My mom died. Last Saturday. I was there. I watched as she took her last breath.
Mom’s been sick since I was 18. That’s when it first started. She would get this unknown, mystery illness every 2-4 years. We’d soldier through it.
In 2009 she told us she had cancer. A rare form of peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2010 she had surgery to remove the cancer, and was sent on her way.
She also had a blood cancer, called Multiple Myeloma. No, not the skin cancer melanoma. Multiple Myeloma affects the bone marrow and stops it from producing the necessary parts of the blood. This disease, when it’s in its “dormant” state is called Smoldering Multiple Myeloma. Once active, it becomes Multiple Myeloma. There are stem cell transplants – but that would’ve killed mom. In the end, we had about 2 more years with mom, one longer than they predicted. Even then, when the diagnosis came in at 2-3 weeks left, mom gave cancer the giant middle finger and said “fuck you, cancer” and lived almost 6 more weeks.
My biggest regret when my Dad passed in 2013 was that I didn’t speak at his funeral. I made certain to speak at Moms.
In my eulogy to my mom, I spoke of my memories.
My memories are of vacations to Florida and Alberta; the cruise with Nanny and my family where her biggest disappointment was not being able to see the stars. Our trip to Florida where she and Dad forgot to pick Todd, the girls and I up from Disney and we had to cab it back to the rental house at 1 am. Our trip down east with Todd, the girls and I.
My memories are of mom and I shopping; of her parading us through the hospital as kids introducing us to her co-workers like it was show and tell.
My memories are of Barenaked Ladies, Bon Jovi and Michael Buble concerts.
She loved old movies. She sat in the hallway of Toronto General one night during one of her visits discussing Turner Classic Movies with someone walking by.
My memory was watching her get all fan-girl giddy over the nice doctor at Toronto General last December. My memories are of her illnesses, but not the illness itself; but of the hilarious moments during and after.
Lets not forget mom’s love for impersonations; her impression of “tourist with camera” was Oscar worthy! Did you know mom had 52 photo albums? Not surprised? Me either. I had to move them. Twice. I’m sure she would’ve had more but we can thank the evolution of the digital camera. She has 18 SD Cards – FULL – of photos. Some cards 64 Gig. Add to the nearly 60 USB sticks…It’s going to take me the rest of MY life to go through.
Over these past few years, I would help Dad when mom got sick. Since my father’s death, I learned to be there for her more, and although I doubted my strength from the beginning (I was scared shitless), I learned to have a sick mother, and later a terminally ill mother, go to work, be a mother and wife, have fun with friends and live my life.
After our father’s death, Mom was our rock; helping us through the grieving process. I admit, the gravity of his death was too overwhelming for me to contemplate what she must’ve been going through. It was only a few years later when I figured it out.
How incredibly strong was she? Did I know anyone stronger? She never gave up; she put her entire being into raising us alongside Dad, providing for our family where we could learn, grow and stretch as far as we could.
When my mother was sick and most concerned about how her illness and death would impact me, I tried several times to convince her that her lessons had been taught, her wisdom imparted. But she continued to worry and concern herself with how I would handle this—how I would move forward after this devastating loss. The toll it would take and the tears I would cry….
What I learned most from my mom was how to be strong. I started writing this before her death and know that my strength and her strength will get me through this. She fought through it all with dignity, showing her strength, kindness, compassion and empathy for others before herself the entire way.
I left her Friday evening with one last “I love you”. She knew I couldn’t forgive myself is she was to die alone. She waited for the nurses to call me. She waited for me to get there. She waited for me to tell her one last time that I loved her. Her final gift to me, was to wait for me.
There are really no words to describe my closeness with my mother. I know this because the slow, agonizing decline and unpredictableness of this disease forces even the most optimistic and hopeful to think about and plan for this day. You start thinking about what you might say during a time like this. I realized that there really are no words.
There are only feelings, indescribable feelings. Feelings that make my heart burst and my whole being melt. Because my mother was my confidence. My bravery and my strength. My sensitivity, my compassion, my loyalty and even my laughter. She believed in me, and she believed that I always knew what was best for me.
She was everything. She was my mother.
I choose to believe that she is now with Dad amongst the stars. When I look up at the stars, I’ll know she’s finally found them and she and Dad are always shining down on us.
I already miss you, Mom. I will believe in me, Mom, and I will be fine. I love you.
I borrowed words from a eulogy I read online during moms final days from a woman writing about her mother who died of cancer. She said the words I struggled to write. When I find the article again, I will give the necessary credit.