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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ICYMI: Back At It

Happy New Year! I am starting off this year with a recap post of last week… in-case-you-missed-it-small

Back To School: Georgia Peach and the Coach headed back to school! I was happy to finally answer, “Yes!” to GP’s morning question, “Is it a school day?”. She asked us the same question almost daily during her break. She was excited to reunite with her teachers and friends!

We hope her enthusiasm for school and learning continues for years to come. Or at least for the remainder of the school year. 🙂

Back To Work: I started a new position and could not be happier! I am so excited to work with this group and really looking forward to the work I get to do with them. My last position allowed me to work from home, so naturally I had to make some adjustments to working in an office….with other people. Outside of the most obvious adjustment, the dress code, I had a little hiccup with my usual music routine. I enjoy listening to music while I work and I noticed that the majority of my co-workers did too. So when the battery on my iPad Mini needed to be recharged, I decided to listen to music on my phone.

I unplugged my headphones from my iPad and tapped the Pandora music app on my phone.Unfortunately, the app started immediately and this song began to play loudly from my phone! Imagine quietly working at your desk and all of a sudden you hear…”Dirty South! Can y’all really feel me?” from the newbie’s desk! I frantically tried to silence my phone by swiping and fumbling with the screen. I had no idea what lyrics were next! Side note: Plugging my headphones into the phone never crossed my mind!

Luckily, only one person turned around to see what was happening. Everyone else…had on their headphones! Whew.

Back To The Drawing Board: After finding a temporary Nanny for GP for my recent jury duty, we were thrilled when we were able to land her as our full-time Nanny. Two days into my new position, Fit Nanny calls to tell me that she is quitting to take a job at her boyfriend’s company. Honestly, I wasn’t as upset about it as I would have been in the past (I know, who am I?). Maybe it was all the Nanny drama we had been through in the past that has left me numb? I don’t know. But, she explained that she had been a Nanny since moving to the US and wanted to try something new. Without experience, she was having a hard time making the transition. So, while I have no idea how I am going to tell GP she is getting a new Nanny (she LOVES her), I am happy Fit Nanny will be doing something she really wants to do. I know how that feels! 🙂

Back to the Blog: December is a difficult month for me so, I was mostly silent as the end of the year approached. My mom’s birthday, her favorite holiday, the anniversary of her death and funeral all fall in December. This year she would have celebrated her 65th birthday and for whatever reason that fact alone put me in a mini tailspin at the beginning of the month. Which I know is okay. But it was difficult balancing my joy of the season and the pain of not being with my favorite lady. Unfortunately, I know many of you share similar journeys of personal loss and together we take it on, one day at a time. Writing always makes me feel more connected to my mother so, I’m back! I will not only write here but, I will be branching out to other publications this year.

See you in a few days! I have a couple of posts I never published chilling in draft mode, so more is on the way. Thanks for reading!

 

Photo Credit: ImageChef.com

Love-Me-Downs

Often times when we think of hand-me-downs, material items come to mind. Things. The problem with things…they can be lost, damaged or stolen.

The Daily Prompt asked, “Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.” I decided to share a few verbal hand-me-downs that have stayed with me through the years.

From My Grandma Josie:

“Never love a man more than you love yourself.”

“One of the reasons I decided to marry your Grandpa was because he was sincere.”

“Don’t expect to be paid for everything you do.”

“Praying is your letter to God.”

From My Mom:

“I know you think you are too impatient to be a Mother, but I see the capacity in you. You will see it one day too.”

“The sooner you realize that life isn’t always fair the better equipped you will be to handle it.”

“I wish you could see the beauty I see when I look at you.” 🙂

There really are so many nuggets of wisdom my Mom and Grandma shared not only with me but, with so many others over the years, I could really write a longer post. Even though I selfishly wish I had more time with them both, their many hand-me-downs always provide me with what I need, when I need it most. Comfort, laughter, strength, support or direction.

And they will never be lost, damaged or stolen.

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Fifty Words

I wanted to try another writing prompt so I took a stab at this one awhile back. Finally, I’m ready to post it. 🙂

The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Write a post using fifty words no more no less. Here goes nothing…

The first sign of a life forever changed.

The nightmare.

Clad in black. No light, no air, darkness everywhere.

Absolutely horrifying.

I awoke anxious, sad and scared. A dreadful start to her favorite holiday.

Christmas Day.

The second sign came less than 12 hours later.

Heavy snow and stubborn ice.

Please Stop Talking, Please?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is an extremely personal experience, everyone has a unique journey through it. As you encounter every emotion under the sun, people say the stupidest things to you most, in an effort to comfort you or fill the silence with idiotic notions. Here are a couple of my favorites…

“It’s been a few months now since your Mom passed, are things getting back to normal?”

Umm Cray Cray, as old as you are you should know better than to say this to anyone a couple of months after losing their Mother.  My response, “Huh? I don’t know what normal is anymore.”

“…well, you didn’t need her anymore.”

Honestly, if I hadn’t been in church when this comment was made to me, I would have punched this idiot in the mouth. Seriously? This one STILL fires me up! You always need your Mother, obviously not in the same way you did earlier in your life but, you still need her. I have no words for you…that are nice. 😉

Please stop talking, please!

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So, here is my advice (yes, this post comes with unsolicited advice…you’re welcome!) when you are at a loss of words, try one of these two phrases.

 “How are you doing?”

or

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Actually, some of the best sources of comfort for me came without a word being said, a hug, a gentle squeeze of my hand in passing, or someone just being present, there.

Of course, you should do what is best for you. But when all else fails and you aren’t sure what to do or say, a Hallmark card will work nicely too. 🙂

photo credits