I will never forget the Monday evening conversation I had with my mom on the phone. She was in the hospital in Arizona. I had just been at her house 10 days prior, when we still thought everything was fine and that she was getting better every day. Now, still reeling from the shock that she did, in fact, have cancer again, we were facing the fact that surgery to stop her lungs from bleeding had failed. She had her usual positive attitude as we talked, and she made the comment that everything would be ok. Then she added, "one way or another, everything will be okay." I wasn't completely sure what she meant by that at first, but then she told me that she had woken up in the middle of the night thinking, "be sure to tell Michelle I don't want anyone wearing black to my funeral!"
What!?!?!? I could NOT believe my mom said that. I was so floored, so horrified that I had to choke back sobs. I tried to breathe calmly. I didn't want her to know how distraught I was that such words had escaped her lips ~ that the unthinkable could actually be possible! I can honestly say that prior to that conversation, I never once considered the possibility that my mom might not survive. NEVER. I believe my brother asked me once in passing if I had ever thought that maybe this was mom's time "to go." I said it had occurred to me as a possibility, but in reality I don't think it ever had...perhaps intellectually, but not emotionally. I don't really have the words to describe the horror that I felt when my mom said she woke up thinking about her funeral. Our conversation ended quickly because some nurses or doctors came in her room to talk to her, and I hung up the phone, relieved to cry freely and to have a moment to grasp what my mom had insinuated!
Never again did she express the idea that there was a possibility she wouldn't make it. Never. We would talk of "one day" when she eventually would die (thinking that it would be perhaps sooner than originally expected, but certainly after several more years at least)! Even that was mentioned only once or twice in passing. She had woken up in the night with clear inspiration that when she passed on, she wanted Carrie and me to pick things of hers to give to our children at every important occasion in their lives, birthdays, baptisms, and the like. She was extremely concerned about still being a part of their lives. That has been one of my main concerns all along, and the greatest cause for sadness since her passing. As much as I miss her, I am far more pained at the loss my children have suffered. I am so blessed to still have both of my grandmas at age 35! Poor Brighton will never have the privilege of even knowing mom in this life.
I realize now that I wish I could have had some moments alone with mom while she was still alert there in the hospital. There are things I wish I could have told her that were just too personal to say with others around, but I didn't realize it at the time. I also had no idea how quickly she would go. I remember that night, our eyes glued to the monitors telling us her blood saturation level, blood pressure, and heart beat...basically just watching and waiting for the inevitable. It is amazing she lasted until morning, but I knew she was holding out to see Aunt Sharon. She had seemed surprised when I told her Aunt Sharon was arriving in the morning. I know her spirit willed herself to stay in her body until Aunt Sharon had come to see her. Everyone went back to their hotel rooms to sleep besides Mike, Curtis and me. Mike and I received texts almost simultaneously. Mike's was from Carrie, telling him to tell mom that she loved her. Mine was from Jason telling me to tell mom that he loved her. I could not leave her side. After Curtis and Mike fell asleep, I lay miserably on the makeshift bed trying to comfort Brighton who had a terrible cold and couldn't breathe well. When he finally had settled, at last I had a moment alone with mom. She wasn't awake, and honestly I don't even know if she was conscious. I sat by her bed, held her limp hand and sobbed.
Ironically, I had just taught a lesson about prayer in young women's the week before. I talked to the girls about ineffective prayer, and how begging God never yields the blessings we desire or need. We have all been in that position at one point or another though we know it is fruitless, begging God to change something and make it be according to our will. Although I knew it was a faithless plea, I found myself begging my Heavenly Father, "please don't take my mom away. Please don't take her from me!" If I could have had a few minutes alone with her while she was awake, I would have told her how much I loved her. I would have told her how much I wished I could have been with her those three and a half weeks in Arizona...how it pained me that I had not been able to be with her every moment of this terrible ordeal! The anxiety that had been building - especially the last several days before we went to see her - was almost paralyzing. I had been a wreck inside, but the moment I was able to be close to her, all of that melted away. My heart had longed to be with her, and peace did not come until I was at her side.
When I think of the things I wish I had said, I realize that it probably doesn't matter, because she knows. The kids and I talk about grandma every single day, usually several times but at least once. Weston had a dream that he saw grandma standing a few inches off the ground watching him, and that she was wearing a white dress. In the dream he was absolutely shocked to see her but very happy! Sophie has many dreams that she is spending the night at grandma's house, and usually that she is fixing yummy food and helping her build forts and cuddling with her (some of her favorite things they did together). I wonder what will happen as time passes? I guess the inevitable thing is for her to feel like less of a force in their lives, but I so very much do not want that to be the case!
Most severe trials in life get easier with time, but I actually think that this one gets harder with time. Harder because as time passes, mom's absence seems to grow bigger and is felt more deeply. There is no one on earth that would get as excited as her about the great things going on with the kids. When Brighton just recently began crawling, I couldn't think of a single person on the planet that would be even as remotely excited as would mom about this development! I wracked my brain and finally realized that I would just have to be satisfied knowing that she is still aware of our lives and probably thrilled to have such an ambitious grandson. I miss her enthusiasm. I recently woke up missing the conversations we would have so often that would begin with her saying, "You'll never believe who I talked to today!" She was always talking to so many interesting people about many great things that excited her. I loved hearing all about the bits of good news she had to share! I really miss those conversations. Every Sunday night she would call, just as my day was settling. Every once in a while I get a call on a Sunday night now, and I always think, "if mom were around, that call would be from her!"
Heartache is a part of mortality I have decided. There are different kinds of heartache that we experience at different points in our life, but no one will escape it. The more we love, the greater the potential for heart ache. And so maybe it is just okay to live with the heartache. It means there is genuine love, without which life is empty. How grateful I am that we had such a wonderful relationship. How much more severe and unsettling the heartache would be if I had reason to regret the way I had treated her (good thing this didn't happen when I was a teenager)! The best thing I can do now is focus on the many blessings that have come and will continue to come because of my mom. Because of her love and absolute devotion, because of her tenacity and focus, because of all that she is and all that she gave. She altered the trajectory of future generations by her faith, courage, and integrity. Once she found truth, she clung to it and ordered her life by it. I will continue to write of mom's life and legacy, because almost nothing has influenced me more profoundly than has she...and I cannot forget how magnificently blessed I am whenever I reflect on the incredible woman she both was and IS.