3652 Days

I have spent the last 10 years obsessing over every single detail about the last day I spent with my mom on December 25.  

I woke up that morning from the worst sleep ever. The only two words I can use to adequately describe the nightmare I experienced was black and suffocating. I was surrounded by blackness and I could not breathe. I was scared but in a way, I couldn’t describe. When I emerged from the bedroom, my mom took one look at me and asked if I was okay. I wasn’t and I wouldn’t know why for another 30 or so hours. Normally, we would have talked about what I had experienced but, it was just too heavy and sad to share on her most favorite holiday.  
 
We bustled about the house, as usual, that day. Her cooking and singing her favorite Luther Vandross Christmas songs and me finishing wrapping the Christmas gifts she saved for me to wrap for her. We talked, laughed, gossiped and ate the green beans she cooked for later at breakfast; and I felt the heaviness of the night’s sleep slowly lift as we exchanged gifts. Always my best friend, she made everything better for me.  
 
We celebrated Christmas, as usual, that year with our family at my aunt E and uncle G’s house. One of my most favorite family gatherings of the year! My mom knew how much I loved it but took her time getting ready to go…as she did every year. Once you entered their home you were greeted with love, laughter, kids running around and the smell of all my favorite foods. Nothing better! 
 
After a marathon of pictures, catching up, and plates of food, my mom and I packed up to head back to her house. I was scheduled to work the next day in Chicago before returning the next day to finish my week off with my mom in Dixon. I also arranged to take my three-year-old, goddaughter with me. Since the office would only have one other person there, my goddaughter and I would hole up in one of our empty conference rooms to pass the time reading, coloring, and playing with toys until we could head to the zoo. 
 
Once we returned to my mom’s house, I quickly gathered what I needed, kissed my mom goodbye as she laid on the couch and headed to my car to pick up my goddaughter. Small problem, my car was somehow stuck in the driveway. The same car we used to pull into the driveway no more than an hour ago. It wasn’t snowing but there was a layer of ice coating the ground below. I couldn’t move it in the right direction, every effort pushed the car further into the plowed snow on the side of the driveway. My mom, now standing in the door, called my uncle and then my cousins to help in what none of us could understand, how in the world is this car even stuck? I thought about how ridiculous it would sound for me to call my manager and tell her that I couldn’t make it to work because my car is stuck in the driveway with no snow. So, I was determined to honor my commitment. With the help of my family, we finally got the car out. I wouldn’t understand until the following day, why it was so difficult to move that car, I wasn’t supposed to leave.  
 
My mom called me twice on the 26th. Both times mostly to check and see if I was doing okay taking care of a toddler. “How are you and your charge? How did you both sleep? What are you making her for breakfast? What time are you coming back home?”, she asked. The last call that day from her was mid-morning with more of the same ending with her saying she would see me later.  
 
A few hours later I would get two calls from my family in Dixon. One to tell me that my mom was being rushed to the hospital and to come home immediately and the other one I have never forgotten. The second call came as I was driving home from Chicago with my goddaughter in tow about forty-five minutes later. When I answered the phone my normally calm Aunt who was also an LPN was yelling at me to get there and I heard crying in the background. I yelled back at her that I had to drive 2 hours to get home and I was driving as fast as I could. I pleaded with her to tell me what was wrong, but she was having none of it. Hearing a break in her voice when she yelled again for me to get there sent me into hysterics as I hung up the phone. 

I immediately called my dad in Louisiana who did his best to calm me down so I could make it safely. I just remember telling him, “I can handle anything except her death, I will never recover from that.” He told me to focus on getting there and take it from there. 
 
When I arrived, everyone was outside. I ran to the ER entrance. I knew it was bad. I still feel like this part happened in slow motion. They shuffled me down a hallway and into a large room. Once inside, my family lovingly surrounded me and told me she didn’t make it. Make what?  

My mom died on December 26, 2008, minutes before that second call from my aunt. My entire existence changed in one afternoon.  
 
I remember asking for someone to pray and then I went to see her, although not the circumstances we talked about earlier in the day.  She was dead now. The stain of blood still on her lips from the blood clot that took her life. My beloved everything was now pain-free with her parents.  

I can somehow recall things like the color of the first shirt I bought, as the only daughter of her dead mother, a red turtleneck from Shopko. The furniture in her living room hastily rearranged to make room for the paramedics to get the stretcher in and out of her house. The beautiful white suit wrapped in dry cleaner’s plastic I found hanging on the back of her bedroom door, the same day I fretted about how I would dress her for her funeral. Driving with my cousin Londa to CherryVale Mall to buy suits for the visitation and funeral and learning that dead people don’t need shoes in their caskets.  

That first year was blurry. I often awoke surprised I hadn’t died the night before from grief. I got up each day with a heavy sigh convinced of two things; someone was praying for me and God needed me to stay on earth but for what reason, I didn’t know.  
 
Now, 10 years later, the pain is still thick and I maneuver through it. Most days I still find it unbelievable that my mom is dead. But she is and life goes on.
 
I find comfort in the love and lessons she shared with me, my daughter’s connection to the Nana she never met, and knowing that when I need her most my mom is with me. Mostly, I remind myself that I have more memories with her than without her and that means everything. 

Mommy circa 1974
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What Is That, Red Velvet?

This year, I decided to celebrate my Mother’s birthday by doing something to honor her memory! My Cousin Unfiltered (she has this name for obvious reasons) pointed out to me on our beloved Grandma’s birthday this year, “Birthdays are to be celebrated.” And with that simple yet, poignant statement a fresh perspective and new tradition was born. On my Grandma’s birthday this September, I did a little something in honor of her and I thought on my Mom’s birthday (December 2) it would be cool if I learned how to make a cake from scratch. 🙂

346846Here’s why…

  • My Mom made some things from scratch + she was a great Mother = I will instantly become a great Mother upon making this cake. 😉

  • Baking is not a bad skill to have, right?

  • I will be able to teach Georgia Peach (GP) how to bake from scratch too!

All good reasons in my book so, I set out to make it happen.

First, I looked through the cookbooks and recipes my Mom and Uncle gave me to see if I could find a simple white cake recipe. Couldn’t find one. So, I took to the internet and came across a recipe. Red Velvet Cake. Yes! I thought, ‘if I can make this cake, my baking status in the family would most definitely elevate PLUS it requires fancy red food coloring…sweet!’

Now, I’m excited! I printed off my list for the grocery store and headed out to gather my ingredients. Since I am known to glance over recipe instructions when I should be paying attention to the details this time I actually noticed that I needed to sift the flour. Umm excuse me, sift you say? I don’t have a sifter, maybe I should have registered for one of those when we got married? Looks like I am getting one of those as well. Vamonos!

While at the store with GP, we weaved in and out of the 3 aisles dedicated to baking, like we are braiding hair. First the aisle with flour, then the aisle with the baking tins and next the one with the cocoa then back to the flour aisle…mainly because I was obsessed with getting the exact ingredients, I am not ready nor equipped to substitute things yet. We paid for the groceries and headed back home…without a sifter.

Now, I’m not sure who occupied my body earlier in the day but, I had dinner ready for The Coach (with two options) by the time he hit the door at 5 p.m. This allowed me to dedicate the majority of my evening to my cake project so, I was able to run to another store solely to locate and purchase a sifter. After feeding, bathing and putting GP to bed I began to prepare my work space for my latest masterpiece. I pulled all of my ingredients out and placed them on the counter. When I reached for the vegetable oil, I discovered we didn’t have enough for the recipe.

Focused and determined…I headed back to the store!

I returned home and jumped in, only to realize the eggs needed to be room temperature! I took 2 eggs out and laid them on the stove that had been pre-heating for about an hour now to help speed up the process. In the meantime, I decided to start measuring out my dry ingredients. I packed them ALL at once into the sifter measuring cup and tried to sift it. This was my first time using a sifter aka the devil’s kitchen instrument, I had no clue what I was doing outside of making a mess! Finally, I figured it out and saw why it was needed, those dry ingredients combined were as smooth as box cake mix. Nice!

Now, we are getting somewhere or so I thought.

As I moved to the wet ingredients, the recipe as clear as day, said the buttermilk should be at room temperature too! SERIOUSLY? I took it out of the refrigerator and put it in a warm bowl of water when my phone rang. It was my sweet Aunt J, checking on my progress and reassuring me that the cake would turn out fine. 🙂 I gave up on the room temperature buttermilk, the eggs were the appropriate temperature now, so in my mind it would all balance out. Ha! I combined the wet and dry ingredients with my mixer and poured the batter into 2 round tins and put them in the oven.

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26 minutes later…my first cakes from scratch were finished! Once the cakes were cool, I flipped, frosted and presented my masterpiece to my Husband who at this point had been asleep for nearly 2.5 hours. It was now midnight. The only way to determine if it was all worth it was to get Mikey er the Coach to “try it”.

The Coach: This is good. Can I get a glass of water?

Me: I thought you said it was good and moist, why do you need something to drink?

The Coach: Because you just woke me up to eat cake, I’m thirsty.

Me: Hmmm…20131203_003957

I tried it for myself and it was pretty decent for the first go around. For a project that had a targeted total (prep and bake) time of 1 hour, I finished in about 4. Whaaatttt?

There is definitely room for improvement. 🙂

What have you done or do to celebrate/honor the memory of your loved ones?

Photo Credit

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