As a new year unfolded in 2006, I took stock in all that had been for the past two years. I had survived a divorce, moved to a new state, and faced cancer once again with my dear mother. And she was still here, two years later. Quite the fighter, she was determined to live her live as she saw fit. And she was still with us largely due to her resolve of guiding her own path of healing, versus a path designed by traditional western medicine. As I reflect on this time, mom remains today the strongest and most courageous woman I have ever known. I was amazed that she was still around although also aware that this could not continue forever. A couple of weeks into 2006, I was reminded that something was changing. My reality was settling in.
It was January 11, 2006, and a stormy night in Nashville with lightening and strong winds and rain. As I walked to my bedroom, I passed the familiar pictures on the wall of my mom as a child, my father and his brother as a child, my parents wedding picture, and a picture of my maternal grandfather’s garage. Something I did several times a day without notice. Not this night. Something was different. Could have been the wind shaking the house, not sure, but all of a sudden mom’s baby picture fell off the wall onto the rug in front of me. Shock filled my body as I had not been aware of something that seemed so purposeful before, yet quite scary. I was already unsettled by the storm and the picture falling down in front of me really frightened me on some level. On another level, I was calmed by something familiar, the feeling of my maternal grandfather, Grandpa Pat. It brought back fond memories of spending time with him when I was little in Indiana near his house, catching fireflies and fishing. I didn’t get to see him often but he always made me feel loved and calm. I remember being excited when I was five when I learned he was coming to live with us, only to be crushed when I learned he was sick. He passed away when I was six. Now, it seemed like he was trying to get my attention, but I didn’t understand how.
The storm passed and I was able to fall asleep. That night I had a dream. It felt so real, like I was wide awake. Grandpa Pat told me he had come to take mom with him, that it was time for her to go. The next morning, I talked to one of my sister’s and found out she also had a dream about mom and death. I started to feel in my heart that the time was nearing, when she would pass from this physical life. The letting go I had been practicing was serving me well, trying to trust the bigger picture called life and trusting that what came forth, was what I could handle. And that I would always have everything I need.
Despite my practice at letting go, the sadness started to catch up with me. I was not ready to say goodbye, especially because I finally was experiencing the relationship with my mom I had always wanted, one where I felt her deep love and where I knew she felt mine now as an adult. My sisters and I were in the planning stages of a big birthday celebration for mom in March at this time. Somehow, I knew she would not be around much beyond that. Her body was showing signs of fatigue. Her blood pressure had been irrative as of late and had shot up to 180 as her heart rate escalated. It reminded my father that this time was different, she may not be around much longer. He opened up to my sister that he didn’t know what he would do without mom. How in the world would we help him prepare for losing the love of his life, after 55 years of marriage? And help ourselves at the same time. Not sure we knew at the time, but each of us seemed to be moving to a place of acceptance in our own way.
I went to Austin to spend time with mom, something I was doing more often. Wanting to enjoy the time, however long I had. Our time was precious and lovely, difficult and tearful at the same time. I was also able to spend time with my dear friend Corinne then, who lived in Austin. She had lost her mother as a young child and was able to support me from a place of empathy, which felt different and comforting. Such amazing support she provided me, along with good advice. She said one of the things she wished she had now were some clothes of her mother’s, so she could make a quilt or something soft. Great advice for me and something valuable I tucked away in my memory for later. I was not quite ready to process such a thought.
As I moved into February, I felt in a state of limbo. Kind of numb, not feeling much. Probably had shifted into my detached state as the sadness and pain in my heart was increasing. I was moving through my days without much feeling, kind of going through motions without much intention. We were finishing the planning on mom’s birthday celebration, now just a few weeks away. More news from the doctor confirmed what I knew in my heart. He said it was time for us to think about Hospice for mom. And then he said something more, put words out there that made it real. He said that ‘his thoughts and prayers were with us as we endured this time, that mom was not going to be with us much longer.’ One more example for me of my reality changing, a proof point guiding me to what was to come.