There’s some things you don’t forget in life. Some things that are etched in your mind and your heart forever. Some things you wish you could remember, and some things you wish you could forget. Most of my memories in my life are ones worth remembering. Going down the stairs stomach first pretending to be alligators with my sister. Camping with my father. Baking Christmas cookies with my grandmother. Watching the Golden Girls every Saturday with my Great Grandparents. Gardening with my grandfather. It’s the memory of this exact day 20 years ago that I wish I could forget…..the day my mother suddenly passed away in her sleep.
The night she passed away isn’t something that I talk about and in reality, it’s probably something that me, my sister and my dad know all of the details about. A thunderstorm had passed through several hours before and my sister was now in my bed with me because she was afraid of the thunder and lightening. I remember being woken up to my father yelling at my mother, but they weren’t having a fight…..she wasn’t responding. He called out to us and told us to call 911. 911 was just in the beginning stages of being put into use. We went between dialing 0 and 911 for a couple of minutes before we finally made it through. I remember a moment I had alone with her while my father was downstairs on the phone. I placed my ear on her chest and heard that she still had a faint heart beat, or at least I thought that I had heard a heartbeat. I shook her asking her to wake up. I told her I was sorry that I had yelled at her right before I went to bed because she wouldn’t let me stay up to watch another show after 90210 had finished. I went to bed angry at her over something really stupid. I was 12 years old though and I didn’t know any better. I really believed that since I could still hear a slight heart beat that she was going to make it. After the call was made, my father began CPR and I ran down the street in my t-shirt and wet socks waiting. I was wet, I was scared and I was sobbing. It was pitch black out and the moment I saw the lights, I thought that everything was going to be alright. Watching defibrillation paddles being pressed against your mother to save her life is a memory that isn’t easily erased. It’s one of a very few moments in my life that I wish I could forget.
My grandmother came and picked me and my sister up and brought us back to my grandparents house. She told us to go to bed. I don’t really recall if I ever slept and a lot of the remainder of the day is a bit foggy. I remember the moment that the phone rang though and my father telling us that she was gone. I ran back into the bedroom, locked the door behind me so that no one could come in and stayed there for a long time. At 37 years old, one can imagine that a funeral was something that wasn’t discussed. We placed mom in a masoeleum. Six years later when I graduated from high school, I asked for one gift. For mom to be placed outside so that we could visit her whenever we wanted and didn’t have to worry about the building being closed. It may seem like a strange gift, but to me it was indeed a gift.
I’m not going to lie,my teenage years weren’t easy. I kind of kept all of my pain to myself which manifested into depression. After a couple of different therapist, I finally found one that helped me, that listened to me and that forced me to just get everything out. I’m so thankful to my family for helping me get through it. I learned that everyone deals with loss in their own way. While I now consider myself to be a strong person, thinking about that day can still make the tears flow. I’m not the same person I was the day before she died and parts of my personality died with her, but with time, I learned that I am who I am!
It’s a strange and wrong feeling, but I often get jealous of people that have lost parents that passed away because of an illness. While I wouldn’t want my mother to suffer like those with cancer, etc, I am jealous that they had a chance to say goodbye. I’m certain that they in return wish that their parents had passed like my mother did, in her sleep and in no pain. One of my college room mates lost her mother around the same age as I did (I was 12 by the way) to cancer. From the time she was diagnosed until she passed was around 6 months and during that time, she wrote notes to each of her children for the moments in life when she knew she wouldn’t be there. Their high school graduation, the day they got married, had children, etc. I was so jealous of her letters.
It’s twenty years later and she’s missed a lot, but she was there for every……single…..moment. The happy, the frightening, the joy, the pain. She was there the moment I was married and helped me comfort Dan after his own father passed away four weeks before our wedding. She was there as I laid in my hospital bed praying that Lillian would arrive healthy and only need to gain weight (she put in a good word with the man above and my prayers were answered.) She was there when we bought our first house. She was there when I received the call about my sister’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnoses. She’ll continue to be there through the good and the bad until we meet again.
If you didn’t have the pleasure of meeting my mother, let me tell you a few things about her. She loved to bake and whenever she baked, we were always in the kitchen with her. When said baking happened to involve making a pie crust, it always involved putting a Beatles cassette in the stereo at a high volume to mute any cursing that she might blurt out if the crust ended up with a hole in it. She loved to play the music in her car really loudly- so loudly that she blew the speakers that were often playing Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. She loved shopping for clothing for me and my sister and we often spent the whole day shopping for school clothes going from shop to shop before school officially started. She loved to have her hair brushed while she was laying down on the couch and would pay me and my sister $1 for every 30 minutes. She was a neat freak……TO THE MAX. She didn’t allow us to walk into the living and dining rooms and if we did she would know because the perfect diamond pattern that the vacuum would leave behind each night would reveal our footprints. She loved going to my great-grandparents house every Saturday to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch Golden Girls. She always had a pair of Dr. Scholl’s sandals. She was tall and skinny……neither of which I am! Most importantly, she was a wonderful mother and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.
She went far too early and the memories that I’m able to remember from the short 12 years we had together will forever be engraved on my heart. It’s the memories I hold onto and the photos…….never underestimate the value a photo holds.