On life and loss. Again.

In the last ten or so years I’ve lost my father, my brother, my best friend, my grandmother, and now my mother. I’m tired. I’m tired of working through grief only to face death again and start the process all over. I’m tired of the usual first year milestones following someone’s passing when all you can feel is a punch in the gut at every holiday or every time you come across an email or a card that’s been tucked away. I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of putting the people I love in the awkward positon of not knowing what to say to the things that happen in my fucked up life. I’m tired of being tired of all of this.

But, like my mom, I am a fighter. I am strong. And I do not and will not give up.

I am trying to find peace. I am trying to smile. I am trying to tell the people I love that I love them. I am trying to appreciate all of the little things that we so quickly and easily take for granted. I am trying to savor each moment, whether crying or laughing. I am trying to come to terms with being 44 and not having parents. I am trying to imagine how I’ll feel over the next year. I am trying to remember that the one thing I admire most about my mom, which I didn’t appreciate as much as I should have while she was alive, is that she lived each day with an optimism that I have never seen before.

My mom was sick. Really sick. She kept a lot of it to herself. She didn’t want anyone to worry about her. My siblings and I tried to push her on things but as positive as she was, she was equally stubborn. My mom did and said what she wanted, when she wanted. She didn’t have an easy life but she lived her life trying to make the most of every situation. Her optimism, which I often joked was her alternate reality, couldn’t have been more clear than on one of the last days of her life. Her nurse, Ashley, called my siblings together and told us that my mom had signed a DNR order and that she was adamant that there should be no life-saving measures should anything happen to her. I know that my mom knew then she wasn’t long for this world.

Later that morning my sister and I walked into her hospital room and she greeted us with a smile and two thumbs up. We asked how she was doing and she said “I’m good, everything is going to be fine, don’t worry.” We then told her that we knew that wasn’t true and we let her know we talked to Ashley. She then said “last night was terrible.” We spent the next 24 hours at her side and when she needed rest we kept vigil in the ICU waiting room. We left to return home, trying to get out of Florida before Hurricane Matthew. She called us chickens. We told her we’d be back soon even though we didn’t really know what to expect. We told her that we loved her, we knew that she loved us, and that we would be OK. We told her that we supported whatever decision she wanted to make. If she wanted to fight, we would fight with her. If she did not, that was OK too. When she said goodbye to my brother she told him she’d be watching over him. Before we left her bedside, we had a group hug and kissed her through her breathing mask. We knew. We didn’t want to know. But we did. And that is a fucking pain that you cannot even articulate.

We’ll never truly know how much pain our mom was in. We’ll never really know how she felt or, in some cases, the full extent of her illnesses. We knew that she was done fighting when she told Ashley she was ready to go to heaven to be with Lanny. And we know that she loved each us in her own unique way. We also know that she passed peacefully and she will never again struggle to breathe. She will never again be in pain. And we know that we now have another angel watching over us and guiding us through this mystery called life.

Love you mom.

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