For the past 21 months, my life has been consumed, and I haven't felt at liberty to discuss any of it on this blog, until now.
In February 2010, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3C endometrial cancer. We almost lost her then. I brought her home to live with me in Idaho, where she began aggressive treatment. By the summer, her cancer had metastasized. Stage 4. Still, the treatment was effective in containing and killing her cancer, and hormone treatments kept the tumors in her liver from growing. Unfortunately, that treatment was so aggressive that it finally killed her as well as her disease. She passed away November 30th.
My mom was a good, kind, hard working, faithful woman. Yet she and I had a complicated relationship ... at least from my perspective. We weren't very alike, we two, and those differences in our personalities and even, ironically, our upbringings made it difficult for us to really communicate or connect about anything deeply significant. Add to this having to take on the role of caregiver, and I spent two years in emotional conflict. I frequently had less than kind feelings toward my mother, and that always then made me also feel guilty. What kind of daughter, after all, would be angry at a mother who was suffering the way that she was? To cope, I became emotionally detached at a time when my mother needed emotional support more than ever.
The last two months of her life I was able to let go. It wasn't very noble of me. My mom had become so weakened, so sick, so dependent, so frankly pitiful, that it was now impossible to continue to harbor resentments. She'd had surgery and was in the hospital for a total of 7 1/2 weeks. She then came home with hospice care and was only home for 3 weeks before she was gone. The last week, she wasn't able to speak to me. Saturday and Sunday she'd been more alert, and though unable to answer back, she was looking at me with an intensity that I was certain she understood what I was saying. I told her how much I loved her, what a great mom she'd been. I told her about the things I admired about how she'd lived her life. The great teacher she was, the kind neighbor, the caring daughter. Without actually saying the words, I was able to say goodbye. That Sunday night she fell asleep and never woke up. On Wednesday morning she passed away.
It's been two weeks. Two weeks and one day as of this publishing. It's funny, I find myself counting the time as I did the ages of my newborns. I don't plan to, it's just how I am thinking about this. In some ways don't miss her yet, as if she's not really dead but only away. I'm used to being without my mother. For years we lived 3,000 miles apart and only saw each other for 10 days every year. But for the past nearly two, she's been right in my home, needing attention and care. So in other ways I feel a little lost, like I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to be doing.
I assume that after the holidays, when the kids are back in school, my time will fill back up with whatever it is my time gets filled with. In the meantime, it's hard to go to bed when I should, and it's hard to want to stay awake during the day. It's hard to try to wrap my brain around this new motherless reality of mine, especially since, to be honest, I'm trying to avoid thinking of it as much as I can. There is a holiday to put on for my kids, and I can't seem to manage preparing for that and thinking about my mom at the same time. Processing may need to wait.
I keep thinking of the original lyrics to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:"
Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow,
And have ourselves a merry little Christmas now.
Clearly, the fates didn't allow for one last Christmas with my mother. But I assume that as time passes that fact will seem less tragic. Perhaps even next year I won't feel like I'm muddling through. It may take longer.
Merry Christmas, dear friends.