Yesterday was my mom's birthday, she would have turned 72 years old. She was a spunky lady with a heart of gold and a strong spirit like no one I've ever known. Going through the day yesterday at work was hard and I found myself pretty tired at the end of the day. I thought having a normal day would be good for me, to not sit and think about having lost my mom just four months ago.
At some moments it feels like a lifetime ago that I was going back and forth regularly from TN to FL to help with her care, providing support at chemo, helping with infusions at home, even giving her a manicure and pedicure the last weekend I came down so she could feel "pretty again" after her chemo and radiation. My dad grilled steaks for us that same night and mom was enjoying being able to (carefully) eat some "real food." We enjoyed each other's company and had no idea it would be our last time sitting with each other like that.
Later that night we ended up calling 911, she was rushed to the ER and admitted to ICU. After what felt like an emotional roller coaster, we lost her one week later on June 2nd. I feel blessed to have gotten a chance to be with her. My dad, sister and I, along with mom's best friend, sat with her as she took her last breath. In some moments it feels like a lifetime ago even though I can still quickly recall every sight, sound, smell and touch of that evening. Whispering in her ear how much she is loved over and over again. I'd like to believe that brought her peace to know she was surrounded by people who loved her so much. I made sure to also tell her that my boys loved her so much; her grandchildren were her world.
The love my dad had for her was one for the books. It was never perfect - no relationship is ever perfect. They would have actually celebrated 47 years of marriage last Monday so, needless to say, it has been a rough week or so for all of us. Watching my father that evening was almost as hard. He kept telling her that she was his girl, reminding her how strong she is and how much he loved her, playing her favorite worship song for her through you tube. The reality of losing your person and the helplessness in knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it is so heartbreaking.
Since mom's passing I often reflect on the presence she had in my life. Not just recalling experiences or the emotions that were associated with those experiences, but almost rising above that, reflecting on what I know she wanted for me. Really taking time to explore and reflect on who she was. I was fortunate, especially in more recent years, to have a relationship with her that allowed us to share with each other. For her to let me in, to hear her fears and challenges and to walk with her in that scary journey. She was so brave, even her most vulnerable moments at the end of her life. I would not have expected anything different of her.
My motivation for family and clients is the same. I believe it is so important for people to not feel alone. Isn't that what we all desire? To feel connected, accepted and loved? Softly whispering in my mom's ear over and over how much she is loved was so important to me. I wanted "I love you" or "We love you" to be the last thing she heard while on this Earth. I am confident she could hear me. I refuse to believe anything different.
This entry is really just an outlet for me to process, to share some my own pain in being human. It is also to convey a message of courage to not be afraid to show up for people. Don't be afraid to say "I love you"... even if you have never heard this from others or it wasn't a part of your family culture growing up. Be brave to say those things, to share those words with people who are so important to you. Let that be what they experience with you... a sense of love and connection... that they are valued.
I certainly know I am not the only person to have experienced the extraordinary pain of losing a loved one, particularly a parent. I'm not looking to do anything extravagant with this entry other than to let people know (and remind myself as I go) that it will be okay. As my grandfather said years ago, and something our family still holds onto, "The pain doesn't stop but neither does the joy." This is such a powerful statement from a man with who had experienced his own pain, such as the loss of his wife and having been a POW in WWII for 18 months.
We will all experience painful moments in this life but please don't let it take away from your ability to experience joy and gratitude. I lovingly reflect on moments with my mom, the tears, the laughter, even the challenging moments in our relationship. I am so blessed to be able to reflect on all of it with a heart of gratitude. If you are experiencing pain, I pray that you are able to do the same.
Grace Counseling Associates, PLLC