You waited for me.
In the last days of your life, I told you I wanted to be with you when you died…the Hospice workers explained how you would have some control over that. They told me amazing stories of individuals that held on against all odds as they waited for a family member to arrive from half way around the world. On the flip side, there was the story of that matriarchal grandmother. Her room was packed to capacity as the family watched and waited for her imminent death. Three days and nights into the vigil the family said, “She’s not going anywhere. We should all go eat in the cafeteria together.” As soon as the room completely cleared out, Grandma took her last breath and died.
Sweet Jesus…that is exactly what women in our family would do.
With today being the seven-year anniversary of your death, this whole dialogue still sounds surreal to me. In the manuscript of life, no mom should ever have to say to their child, “I want to be with you when you die.” But I did. I was crazed; not wanting to sleep a wink for fear that would be the moment that you crossed over and in some loony way I didn’t want to miss being there to care for you, to protect you.
You knew your Momoushka. I didn’t let you cross the street without me. You know that first day you walked home from second grade on your own? Yeah, it really wasn’t Independence Day. Your mom developed a keen espionage plan and every step of the way I was hiding on the back streets that lined Spring Street. It even included crouching in the bushes. You had such a big smile on your face like you were such hot stuff walking home alone. Yeah, no. I was there, ensuring your safe passage.
I was there for your life, but wasn’t showing up for mine once you passed away.
I was like a Zombie Grief Apocalypse, as I paced the floor in those dark night hours, unable to focus on anything but you. My friends saw this glassy-eyed shell of a woman, wondering what happened to the ‘old Val.’ Surely, God hated me, and my only spiritual dialogue was wondering how many more days until I saw you again. But somewhere the fragments of my life started to pull together. Hope glimmered, if only for a second. You told me to get a job at Sur La Table. I did. I met my Lit Coach. I blogged. Enter the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders…cheering for your mom to live her life. The pom poms hung center stage in my dressing room on Bloomfield reminding me that I had made the cheerleading squad as your mom and caregiver. When I later downsized from our 7200 sq. ft. home to 1100 sq. ft., my thought process included, “I’m keepin’ your ashes, your two little dogs and back away, movers, I’m takin’ the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Junior pom poms with me!”
Five years rolled on. As a symbol for America’s Sweethearts hung in my basement apartment, I realized I had to dig deep and begin cheering for myself. I asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my one and only crazy life, and at first the answer was a pathetic, “I don’t know.” I knew everything that was on your Bucket List, but did anyone know mine? There was a ‘me’ that got lost in the middle of adrenal cancer and I stopped being “Valerie” and changed into “Megan’s Mom”. I was so proud to be your mom, but when you died I was lost without you. But hope glimmered again. I thought about ‘what is it that I want to do with my life?” and I hired a Photoshop tutor so I could immerse myself in the craft of stationery design that I have loved my entire life.
Here we are at seven years. I’ve honed my skills to the point that your mom just finished developing a line of cards for cancer centers that say something other than “Get well soon.” With clarity of mind, I’m on real life schedule to finish the book by July. And so, my beautiful girl, on this March 23, 2015 I need to tell you….I have a best-selling book to finish. I have greeting cards to sell. I have new Photoshop tricks to learn. I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal. I need to visit your brother in London and shop for new umbrellas. Before I die, I think I should renew my Spanish fluency. I want to own a Boston Terrier and name him Pugsley. I have coffee to drink, diets to cheat on and exotic world cuisine to consume.
So maybe I could ask you, wherever you are in the vastness of eternity, can you wait for me just a little bit longer, as I discover this one extraordinary life I’ve been given?
- According to Carol Bradly Bursack, “Rough statistics show that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for. “
- After four years of adrenal cancer appointments (and countless appointments for a dad with CLL and mom with breast cancer then lung cancer), I found myself completely exhausted by doctor appointments, in addition to thinking if they did find cancer I would not go through chemo. Only recently did my mind change. I have a son in England that I must live to torture. I broke my 10 year absence from mammograms…and the results are I’m free and clear to see the Taj Mahal, and get my nose pierced in the process.
- Offering Care to the Caregiver, by New York Times author Pauline W. Chen, M.D. is also informative. I might add, Megan’s physicians were very faithful to ask about me. Since having a 23-year-old daughter with adrenal cancer came without a manual, I do look back and see things I should have done differently.
- Do you have a friend that has lost a child? I may joke about the Zombie Grief Apocalypse, but it’s serious business. You can literally die from a broken heart. Please read this article, “Mother’s Grief Over Child’s Death Can Be Lethal.”
- Megan’s primary oncologist insisted I see their team of mental health care professionals. They were my guiding light. And yes, let me say it out loud. Prozac was my best friend as I found my way back to my real life long friends.
- My pastor says, “The next seven are the best seven.” I miss my girl, but a whole life awaits me. I can’t wait to tell her about it.
On a Lighter Note:
- There was that one time that I totally forget to pick my son up from sixth grade. Oops. I guess you’re more relaxed by the second child.
- Did I actually think as the heavens opened up to receive my girl into eternity, that I could somehow throw myself against the gates of hell to protect her? Maybe! I am Mom, hear me roar.