They say that talking about your troubles is good therapy. I’ll be honest, I’m not much for talking about my feelings but I find it very therapeutic to write about them. It may sound crazy to want to relive the traumatic past but for me it’s a release, it’s therapy, it renews me. I want to tell you the story of the day I lost my mother. This story really isn’t for you, it’s for me. Since I don’t talk about it, writing it helps me to heal. It’s not to get sympathy, I don’t need or want that. The truth is I wouldn’t be who I am today, had I not gone through this tragedy. It may have taken me a while to figure that out, but I know it’s true. Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give anything to have one more day with my momma, because I would.
The night before
I remember calling my mother a few times that Tuesday night of September 12th. It was a little odd that she didn’t answer or return my call considering we talked every day. But I figured she probably had one of her headaches or was just really tired. I went to bed not thinking anything about it.
Wednesday, Sept 13, 2006
It was about 7:00 Wednesday morning when I got woken up by the phone ringing. You know it’s never good to get a call that early in the morning. When I answered, all my little brother said was, “They took mom to the hospital, get up here now.” I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach but it would never prepare me for what I would find out when I got there. Chris and I got our two boys up, they were 3 and 10 months old at the time. We threw some clothes on and ran to the car. The hospital was about a 30 minute drive so you can imagine the thoughts that were running through my head during that time. The truth is that I don’t think that, her not making it, ever even crossed my mind. I mean, this was the woman who had been through hell and walked out carrying all 4 of her kids over her shoulders. She had overcome tougher times and she would overcome whatever this was.
We parked the car and walked into the emergency room, me carrying Joey on my hip and Chris holding Jack nearby. I remember walking around the corner and seeing Jason and his future wife. Dana immediately grabbed Joey out of my arms and stepped back. I saw my baby brother’s face trying so hard to keep it together. I will never forget how brave he was and I hate that he had to be the one to say to me, “She didn’t make it.”
It was like a punch in the gut and I immediately yelled out, “NOO! What did they do to her?!” Because, of course the doctors must have made a mistake. They must have caused this. It so crazy the thoughts that randomly come to your head in a time of crisis and tragedy. I’m not sure why I immediately blamed them. It just didn’t seem possible that my healthy, 52 year old mother would die so suddenly. I guess I had to blame someone.
I pushed passed my brother and walked into the triage room that she was in. She lay there with a tube in her throat and I thought there is no way this is real life. I’m pretty sure I was yelling and wailing crying as I stood beside, caressing her beautiful face. It was such a surreal moment that I will never forget. I have no concept of how long I was in there, not saying a word to anyone, just sitting beside her. I remember hearing someone else’s version of when I walked in. They told me that had Chris not been there to catch me, I would’ve dropped right to the floor. I don’t remember that but it’s not surprising because he’s always been here to catch me.
I’ve looked back at those moments so many times and have felt so much guilt. I was so selfish in my grief that in those initial moments I never even acknowledged anyone else’s grief. My baby brother, who had to tell me that our mother was gone and I just pushed right by him. My step father who had just lost his wife, I was unable to see his pain. Later when my sister came in, I was still too lost in my own sadness to be there for her. I will probably always regret that. Many times, I have wished that my kids hadn’t had to witness me like that. If only I would’ve been able to stop and think. You think you are an empathetic, compassionate, level-headed person until tragedy strikes and your emotions completely take over. I’ve worked really hard the last 12 years to make up for that day. I wanted to work really hard to keep our family together and unified after our leader had gone. But no one could ever replace her, not ever.
Eventually, the hospital staff made us leave so they could take her tubing out and get her “cleaned up.” I remember sitting in the waiting room, in silence, in sadness, in disbelief. By this time, more family had started to show up-aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t think I ever spoke a word. There was nothing to say.
I eventually got to be with my momma again in a private room. The 3 of us siblings (my other brother did not live in town and was probably just being informed) sat with her for a long time. I held her hand and caressed her face. I wanted to take in every freckle, every line, every wrinkle, every distinct marking that made her so beautiful and so unique. It was torture to think that this would be the last time I saw her, so I stayed until they made me leave. I kept waiting for her to wake up and squeeze my hand. As I held her hand while she lie there, I remembered every time I would hold her hand in church during the “Our Father.” Those hands that fixed all my boo boos, carried me, and wiped away my tears too many times to count.
We spent the rest of that day at my aunts house. I laid on a couch and didn’t move, didn’t eat, didn’t talk to anyone. It was the saddest day of my life and I remember thinking that I would never get over it. I could not imagine a world without her in it. My mother was my life line, my best friend, my confidant. Losing your mother, is like losing a piece of yourself. And a piece of me was lost that day. But I did learn how to go on. It wasn’t easy and it honestly took years to really get over. I was finally able to rise after the darkness, to walk through the fire and become better for it. She wanted more for me in this life and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let her down.
While I would give anything to see her eyes light up one more time around her grand kids, I know that she is exactly where she is meant to be. She is free, she is happy, she is loved. And I am who I am because she loved me!