My world changed one week ago, when my mother had a stroke. One minute she was pulling weeds in her garden and the next minute she was in a coma in the hospital, from a blood vessel that had burst in her brain. When I got the news, I flew from our home in Montana to my hometown in Pennsylvania.
Even though I left as soon as possible, my mother never regained consciousness, and passed away the day after I arrived. I was blessed to spend her last night by her bedside in the hospital and talked with her most of the night, convinced that she could hear me.
I was holding her hand on Wednesday afternoon as she took her last breath, along with my father and my siblings, surrounded by many of her grandchildren.
I always thought I’d have more time. There are still so many things on my list that I want to do with my parents, and I always thought we’d do them “someday”. I always thought my parents would get sick, we’d spend time together and then they’d pass away. I thought they’d be “old”, would have lived a full life, and I’d be okay with the separation. I didn’t expect to feel like my heart was being ripped out of my body.
When my maternal grandmother died about 8 years ago, I couldn’t understand why my mother was so sad. My grandmother lived a long and happy life for 97 years. With the passing of my mother, no matter the age of their passing, I now understand. Some things have to be experienced for us to “get it”.
I didn’t expect our last telephone conversation just a few days before to be the last time I’d ever hear my mother’s voice. I’m so grateful that as always, we both ended the call with, “I love you”.
This whole experience has been surreal for me. My mom was the poster child for senior health. At 77, she looked like she was in her early 60’s and still worked out regularly. She was full of energy and was always busy helping someone else. For her, giving wasn’t something that she did, it was who she was and her way of life. From volunteering at the local senior home to building houses for charity or helping a neighbor, my mom lived to give.
She’s been there for my father, my four siblings and me, the grandkids and great-grandkids and anyone else who needed anything. She was the one that I turned to when I needed a shoulder, and the first one that I’d call to celebrate good news.
She was the one that I’d call for an opinion or for advice. Just last week when I got the phone call from my sister telling me about my mom’s stroke, I quickly packed for the trip. Understanding the seriousness of the situation, I decided to pack a dress for a memorial service, just in case. I couldn’t find the right black dress, but found a brown one instead. As I pulled it out of my closet, my first thought was, “Can I wear a brown dress to a funeral?” My first instinct was to call Mom and ask her… and that’s when it really hit me. If I needed the dress, it would be for her funeral…. and I didn’t think she’d mind if it was brown.
Sunday we celebrated my mother’s life at a beautiful memorial service with more than 400 friends and family. They all came to offer their condolences, share stories of her life and celebrate this amazing woman that I was lucky enough to call my mother.
As I write this blog on the airplane returning to Montana, my mind is still spinning. It’s still not real. I still expect her to call me when I get home. I’m still processing the whirlwind week and the finality of losing my mother. As a writer, I’m sure many of my upcoming blogs will be inspired by the wisdom of my mom, and from the bittersweet beauty of this experience.
I know that love never dies, that our loved ones are with us always, and that the memory of my mother will live in my heart forever. I also know that life is short and we never know when we’ll have our last opportunity to say the things we want to say, until the moment is gone.
So, if you want to say, “I love you”, go say it now. If you need to say, “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you”, go say it now. Go do the things you want to do with those that you love- now. Don’t think that you’re too busy or that you can do it tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.
As I close this with a grateful yet very heavy heart, I have to share a tweet that was sent to me by a friend, which sums up my feelings perfectly…….
Your mom is going to make such a beautiful butterfly… but we’re sure going to miss the caterpillar.
p.s. THANK YOU for the many emails, tweets, Facebook posts and phone calls… your love and support during this difficult time mean the world to me!