June 10, 2016 I received a call that not only shook my foundation, but changed my life forever. My sister called to tell me my mom had terminal cancer and at best had three weeks to live. Nothing can prepare you for this type of news. My mom was 62, young by today’s standards. How could this be happening?
I immediately hopped on a plane to be by her side. I planned to have her tell me all of her stories one last time. I planned to ask her every question I had never thought to ask before. I planned to paint her nails and listen to her laugh. I had a mission. For you see, my son was only 2 years old. I couldn’t fathom a life where he couldn’t remember his Nana and the love she had for him. In my mind she would be well enough for one last trip to her favorite place with all of her grandkids to DisneyWorld. When I walked into her hospital room, I knew Disney was out of the question.
I arrived about 8pm on June 11, 2016. I had to fly from Texas to Florida and this was the quickest option. I breezed into the room with nail polish, her favorite robe, and a new night gown I had bought her just so she didn’t have to wear the hospital one. We chatted until about 10 that night. My Dad got there at 10. I stepped out of the room to allow him some privacy. I came back about 10:15 to find my Dad holding her hand and praying over her. I grew up in the church, but I’m almost sure this is something I’d never seen him do before. The nurse had come in while I was out and had given her something to help her sleep.
My mom never fully regained consciousness. At 5am they wanted to put her on a ventilator. The hardest thing was saying no. But she had told us she didn’t want that. I stayed through the night holding her hand and talking to her. The next morning, I called her mom, her brothers, and her best friend to let them say goodbye. I played all of her favorite music and sat at her side with a strength I didn’t know I possessed.
As life was leaving her body, I watched as her soul ascend to heaven. A huge clap of thunder that shook the building sounded and the sky opened up with rain. I knelt with my family as we said the Lord’s Prayer together circled around her. As we finished, the cloud’s parted and a beam of light shone down from above, a cool breeze swept through the room and I knew definitively she had made it home.
This year has been full of firsts. First birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, all without her. It seems endless. There are so many times I have wanted to call her. To Facetime her while my son plays. I never got those videos. I only have stories to tell my son. My greatest fear is that he will forget her. I talk about her all the time to him, but I am constantly wondering if it’s enough.
As I come up on this anniversary of her passing, I wonder how I got here. The answer is day by day. At first, it seemed impossible to make it through a day, a week, a month. But it turns out that all of those things add up and here we are. I still cry at least a couple of times a week. But that’s better than everyday, so it’s progress. Life keeps going and moments keep happening. It’s all in how you choose to go on that makes the difference. I choose to live, to laugh and to love. It’s not always easy, but the solution is to keep making the choice, keep living, keep laughing, and keep loving.