Cancer has taken my mom. So swiftly, it devoured her in only weeks, leaving all of us wondering what the hell has just happened.
Mom is gone. I’m taking solace that she is no longer suffering and pray she has found peace at last from the tortured life she had here. She wanted to go. She was ready.
I did find the courage to call her last week, and I’m so thankful that I did, not knowing her time was almost up. I still couldn’t dial the phone or stop the tears, but I knew it was time to do it anyway, so I had Hubby dial the phone, say hello to mom and then hand me the phone.
It seemed mom was waiting for my call. She had so much to say and really didn’t allow me to speak. I kept trying to get my turn but she talked the entire time nonstop. Ha. I guess nothing ever changes. This call was for her peace of mind not mine. She did say some kind, loving words, and some disturbing ones of course. I’m going to try to recall and document the conversation here, both for my ongoing story, and as a keepsake as her last words to me.
Mom:Hows my girl? My good good girl. I’m so happy you called, I was hoping to hear from you. Do you have any questions? I’m not sure what you already know and I don’t want to stress you out too badly.
Me:1st Brother has filled me in. I don’t really have any questions I just wanted to talk to you. I’m having a really hard time with all of this. (I barely got these words out, choking on tears)
Mom:Oh ok good he filled you in. It is ok to cry a little but don’t cry a lot. It is natural to cry for someone you care about but I need you to stop at some point. I need you to be ok. Death happens to everyone, everyone has to die some time and this is just my time. It might be days and it might be months now, we don’t know. I’ve got everything taken care of, planning to cremated with no funeral or viewing (I started crying harder at that – I already knew this but hearing it from her was awful. she had no emotion in her voice at all) Do you think that’s alright?
Me:I said I thought it was fine and really whatever she wanted.
Mom:I spoke to the priest and he said this was fine that many people do it this way. He performed some of the last rites and forgave my sins so I am ready any time. I’m sorry I don’t have any money or nice things to leave any of my kids, and I’m not preparing a will for the items I do have. If there is anything you do want I’m asking you work it out with your brothers without fighting or drama. I put together some photo albums with pictures of you when you were little but you don’t have to take them if you don’t want them.And you don’t need to come to the funeral mass, I need you to keep getting better and taking care of yourself and your little family. You’ve always been such a good girl, a good, good, good girl and you deserve to be happy. We’re asking that no one sends cut flowers since there won’t be a funeral or grave and we won’t have anywhere to put them. If you feel I need flowers because you know I always loved them please get a potted flower bush for me that could be planted in a garden.
You know how I always have a silly sense of humor? Well I still have it. The hospice nurse came over to introduce herself and asked me if I’ve ever used hospice services before, and I said No, I’ve never been dying before…And we both laughed. She said she meant for someone else, another family member, but yes she could she she didn’t word that in the best way.
I’ve been feeling alright, but my throat was killing me last night so I had to call a nurse in the middle of the night, they gave me extra meds and throat spray that helped a lot. It only takes a few minutes when I call they come right over.
Me: So you don’t have a nurse there with you all of the time?
Mom: No, I could if I want to but I didn’t want that yet. They’ve all been so nice. But my ears are so blocked I can barely hear, they can’t seem to fix that, and my sore throat. And I have elephant legs from all the fluids during the surgery and in the hospital they gave me lasix and I have to keep my legs elevated until the swelling goes down. They’re huge. (She started laughing) Sorry your bratty brothers are being bad, they are always so bad. (She laughs some more)
Me: (I’m thinking, Mom, I wish you had told me sooner, I wouldn’t have stayed away so long, I thought we had more time, I wish things were different, I’m sorry you have to suffer, I would have brought the kids to see you for christmas if I knew it was the last one, how long have you known? Why didn’t you tell anyone? It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, to give up on all of us without a fight and leave us all here to sort it all out for ourselves. But she never stopped talking to give me a chance to say anything)
Mom:I’m so happy you called and I need to keep taking good care of yourself because you’re my good, good, good girl and I love, love, love you. But I’m so beat, so I’m going go now.
Me: I love you too mom
I’m not sure if she even heard my response before she hung up. The next day they moved her to the hospice full time center, and the following afternoon she died. Just like that and she’s gone.
So I’m doing alright. I don’t have any illusions that even with 20 or 40 more years that we would have had enough time to form a close bond, something out of nothing. But I did love her, and I did want a mom to love me and support me. Although I find it disturbing to be called a good girl, in her eyes there is no greater compliment, so I’ll take it. It means I’m not a failure to my mom which I didn’t know was important to me until now. I’ve worked so hard to keep her at a safe distance, but underneath I still wanted her approval. That’s all we really want, isn’t it? To be loved and accepted by those closest to us? I can accept and forgive any pain she may have caused and mistakes she may have made if I know the love is there, and I do believe her, that she loved us, that she wanted the best for us.
Unlike AF. See, I think he delivered the final crushing blow in the awful Will, when he stated he didn’t love me. Somehow that was worse than all of the abuse I endured and I snapped. As much as AF hurt me, I still loved him. Children love their parents, I no longer feel guilty for loving him and needing him to love me.
So at least that is the last words my mom said to me, and that is a gift I will treasure in my core. No matter our troubles and differences, I needed that.
Addendum: Found out the Funeral mass for my mom is scheduled during the week of my back surgery! I’ve been doing all of this work and planning getting myself ready to be able to go. I need this, I need to say goodbye, my kids need to say goodbye.
I call 1st brother to see why they are waiting so long? 2nd brother is going on a cruise so they are waiting until he gets back. Oh. And they can’t change the date now it has been printed in the obit and planned with out of state friends and family. Apparently 2nd brother called everyone except for me to make sure the date would work. Apparently it is more important that her neighbor be able to attend than her daughter. Apparently I am still nothing, non-existent – not even an after thought, I’m not a thought at all.
Before my trauma therapy I would not have spoken up for myself. I would not have known how or that I had a right to do so. I asked if we could have a 2nd service, a smaller one before my surgery? So this is not ideal at all. The day before my dreadful 12 hour back surgery, I need to drive 2 hours away to my hometown, see my brothers that I haven’t seen in years, to attend a memorial mass at the crack of dawn. Or I don’t attend at all. How am I supposed to be in the hospital knowing I didn’t attend? I can’t, I won’t. So I dig down deep, find that reserve of strength and do what needs done. I know mom said I don’t have to go. But my heart says I do. Even if it isn’t the REAL funeral mass, it will be real for me and my kids.
And maybe this is better, that it won’t be everyone there. Maybe it has worked out this way for a reason. I only have to deal with my brothers, not all of the aunts and cousins and neighbors and friends too. I’m already going to have flashbacks, so many triggers, we’ll be in the childhood church, the one I went to each week with mom growing up, when she dressed me in pretty dresses and I had a tiny white bible, a tiny white purse to hold the bible, and I sat there as her perfect, pretty little good girl. I loved it though. I loved singing the hymns and mom always seemed so happy there, peaceful. She loved showing me off, people always said I was so pretty and well behaved and she would beam and look proud. I didn’t get much of her attention at home, but at church, I was her good girl and everything seemed good and right in the world for a moment.
So I’m going to shake and twitch as I enter this familiar building, it will be difficult to keep myself grounded in reality. But I don’t care. I’m going to my mom’s memorial mass. I’m allowed to look a bit crazy eyed, cry and stumble. I’ll use all of my new skills to help me. I’ll feel what I need to feel. I’ll have Hubby, my kids, and my sis in law there to support me.I’m doing this as much for my kids as I am for myself, to show them death is a part of life, that it is ok to cry, that we shouldn’t avoid the bad stuff or the hard stuff, and that we get through it together.