Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Year 1: How I wish, how I wish you were here

Dear Mama,

Yesterday last year I thought you would come home from the hospital.

Today last year, very early in the morning, you were admitted to the ICU.

And it became increasingly clear that you would not.

Yesterday last year was Mother's Day, and it was terrible.

Mother's Day this year was brutal. 

Sarah posted this poem for Candy, and it resonated so deeply.

Since you left, I've felt, I don't know, less in this world. And after I read this, I realized that what I felt was untethered. 

Not homeless exactly. Not quite lost.

But kind of.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the calculations I started doing were about my kids.

I love my life, but the math was like this: if I have 10 more years, the kids will at least be in their 20s. 20 more, and that will get them to their 30s. And so forth, by 10s.

I was 53, and still, I wasn't ready to lose my mom. I needed you. I still need you.

I feel like so much of what made me me was connected to you. 

I'm not suggesting this is how it is for my kids. But I do know that people go on needing their moms, and I want to be here for them for as long as I can be.

You were gone, and suddenly, I wasn't a daughter. 

I wasn't your caretaker. Your advocate. Your protector.

I wasn't the fittest person you knew. Or the funniest person you knew. Your favorite writer.

Your anything.

I was just me. Without you.

My calendar was suddenly wide open, because I would no longer drive you to Sibley every other week, swearing at other drivers and making you laugh.

You were my first home. And because we moved so much, our family, rather than a specific location, was my home.

You were my first home, and our house was your last home. 

When I feel very sad, like today, I try to remind myself that you had a comfortable and loving home with us. And you were so, so loved.

One year ago on this date, while you were firmly physically affixed to your hospital bed, I saw you recede as the day wore on. You were just less and less there.

The only thing I feel good about is that you made the choice. When we asked you if you wanted further intervention, and you said no, and we asked you if you knew what your decision meant—and you so clearly did—you didn't hesitate.

The fact that it's the same day Dad left us, now 15 years ago, underlines for me that it was your choice.

Not a coincidence.

At some point too many of your systems were failing, and rather than fight the inevitable, you decided you were done with your tiny, frail earthly body. You were done with the pain. You were already more there than here, wherever there is.

You know, the doctors told us that it could be hours, or it could be days. They said once they stop intervention, you don't actually know what people are going to do, how long they will live.

But you'd made your decision, and you left.

By this time tonight, last year, you'd left us, and, after our allotted two hours, we left you. By this time Nick and I had come home, and India had met us at the back door, asking, why, WHY did we have Nana's things?

And then she knew. 

Recently she said she didn't know when she hugged you in the hospital, it was going to be for the last time. When she said goodbye to you, it was going to be the last one.

It's true that you know first times, but last times can sneak up on you. 

Leaving that hospital room was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Even though you weren't there anymore. I was holding your hand, and one moment you were there, and the next, you were gone.

Where'd you go?

This morning, I got my annual text from my friend Vik, saying *hugs*. May 15 has been a hard date for me for the last 15 years.

Losing Dad was devastating. For a long time, I think it was impossible to separate the loss of him from the trauma of the circumstances.

He'd disappeared so many times, but this time, it was somehow forever. How was that possible?

But of course I'd thought about a world without Dad in it, because I'd been confronted with the possibility. The likelihood.

Losing Dad was horrendously painful. But my world without you in it was unimaginable.

I loved you and Dad equally, but differently. You, you were always my safe harbor. The side of the bed I'd run to when I had a bad dream. The person I'd call heartbroken and sobbing, well into my 30s.

The person who loved me most in the whole entire world. 

I remember you saying you loved going home to Grandma Lillian's, because you were never judged. And it's everything to be loved unconditionally. 

How many people love us this way?

When you decided, it didn't feel like you were scared at all. You were relieved. You were tired, and you were ready.

Our friend Alexa, who was checking in on you energetically throughout the day, texted me to say your hospital room was full of loved ones. She didn't know you were leaving then, but she knew who was there waiting for you.

And then you were gone.

And I coudln't believe it. I mean, I was there. I saw it. But how did I suddenly not have my mom anymore?

I know this is all about me, because you're fine; it's the people left behind who hurt and hurt.

It's a terrible club to be in, this one. My motherless friends know. It's different, and it's awful.

I've survived a year that I couldn't actually imagine surviving.

I have to admit that I don't remember large chunks of last year. Kind of like how I don't remember much of college. I know facts, I made friends, but there are big blank spaces. I'm not searching for them.

Anyway, here we are. It's been a year.

I love you and I miss you and I miss you and I miss you.



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