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.

She Wrote a Letter

The last time mom was awake was 7 PM last night. She can hear us and shakes her head when we ask her questions like “Are you in pain? Are you comfortable? Can you hear us? Do you know we love you?”

It’s real today. This is really happening. It’s not a bad dream. This is real. And, I’m not ready – and I keep repeating that in my mind. I’m not ready to let her go. I’m not ready to loose her.

She’s not talking. She’s not eating. She’s not drinking. She’s grunting. She shakes her head. She gets restless. She’s on morphine. She’s on Ativan. And she looks comfortable and relaxed.

She’s not even gone and I miss her so much. Today, I said I wanted it to be over. But that’s not true. I don’t want it to be over, because when it’s over she’s not here. Because when it’s over she’s not coming back. Because when it’s over, it’s over. And I don’t know what it feels like to not fight this disease with her. I don’t know what normal feels like. And it will never be normal.

She’s my mom. She’s my best friend. She’s my everything. I call her millions of times. I fight with her when she tells me I’m wrong. I laugh with her when she says something stupid.

The thing is though, we lost her a long time ago. But, it doesn’t feel like that today. It feels new. It feels like this all just happened. It feels real – and I’m not ready for real. We aren’t ready for real.

We planned her arrangements today. At 24 years old, how do you come to terms with picking out a burial site, a casket, a funeral? How do you do it and not feel like it’s wrong?

This is all wrong. This is not how our story was supposed to go. My heart is breaking and my world it’s crashing.

I’ve been stowik, just like my mom. I’ve taken control of all of her care, just like she would have done. And as I hear myself and see myself, I see I’m more like my mom than I ever thought or knew. I hold myself together until I break. And I break when it’s quiet and I think people can’t see me. I cry then. And I’m sure that’s when mom has cried, when no one was watching.

And now we have nurses who are here all the time. They’ve already become our family. We treat them just like our friends and family. Our house has been full of love and life these past couple of days. And as each day gets worse, our friends and family stay longer, take care of us more, spend more time with mom, and keep us sane.

Today is a week, a week since we brought her home. We made it seven days. And each day gets harder for her and us.

She told us she wrote a letter. She wrote a letter and she doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long to get answered. She hasn’t received anything back and she just doesn’t understand why. Why haven’t they answered her letter?

Mom is ready, and if she’s ready, we’ll be ready. But that doesn’t mean we want to be. That doesn’t mean that we all don’t have a little denial in us. That doesn’t mean that we don’t think about the moment it happens and how it’s going to make our knees buckle.

So, mom, I’m so proud of you. I’m so thankful that for all my life we’ve had such a close relationship. I’m so thankful that you became my best friend during my teenage years. I’m so grateful to have learned how to be the best mother from you. I’m so happy you are my mom. I’m so in love with the person you are. You will always be my best friend, my mom, my shadow, my angel and my rock. Just as you have been all my life. I love you more than words can say.

And, we’ll be okay. Dad and I will be okay. It will be different and for a while it will feel like it’s a dream and it’s not real. But you’ll never leave us. You’ll always be here. You’ll always tell me when I’m wrong, and you’ll always give me the strength I need when I am weak.

I love you so much, Mom.

Home.

She made her decision. 

No more hospitals, no more doctor visits, no more infusion centers, no more rehab centers. No more picking and prying.

She’s coming home. We’re all coming home – to the home I grew up in. The home our family made countless memories in. And as my husband and I moved our bed, clothes, dogs and as the hospice company delivered the bed, wheelchair, walker, and oxygen – it was real. This is real. 

  

We will take care of her in her final weeks. We will make more memories in the house that holds our secrets, dreams and hopes. It’s going to be hard, really hard – the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do; but it’s her decision and she is in control this time. 

So, just like we have been – we will cry, laugh, get mad and love with everything we have.

And when I think about it – I’m mad, I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m overwhelmed. A miracle doesn’t exist. Instead, this cancer exists and it’s taking something away from all of us. I’m struggling to find my faith, I’m struggling to understand why and how this has happened to our family.

And the worst part is as I think about what’s to come – my future kids will never meet the woman who I call my hero. My mom won’t be there to tell me I’m swaddling wrong. My mom won’t be there to babysit and spoil our children. 

I know, life isn’t fair. Life isn’t perfect. But it should be. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. And there should be a cure for this disease. 

While I watch my mom process this, this new reality, she’s hurting. She doesn’t want to let go. She doesn’t want to miss what’s to come. She doesn’t want to die. She’s not ready. And we’re not ready. 

So, today we sit in silence waiting to be told when she can come home. We’re ready for her to come home, but we’re not ready for what’s to come.

This is changing me. This is changing all of us. And I’m scared. I’m scared I’m not going to take care of her the right way. I’m scared of being without her. 

I love you, Mom and I am so proud of your strength and perseverance. You’ve been through more than anyone can imagine. You will always be my best friend. 

It’s time to come home.