Today was the day the doctors gave up. February 1, 2015. I didn’t know it, but she had another week to live.
As I walked into the hospital, having answered my sister’s tearful phone call, I still couldn’t believe my mother was going to die. Two rounds of chemo failed. The bone marrow transplant failed. It had only been six months. I stood there, numb, shocked. This really couldn’t be happening. She was only 62. She didn’t even get to retire. She was my MOM. She had been there, every day, morning till night. Your mom is eternal, like the sun rising every morning, or the seasons changing. You never think you will have to live without your mom.
I walked quietly into her room, where she sat, morbidly tired, with tubes puncturing her arms. I knelt by her chair. She gave me that weak little smile. She still wanted to smile for me.
“I know it’s ridiculous,” I murmured, “but part of me wants to throw myself on you and beg you not to go.”
Then, unexpectedly, I did just that.
My head fell to her arm, and I started weeping. “Oh, mom. Don’t go. Please don’t go. What will I do without you?”
“Oh, honey. I don’t want to go. But you’ll go on and be just fine. I want you to take nice vacations and eat crab legs and think of me. Don’t you cry too much, now. God wants us to enjoy our lives here.”
You don’t understand, I wanted to say. I get my strength from you. No one loves me like you do. Not my best girlfriends, not my husband, not my sisters. You’re my MOM!! You used to constantly tell me that the day I was born was the happiest day of your life. That you wanted a little girl so much, and since they didn’t have ultrasounds then, you were thrilled when I popped out, a baby girl. You loved me when no one else did. You were proud of me. You thought I was awesome. Every time my phone rang with your ringtone, I’d get excited because Mom was calling, and that usually meant something fun was about to happen. You were my go-to shopping buddy. You were the first person I wanted to tell when something awesome happened. We liked so many of the same things. How am I supposed to do this without you? I can’t do this without you. I CAN’T do life without you.
But somehow … I think she knew. Maybe since she did it with her own mom. She knew it would be indescribably hard; that my heart and brain would be ripped out for years; that you look for something to fill the void, and of course you never find it, because there’s no one like your mom. The first few years are awful. You want to die, too. The memories, the photos, even being around the family is just too painful. The grief washes over you like a rogue ocean wave, out of nowhere. It slaps you, it reduces you to a tiny heap. But every time I went to a beach, looking for her, she was there. She knew I could go on. She knew the aching emptiness never goes away … but the ragged, gaping hole of her loss gets soft around the edges, and other things, other people, move quietly to the forefront of life to make you miss her less.
All I could feel at that moment, on my knees by her chair in the hospital, knowing she was going to leave me, too soon … all I could feel was agony. But she was tired of fighting.
Oh, Laura. I love you. More than you know. It’s okay, honey. It’s okay. I’ll see you again.”