother, Linnie, with my brother, Jeff, (her first child) in 1970.
One year. My mom has been dead for one year today. Some days it seems like she’s still out there- living her life and she’ll be calling any day to say ‘Hi,’ like she often did. Then there are days where it seems like she’s been gone for ten years.
When she died, I had no idea how to get through the next year. I don’t think anyone does- you just do. Life goes on. There are kids, jobs, family, relationships, friends, hobbies, and all the other stuff that keeps life busy. I have had all of those things this past year. I’ve wanted to share them with my mom. There have been days where I’ve cried for her. Days where I’ve been mad, days where I have peace, days I’m happy she’s not suffering, but most of all I just miss her.
I realized around Christmas, when I pulled out “The Night Before Christmas,” book she recorded in her voice the year before for Ryan and Cole, I was forgetting what her voice sounded like. You don’t think about that- until you realize you are forgetting what their voice sounds like.
All the things- little and big, I took for granted from her- parenting advice (sometimes asked for, sometimes not), Mother Day cards and wishes, phone calls, little odd gifts that would come from QVC in the mail to me because she thought I’d like them, visits, birthday cards, encouragement, someone who always had time for me, unwavering support, my boys’ Nana, and unconditional love, I noticed this past year, painfully, because those things are not here from her anymore.
And yet, I still have a sense she’s with me. As I have gone through the tedious process of keeping current my cancer follow up care, I hear her voice in the back of my mind, telling me to stay up on it. I see her smile in Ryan, Cole, and my niece’s. When I am baking or cooking one of her recipes, I remember the love she had for us, as she made the same dishes years ago. When I feel like I really need to know she’s looking out for us, something happens- something unexplainable, which I can only attribute to her. Like Cole telling me out of the blue, that Nana visits him when he sleeps, and she tells him she loves all of us. Or the pharmacy dropping the price on the very expensive cancer testing drug I need by the exact amount my insurance won’t cover. It’s hard not to think she is out there somehow- making sure we know her presence is here.
Then there is the guilt and questions that are always buried beneath the surface. Was I a good enough daughter? Did I spend enough time with her? Did she know I loved her? Did she know how much I appreciated things she had done for me her entire life? I tried to make sure I told her these things during the few days we had in the hospice, but I can’t remember. Much of that week is a blur. I do remember when I told John my mom was very sick, probably was going to die, and I was heading to Minnesota with my sister, he told me the time I would have with my mom would be a gift. I didn’t really register what that would mean at the time, but I thought about it while I was spending time with her in the hospital and hospice, after she passed away, and during this past year.
A gift. A gift to watch your mother die. A gift to be there. A gift to say good-bye. A gift to laugh with her one more time. A gift for her to hear her grandchildren’s voices for a final time. A gift for all of us to be a family one more time. A gift for her to hug me. A gift for her to hold my hand. A gift for her stroke my hair one last time, like she did when I was little. A gift to crawl into bed with her, like I did when I was little. A gift to be her little girl, one final time. A gift to tell her I love her. A gift for her to tell me she loves me. A gift to see her make the decision this was the end of her life. A gift for her to see the outpouring of love from her friends. A gift to hear her labored breathing, as it slowed down every hour. A gift to know it was peaceful. A gift to hold her hand, as she took her last breath. A gift to see her suffering end. A gift to see her spirit finally at peace-forever.
To have had and to have known these things in my mom’s final week of her life, even with the pain and heartache, -the comfort it has brought me- I can’t fully describe. The only words I have are: A Gift.