Monday, August 29, 2016

Tribute to mom

A drive to the river bottoms this Spring
This is a tough one to write. I've been dreading it but needing to write at the same time.

My mom passed away in early August at age 84.  She was a breast cancer survivor, but she couldn't win against lung cancer which she had been battling the past several years.

In April of this year she started at home hospice care, but because she was such a fighter we all thought death was far down the road.  It wasn't.  I'm sure mom knew that, but she didn't let on and continued to live her life fully until the end.  In fact the night before she died, she enjoyed a banana split with her grandsons Adam and Dane.

I hope I have a fraction of her fighter spirit.  When she had breast cancer, my dad also had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  She cared for him through his chemo, and when he was finally finished with treatment, she then started her own radiation.

When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she went through chemo which resulted in being hospitalized several times. She was on oxygen all the time over the past 8 months and often mumbled under her breath when the oxygen tube would get caught on a chair or the couch.

When her leg was bothering her from vascular problems, she would use a cane or walker, and she was increasingly unhappy that she couldn't get outside to get the mail or look at her flowers.

Making wreaths together

And every time I visited this Spring there was another project to do.  She wanted new curtains for the bathrooms and basement windows, and I would send her fabric options on her iPad so she could select the color and pattern she wanted.  I added rug binding to latch hook rugs that she made and hemmed up a new comforter that fit her hospital bed.

She wanted a new bush in front of the house, and Mike and I took her to the neighboring town of Newburgh so she could pick out the exact bush at the nursery.  She bought a new couch this Spring, and we were always changing out her curtains or artwork.

I know she always wanted things to look good, and I suspect this was one of the few things still in her control in her final months and weeks.

Mom's cross stitch project!
The hospice nurse was a godsend. She was caring, compassionate and a straight shooter, and mom really liked her.  She drained fluid from mom's lungs a couple of times a week, she helped manage mom's meds and answered countless medical questions. And she was there when mom passed away, along with my sister Angie, a cousin and neighbor.

Over the past few years of watching her fight lung cancer, I thought I was mentally preparing for her passing.  But you never really prepare for the day when your mom is gone.  There is a quote I saw shortly before mom died,  "My mother taught me everything except, how to live without her."  That is so true.

I still want to call her every night and talk about my day and how she is doing. When I fell last week and hurt my ankle, she is the first person I wanted to call.  When I walk through her house and remember her at the kitchen table, I am sad. I cry at the oddest of times when I remember something she said or did.  I can't bring myself to watch Shark Tank because it was one of her favorite shows. And what will The Voice be like this year without she and I discussing the contestants and coaches?

And now we are beginning to deal with her house and the contents.  My siblings and I spent several days last week working on this. Although it went well, tears lurked around every corner.  And if one person started to cry, the waterworks were on for everyone.  But we also had some great family time together, and somehow I think she and Dad were smiling down on us.

And yet I am so happy that she is with God and no longer suffering.  Several months ago I had a dream that my dad told me he was ready for her, and he was really happy in heaven.   I know they are together again, probably drinking a beer, playing cards and visiting with their own parents and siblings. And I can't be sad about that.

Giving Mike a noogie
Now she lives on in the spirits of the lives she touched.  She influences so many things in me: my work ethic, my sense of humor and sarcasm, my overachiever attitude, my sensitive side, my (overly) critical nature, my green thumb, my love of family, my crafty nature (I mean my love of crafts), and my spiritual side.

And her words still echo in my head "You and Mike are retired. You need to slow down."  "You are doing too much. You need to relax more." And these haunted me last week when I hurt my ankle when were repairing the deck.  I had a mental image that she was shaking her head.

So the days go by, and I keep expecting this to get easier.  When I have a couple of days without tears, I think it's getting better.  And I find myself praying more often, and I know I'm  extra clingy with Mike and my siblings and friends.  And somehow that's the legacy she left all of us...our faith and the strength of family.  And what a gift it is!  Thanks mom and dad!  Have a beer for me...

Family picture

Outtake from family picture!
Take care,