A girl will always need her mother, whether she is nine years old or forty-nine years old or even eighty-nine years old. I didn’t realize the truth of this statement until it was too late…..
So many of my earliest memories are of times spent with my mother. She taught me so many lessons through the way she acted and how she treated other people. Despite a difficult upbringing and unhappy marriage to my father, she remained positive and made it her goal to give us a better life than she had experienced. I am her youngest child, born when my mom was twenty-four years old. My sister was already approaching her 5th birthday by the time I arrived, so I had many hours of one on one time with her when my sister began elementary school. My mom and I shared a love of cats, chocolate, and the beach.
As I entered my teens, I became so determined to establish my independence from her. I regret that so much now. She loved me when I was quite unlovable. She retired to help plan my wedding and never complained as I squeezed her hand through each contraction of my two labors. She doted on my two children, calling them her “doll babies,” I knew she was always as close as the other end of the phone line.
Shortly after her 60th birthday, she began experiencing tremors in her hands. She kept this information to herself at first but then decided to seek medical attention to identify the cause. I was so wrapped up in my life as a homeschooling mother that I didn’t pay much attention until the day my husband came home from work early and wanted to speak with me privately. He compassionately told me that my mom had called him at work to tell him the diagnosis…cancer with metastasis to the brain. I listened in shock but then needed to spring into action as I accompanied her to many appointments and tests and helped her communicate this news to others.
The next year was a rough one as I watched her health decline even though she was fighting the disease so hard through radiation and chemotherapy. She didn’t want to leave us, but I felt her slipping away…..
During her final weeks, I would travel to her house for half of every week to take care of her. Even though it was so hard to leave my husband and children, I cherished the time with her. She could still talk and laugh and enjoy the Krispy Kreme doughnuts I would bring each time. Every day, I would sob in the shower so nobody else could hear.
One Saturday in June, my husband, twelve-year-old son, and myself picked up my ten-year-old daughter from camp close to my mom’s house and made a planned visit so Abbie could tell her Grandma Lu all about camp and my family could have a chance to see my mom. We spent a couple of fun hours together as Abbie sang camp songs and I attended to Mom’s needs. My sister and her husband were also coming for a visit that day as well. It was rare that we were all together since my sister and I were “tag team caregivers.” Mom was still fully alert but so physically weak that her legs crumbled beneath her and she scraped her leg, requiring medical attention. The ambulance arrived, and Mom calmly told the EMTs all the proper dosages of her current medications. Mom’s male companion, Jimmy, rode with her in the ambulance while my sister and her husband and my family and I followed in our own cars, fully expecting that Mom would be released after receiving stitches.
My mom lost consciousness in the ambulance and never regained it. After the medical personnel performed CPR on her for a while, we made the difficult decision to have them stop in accordance with Mom’s wishes. She died 13 years ago today.
So many times since that day I’ve reached for the phone to tell Mom some important news or to ask her a question, only to realize she can no longer answer. My absence remains an ache in my heart, but I have chosen to follow her example of optimism. Every day I do something that would make her proud. She will never truly be gone as long as her memory and lessons live on in those she loved.
I will never forget you, Mom!