Some of you may already know this, but over the last few months I have had more than my fair share of tragedy. It has taken me a while to be ready to share this with you since I am still grieving and coming to terms with how these things change my life and where I go from here.
In June my mom of only 52 went to sleep and never woke up. She went into a coma and never came out of it. After days by her side it was apparent that she never would walk or talk again. While in the coma she had massive heart attacks and seizures that left her brain dead and with a non-functioning heart. Although she had lived with Lupus for years we never expected something like this at her young age. As a family we made the heart wrenching decision to end life support. My mom had always been my best friend and my biggest fan. Losing her was devastating and I miss her every day of my life.
The last time I talked to my mother was on Mother’s Day. I had told her how much she meant to me and thankfully I made a point to let her know that I knew she deserved all the credit in the world for any good qualities or successes I might have. She never felt like she could take credit for any of my triumphs. I sometimes didn’t want to give her credit for them either. But in that last phone call with her I had matured to a point where I knew it was her that made up the bulk of my good qualities. I will forever have peace that I made sure to tell her it.
After my mom passed, watching my step-dad (although I refer to him as dad) try and go through the daily motions was so difficult. He loved her more than I have ever seen a man love a woman. His eyes lit up when she entered a room and everyday he would say ‘Isn’t your mom the most beautiful woman in the world?’. They had been married 25 years and he told me all the time that his life stated when he became a part of our family. He was lost and lonely and never seemed like himself once she was gone. Soon we would find out that it was more than grief that made my dad seem so different.
About six weeks after my mom passed we learned that my dad who had been having some bad headaches had a mass behind his eye. Within a week we had found out the prognosis that I could not even believe. He had stage four brain cancer. Treatments were not going to extend his life much and they gave us a life expectancy of four months. As a family we again made a difficult decision. We decided to let him go home and live the rest of his time in as much comfort as we could provide.
It only took 35 days from the time he was diagnosed until he passed. In that time I went home and spent a week caring for him. I spent hours listening to The Beatles and holding his hand. Sometimes he knew it was me and sometimes he thought I was my mom. I could always tell the difference by how his eyes would light up when he thought I was my mom. It was beautiful and tragic all at once. As his illness advanced he would stay awake and fidget all night long. I never slept so little in a week before. One night that is forever in etched in my mind, he lay in the bed next to mine and every fifteen minutes he woke me up to say ‘Oh spider monkey, I love you so much. Do you know that?’ I would smile and say ‘I do. Thank you for loving me so much’. He would smile, squeeze my hand and tell me to go back to sleep. It would all start again in a few minutes.
The last night I was there I could not control my sadness. I was leaving the home they shared together and I knew that I would probably never seem him again. Knowing I was losing him brought all the feeling of losing my mom to the surface. I sat next to him and cried huge sobbing body shaking tears. He put his arm around me told me it was going to be okay and wiped my tears. Even while he was so close to death he was trying to comfort and take care of me.
Growing up my mom and dad would always joke that they never wanted to live without each other. They were just going to ‘hold hands and jump’. I would just roll my eyes and laugh at them. They passed three months and one day apart from each other. They came pretty close to getting their wish.
I know this is a tragic story, but as I wade through the sadness I am left with a bunch of happiness too. I am lucky enough to have four amazing parents that I love. All four have taught me amazing lessons and have been role models in my life. My two parents that I grew up living with are both gone, but I have the privilege of having parents amazing enough to miss for the rest of my life. They taught me something with every opportunity they had.
At my mom’s funeral I shared a thought that I think about all the time. I know my mom (and now I know this about my dad) loved me so much. I know this because I feel less loved and admired now that they are not here with me. This may sound depressing. I find it to be a beautiful expression of how much space and love they took up in my life. There will forever be a void. I will forever miss them. But I will keep moving, keep working and keep loving. This I owe to them.
I want to share a little more of what I learned from each of them and will a little later. For now, for my own healing purposes I share what has happened in my life over the last few months and where I go from here is all up to me. For you, I hope you go hug a loved one and can give them credit for what they have brought into your life. Believe me when I say that it can be the best thing you will ever do.