A Hoot We Needed

I haven’t updated in a while and it’s because so much has changed in the last couple of weeks.

I resigned from my position at work to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse; to fulfill a promise I made to my mom in the last few days of her life. Although taking care of her was the hardest thing I ever had to do, 13124513_10156928387720077_1334661829735087786_nmentally and physically, it was the most rewarding thing in my life. It taught me patience, acceptance, empathy, sympathy and it made me a stronger person inside and out. I started nursing school and it’s difficult – but it’s supposed to be, especially when your mom passed away just shy of two months ago. But my focus on my dream is stronger than ever, reminding myself each day that I want to help patients and their families during the hard times in their lives; just as others did for us.

We celebrated the first Mother’s Day without my mom, and it was the most difficult day of my life, second to saying goodbye to her. The days that followed brought emotions that I didn’t know existed, the day itself gave me lasting exhaustion. I was tired, irritable, sad, angry and experienced feelings I can’t even begin to put into words. 13124733_10156928387605077_2966671819641217940_n

Mother’s Day is supposed to be about spending time with the woman who gave you everything, who taught you all you needed to know and more, who wiped your tears when you cried, hugged you when you were wrong and loved you no matter what. Except this Mother’s Day, it wasn’t that. She was not there to wipe my tear soaked eyes, she wasn’t there to have a glass or two of Pino Grigio with me, she wasn’t there to laugh with me or open up presents that I put so much thought into. She wasn’t there to go to a vineyard with. She wasn’t there physically and that was the hardest part.

People can tell me continuously until they are blue in the face that she is always with us, but that doesn’t change the fact that she isn’t tangible. She isn’t in front of my telling me, “Ashley, stop being a baby.” She may be with us, but physically she is not and that is something I just can’t fathom.

On Mother’s Day we tried to make the best of the day, remembering my mom in the best ways possible. We started off at church and prayed to God that she would give us some kind of sign that day. We followed it with a trip to the cemetery. It was raining and the rain fell down my face, just as my tears did. We placed an angel and flowers at her grave – two things we would never get her. First, because she hated flowers. Second, because she preferred her nails getting done more than a knickknack.

13124967_10156928387425077_2427183647542871906_nWe stood there in the pouring rain and I begged her that this was a dream that we still didn’t wake up from. I stood there until I could not stand there anymore. Visiting your mom at her grave is something you shouldn’t have to do. It’s not something I should have to do. I never expected this day to come this early and I always thought she’d be around forever, making it to her mid 90s, because that is the personality she had. I never thought that I would bury my mom so early in my life.

We continued with our day and had lunch with my husband’s family. At first, I wasn’t going to attend because 1) I was too emotional 2) because it felt as if I was replacing my mom with something else and finally 3) I was worried I would break down and cry because I couldn’t have lunch with my mom.

We came home from brunch and planted a tree in memory of my mom. My in-laws bought us this tree to help keep the memory of my mom alive. We dug out a garden and planted a Flowering Dogwood. Again, she doesn’t like flowers, but seriously, the tree is beautiful. We also decorated the garden with an owl stepping stone in honor of the first sign we ever received from her and another stepping stone in her memory – “If love alone could have spared you, you would have lived forever…”

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And as the days pass, it gets harder, not easier. My praying that it is a bad dream is frequent and all I can think of is how this happened. How did this happen to the women that was so strong, so resilient? We’re approaching two months without my mom and it feels like time is going so slow. Each day drags on and its one more day without her.

Between the stress, our busy schedules, and my mom not being here it seems some days it’s unmanageable. So as I struggle for answers, for support from her and for a sign – she pulls through just in time – just before I break.

Yesterday morning, I went outside and saw that our garbage was torn a part. The garbage can didn’t look messed up, and only the top bag was torn. I called my husband and told him I thought a raccoon got into it for a midnight snack. Well, to my surprise, last night my husband was outside with the dogs when he saw what in fact was eating our garbage. It was a big, beautiful white owl. (If this is the first time you have read my blog, the first sign the night my mom passed away was an owl hooting outside of our window – and days that followed we saw more owls and heard them hoot.)

When my husband texted me this, I was in class and tears instantly filled my eyes. She was listening to me. She knew I needed a sign – she knew we all needed her, three days before the two month mark without her.

This one moment, taught me overnight to keep the faith, to keep believing and to know when times are tough, she still will come through, she still will take care of us.

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We’re STILL not Ready for This

It’s like leaving a newborn. That’s how people have tried to explain my anxiety of leaving my mom even for a couple minutes. They tell me it’s good for me to take a break.

I’m by her side every day, all day. I help her go to the bathroom, wash up, feed her when she wants to eat, hold her drink when she’s thirsty, put and take off blankets when she’s cold or warm. I manage her medication and set alarms to remind me when she’s due for the next dose. I coherse her into taking a pill she doesn’t want to take and I handle the attitude when she didn’t enjoy taking it. 

I took a leave of absence from work and day in and day out, I spend my time with my mom. I’m tired. I’m tired all the time. My anxiety is at an all time high and I’ve been experiencing panic attacks daily. Sometimes I feel so exhausted that I wonder how I’m going to take care of her. 

But we have support. We have help. And I can’t help but feel guilty for talking about myself and how I’m tired or exhausted; because it’s nothing even close to what she’s going through. 

She can barely keep her eyes open. She’s been nausea lately and has been dry heaving – like her other symptoms weren’t enough; the cancer now wants to add another symptom to the mix. She’s restless and agitated. She’s clammy and cold. She’s swollen and seeping. She doesn’t eat and barely drinks. The cancer is consuming her even more than before. Her condition changes not daily; but hourly. 

And, we’re still not ready for all of this.

They tell us to start thinking about what she wants, what we want after this is over. And I can’t help but feel that talking about that is wishing her away while she’s still here with us. 

She still tells me she loves me. She still gets snappy with me. She still looks at me. 

But, getting everything in order is part of the process. It’s supposed to help us. We’re supposed to make decisions while we are in a good frame of mind – whatever that means. I can’t remember the last time I was in “a good frame of mind.” I feel like a robot and I feel numb. 

I rarely show emotion, but when I do, it pours out of me uncontrollably. 

I want my mom here. I don’t want her to leave us, but some nights I ask God to just take the pain away. Take the cancer away from her. Make her healthy.

And people ask me, how do you handle this? Do you have hope that pulls you through? My answer, I’m not hopeful – I know the outcome and being hopeful is silly. There is no miracle and even if there was, who’s to say this won’t happen to us again. My faith is pretty much nonexistent; and that’s probably why my prayers aren’t answered. I don’t believe in hope, because hope should have brought us a miracle a long time ago. Hope should have allowed mom to be admitted to a trial. Hope should have never let this happen multiple times.

So, instead I deal with this the best I can. I try to take it day by day and not look too far ahead. It’s easier than it sounds, but this is our reality. This is what we are all living. 

As I finish this blog post, my eyes go to her chest. I watch it move up and down. She’s still here, and for that I am thankful.