Aug 10, 2019

Posted by in Featured, Life & Musings | 0 Comments

One Year Later

A year ago today I lost my beautiful mother very suddenly to cancer. It’s a day that will forever be ingrained in my memories, and even still the details are so vivid of the night leading up to it and the phone call that morning. Sometimes I just want to forget it, and sometimes I’m grateful to have been with her in those final hours. In the year since she has passed, a lot has happened… without her. So many things that I wish she could be here for, but alas, life is not a video game and there is no reset button with a save point.

It is amazing to me how little I remember now of the initial two weeks after her passing. The shock of it all really does drown those memories and bury them deep, which perhaps is for the best? There is so much to do after a loved one passes, and that work is only that much more difficult if they didn’t leave instructions or have life insurance. I truly do not know what people do who cannot afford the expenses that come posthumously, and since we are a society that doesn’t talk about death I suspect it doesn’t get the attention it should. Honestly though, I’m grateful for the shock because I don’t know that I’d have gotten through it as gracefully as I did otherwise.

After the shock wore off though… yikes. I was a wreck for a solid month at least, and unstable at best for the next four to six months. I mean, I’m still a little unstable at times, but nothing like what I was. No one really tells you how this kind of grieving is going to go either, again, because we don’t want to talk about death.

Through all of this though, I’ve learned things and I’ve changed. I think we’ve all changed. More than anything though, I’ve reevaluated what’s important to me in my life, and tried to prioritize it more. That’d be seeing my family and friends, and making the memories. At the end of all the the #1 thing I have to cherish from my mother are all the memories, and I do not want to reach the end of anyone else’s life who is important to me without those.

It was a year of new firsts though, for sure. So I surprised my sister for her birthday by driving out to where she’s living in CT, we surprised my brother by actually celebrating his birthday first on Christmas (Christmas babies have it rough in this regard), we surprised our father on his birthday. I turned 30, and they did what they could to surprise me (and they did, but I sort of had it figured out when we arrived because there’s only so much you can do to hide cars lol).

We had our first Thanksgiving without her almost right after she passed… and it was also her birthday. Of all the firsts, I think that was the most difficult. It was the first of the new firsts, and it was a double because it was holiday and birthday. I honestly barely remember it, but I think we went to be with my Dad’s side of the family… I know we didn’t celebrate it at home.

Christmas I remember better, partially because I did my cookies again, and partially because I put together the cookbook from Hell. My computer lost or ruined the file three times before I got it finished, and I was up until 7am finishing it up (after retyping the whole thing) in order to get it printed on time. The cookbook was special though, because it was full of recipes that people remembered Mom for, or recipes Mom loved making, and memories from friends and family that involved Mom. I cried so many times putting it together, and shared so many tender moments with people as we recounted what a beautiful person she was. And then I made everyone cry on Christmas when I gave them out, because no one knew for sure what I was doing with the information. Especially at my Uncle’s on my Mom’s side of the family. Everyone opened them together, we took a moment of silence to read through them, and we all cried. It was good though, we needed it. Then it was back to laughter.

We even made a change on Christmas, and now Pete and I do Dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve, and Mom’s side on Christmas day. It’s just easier then trying to cram everything into one day. Then, after Christmas we were done with holidays for a while.

The next biggest milestone, which I still need to write about, was going to Las Vegas at the end of February with Pete. I’d never traveled like that before, but I had such a desire to just go somewhere. I needed to get away, and we did. It was amazing, but it was so foreign not to call Mom when we got back and talk for hours recounting everything that happened. That was really hard, realizing that I lost that level of companion in my life and really feeling that loss so acutely.

Suddenly, winter would be gone, and spring arrived. We made it through Easter, celebrating again with Dad’s side of the family I believe… and I think it was a potluck which worked way better than just having food catered or whatnot. We did birthdays, and Mom’s office was finally done. Doors shut, keys turned in, final taxes filed. My sister got engaged, and so did my brother. My sister is already planning her wedding.

It was a blur, and we rushed into summer. Ah yes, summer, when the heat turns up and the vacations start happening. Originally Pete and I were going to go to Pennsic, but that just wasn’t going to work out after Vegas, so instead we went back to Northampton Beach Campgrounds with Mom’s side of the family.

This is a vacation that we did as kids every year for most of my childhood until I was 18. A solid 14 years of my life at least featured this as a two-week vacation, and then we stopped for various reasons. This was my first time back for the family vacation, and this time only for about a week, in about 10 years. It felt so good to return! Pete and I took the bus up (our conversion for camping and hauling Viking stuff), and my brother and his fiance came and stayed on the site too with a truck tent for the weekend. It was wonderful. Of course the extended family was there as well, and we spent lots of time bullshitting around the fire, hanging on the beach, and just generally enjoying each other’s company. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until we did that. Now I can’t wait to do it again next year. ♥

That was just a couple of weeks ago. Now, here we are already at the anniversary of her passing. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, and yet I’ve done and changed so much. It’s surreal feeling. Somehow, at some point, I really started to absorb the fact that she’s gone. Yet at the same time, I still have moments where it doesn’t seem real.

I’ve been angry, sad, grateful (that she’s not suffering), hurt, depressed… you name the emotion and I have felt it in a powerful way. The process of grief is quite the thing, and it’s a long journey. I’m still not done with it, I’m sure, but it does get a little easier each day. I’ll never be healed from this emotional scar, but I will be able to live with it.

The lessons have been amazing, too. I have worked more and more on not caring what others think of me when I want to do something, I just do it. So I picked up pole dancing, and I don’t care who knows. I’ll be silly in public, and I try not to cringe when Pete does something that bothers my introverted self. I take selfies and photos and to hell with the stigma (and I’ll write about this in more depth soon, too). Instead of saying we need to find time, I make time, right then and there. Set a date, and stick to it. I’ve really realized that I need to take care of myself, and so I’ve doubled-down on getting back into better physical shape and eating better. I’m making more time for the things I enjoy, and spending less time worrying about the things I don’t (as best I can). I’m unplugging from the computer more and more, because life is happening without me. Most importantly though, I’m trying to be more responsible for my own choices, and taking the leap of faith. I’m a really cautious person, but waiting forever will make nothing happen, so I’m taking more (reasonable) risks. I’m sure there are a ton more lessons I learned, but these are foremost in my mind. My mother was a very strong person who knew how to have fun, and I’d like to aspire to do the same with my life. I would like people to have as fond of memories of me when I have passed as I have heard from those who knew her.

Leading up to this moment, this anniversary, I replayed the final week in my head so many times. I’ve had so much anxiety and mood swings. From the moment we got the final diagnosis and treatment plan, to the moment when I got the call that she was in the hospital, to being in the hospital massaging her feet, to dropping my brother off that night, to the fateful phone call the next morning… all of it. I actually woke up today and the fateful phone call was the first thing I thought of. Oddly enough I was not as somber today as I expected to be, it was the anticipation that was worse. So I spent my time out and about doing something I enjoy, pole dance, instead of just being at home in front of Facebook.

Yes, it has been one hell of a year learning to live without my mother at my side. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, but most importantly I’m still here. And I know wherever my mother is now, she’s smiling and proud of the progress I’m making in life, living without regret. I cannot even possibly begin to truly express how this year has gone in words, but hopefully the magnitude of it has come off a bit in this. And now, we begin another year.

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