Monday, November 17, 2014

The Anniversary I Dreaded

"It was a halo bright
     sent down from Heaven's light.
The sweetest gift--
     a mother's smile..."   

I miss it... I miss you, Mom.  

It's been a year now.  A long, hard year.  It seems so long that we've been without her that Mom's very existence seems almost like a dream.  But, at the same time, we got to "the year" landmark so fast.  (Here is what I shared about her at that time.)

Last November started out OK.  Mom was bouncing back from the surgery to remove a brain tumor, and recovering from the subsequent radiation, just as she had recovered, like a champ and against some major odds, from serious surgeries in previous years.  She was like a Timex..."Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'."  Or like a cat with 9 lives.  The tests showed that the brain tumor (which left no ill effects) had metastasized from elsewhere, but they couldn't find where.  All the scans were negative. November 4th, 2013, therefore, seemed a normal day for me... with every expectation that things would go on like they had. There would surely be a few turns and bumps in the road, but with the journey together continuing well off into the distance.

But the morning of November 5th, the doctor decided to scan her gall bladder to see if he could find a cause for some stomach pain she had.  An aggressive form of cancer, completely absent from extensive scans just 5 or 6 weeks before, was found spread throughout her abdomen and all her major organs. After hospice care at home, it took her from us only 12 days later.  At our dad's request for immediacy, we held her memorial service 6 days after.

Princess Bossy changed her flight plans 3 times, moving it ahead with each change, to make sure she saw Grandma one more time.  But Mom breathed her last just about the time Bossy's plane was landing at the airport.  --My mom always made us call whenever we got home from visiting them, wanting to know we'd made it safely.  She knew the princess was coming, and I was a little surprised she didn't use her strong will to wait.  But now, I think maybe God told her that the plane was safely on the ground with family there to meet her.  The princess was safely home, so Mom could be free to go Home, too.

We were fortunate to have a little over a week with her to hug, visit, and say lots of "I love you"s.  It was merciful for her, and us, that she didn't have to suffer for weeks or months.

But, it was somewhat like the whole family had fallen blindly into a sink hole.  In the blackness of the landslide there was sadness, fear, shock, and disbelief rushing around us, and, of course, many necessary tasks to perform, like it or not.  On the 28th, I looked at the date, realized it was about to be December, and burst into tears.  Where had November gone?!  So much had happened:  sickness, dying, death, the service, and then some.  Mom was 'fine' at the beginning, but hadn't made it through with us to the other end of what was a black hole of a month.  

It was time to start digging our way out with our fingernails... through unfamiliar territory back to some sort of new and odd normalcy. With a focus on making sure Dad was ok, safe, and healthy, and so busy trying to keep up with daily, family life in some kind of reasonable way, our grief has been infrequently aired, and the glimpses of sunlight have been dim.  It's felt impossible to be a good daughter, sister, wife, homemaker and mother, especially homeschooling mom, in the time and with the energy I have.  When I give to one, I am neglecting another.

When I was a child, I cried a lot.  It was frustrating to those around me, and seeing it was unacceptable, I grew out of it.  Years later a doctor asked me if I ever just threw myself on the bed and cried... He thought it might be good for me.  But I 'didn't do that kind of thing.'

This past year, though, the tears come out of nowhere, even when I didn't know I felt sad.  
 --In the doctor's office when she asked if I was stressed at all.  
 --When I'm feeling fine and a certain song plays on the radio.  
 --In the car when I'm driving down to see Dad, especially if I'm by myself.  

Sometimes it overtakes me even when CuddleBunny is along, but he is young enough to still ride in the back seat and doesn't see the tears flowing up front.  I just feel, suddenly, overwhelmingly SAD sometimes.  

Last week my dad wanted to go to the house and pick up some things.  It was the first time I'd been there since he moved to assisted living.  I saw the blanket we'd made my mom and her favorite red one that kept her warm until the end.  I wanted to curl up and hold them, and just wallow and cry.  But I had to keep track of Dad and help him where I could.  

Meanwhile, Prince CuddleBunny took the puppy out to play in the backyard.  Pretty soon, the puppy was back in, but the prince wasn't.  I went to see what was happening.  He was watering dead plants --the pots my mom had tended on the back porch.  Watering the plants was his special job for Grandma whenever he was there, and, there was no question, he had to do it this time, too.  He seemed purposeful rather than sad, but it was bittersweet to watch.  It was a glimpse into how he's handling this.  I wonder about how the kids are doing, and if they have feelings/thoughts/questions I should know about.  I worry there is something I should be doing or saying to help them, but am too busy and missing the signals.

So now that it's been a year... The anticipation of this month looming closer was a source of anxiety for me.  Is this adjusted life supposed to be normal now?  Is it supposed to be OK to be without her?  People feel bad for you and understand that you're sad when you say your mother just passed away, or even in the past several weeks.  I'd imagine that when you say, "My mother died over a year ago," most would think, "Yeah...So?... Get over it."

A vein of sadness runs through my soul now, presently pretty close to the surface. I have just realized that, even if it gets deeper, it's permanent.  I don't mean to sound dramatic, and don't plan to give in to it, or obsess about it, 24/7.  But it's part of my story.  Mom was part of me, and still is, of course, but the void she left is now a part, too.  I will never NOT be sad to be without my mom.  

There are so many things I still want to ask, and so many things I want to share.  She'd be so excited to see how what our GrandPrince is learning, and so fast! -- Actually, no, she'd be delighted.  --That better describes how she enjoyed such news, and celebrated the people in her life.

As my sister reminds me, Mom wouldn't be happy that I'm sad, or that I spend any time crying.  She'd want me to rejoice in her freedom from pain and her transition to eternity with the Lord.  And I do.  I imagine that she is joyfully singing praise songs, day and night... and we await the day to join her.  But I am here, where she is not.  Death and sadness are part of living in this fallen world, and it's serving to make me a deeper person, learning new things about myself and God, and with more appreciation.  

This is only so hard because I was so blessed.  Thank you, God, for the great blessing who was my mom.  

Feeling the sadness does not mean I don't have faith, and I guess it's just what I have to do right now.  It'd be nice for someone to see it and really understand when it overtakes me, and that it's always there to some extent, but God does.  I think He's trying to teach me that He's all I need... That in a world where I sometimes feel that no one truly knows or sees me, or holds the net when I need one, He does.  

Psalm 139: 1 - 6

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