6 Months

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My mom passed away 6 months ago today.

I’ve thought about this day. I’ve thought about what it would be like when my mom had been gone for 6 months. I guess I thought, or hoped, that it would be some magical point where grief gets easier.

It turns out its true. It is easier.

Or maybe it’s just that this balmy, sunny June day felt like it had very little to do with that cold December day 6 months ago. This anniversary is a marker, a sign on the road to show how far we’ve come. The only connection is the one we give it.

The memories of her painful and difficult end of her life, they have become less vivid.  They don’t haunt me like they did at first. I remember her now in better times.

I send love her way. I tell her my stories while I garden and do dishes and wash chubby baby fingers.

I have finally set down the trauma of that time.

But I still miss her. I still think of things I want to tell her and text her. I do it less now, but I still do it.

I’ve realized what a hole is left in my life without her. I have a very full life, but she was my touchstone each and every day. My entire life long. It was rare for me to not talk to her at all in a day, ever. I didn’t realize this missing piece at first. I couldn’t see it until the dust settled. It makes me realize how much I miss having someone to talk to during the day. We always made time for that.

So tonight, after the end of a very long day, Steve and I drove out to the cemetery, right down the road from my house a few miles. It’s lovely out there, and lovelier still for the green and the temperature. I felt far away we are from that cold December day that I had to say goodbye.

I’m glad for the growing time in between.

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Still With Me

I’ve been missing my mom.

There was the initial relief that she was no longer suffering (and the constant stream of people and things to do after she passed away), but that has all subsided and I’m left with “normal” life. Only since my mom has always been a part of my daily life, even more so as her health deteriorated over the last few years, it feels very abnormal to be without her. Even when I first moved out to Colorado 20 years ago, I called her every day. And even at my busiest time with 2 or 3 or 4 kids to chase, my mom was the person that I sent my texts and pictures and told my stories about every little or big thing in my life. I took her to the doctor and the store and to lunch and to all of the kids’ activities. Rarely did a few days go by without seeing her, or hours without being in touch and checking in to see if she was doing okay. And now, there is just a hole. It’s a terrible feeling, that hole.

My mom told me at least 100 times that she would always be with me. She believed that we are more than just our bodies, and I believe that too. It’s brought me peace, truly it has. But still, I wish she could sit here with me and see the kids grow. Come over for dinner. Gather my articles and photos from the newspaper for me like she always did. Even in the nursing home, unable to leave the bed, she managed to collect them for me. I can’t seem to remember to go buy them for myself after all the years of her proudly collecting them.

So I was thinking about my mom and was starting to feel pretty sad about her not being here. And then I was looking through some old photos on my phone the other night. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but I was scrolling through older images and I came across some screenshots that I took of a Facebook conversation. It was in October, just days after my mom broke her pelvis, and it was the first time since that injury that she was on Facebook and commenting on anything. She was being very silly (and drugged on painkillers) and making all sorts of funny cat emoticons comments. Like this:

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It was cracking us up, and my daughters and I were commenting back, telling her how glad we were that she was feeling better, and how she was making us laugh. She kept at it.

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I saved three separate screenshots of the conversations. As you can see, they are of cats typing, playing dead and dressed up as a rainbow colored unicorn. Crazy stuff. (I mentioned she was heavily drugged, right? Cause pelvic fractures hurt.)

Anyway, I found those screenshots and I was giggling at them,  feeling better as I thought about how much I always enjoyed my mom’s sense of humor. About how even so broken she kept her spirits up, and ours. And how nice it was to find this little piece of her that I had saved.

But then I found this poem, right in the middle of the three screenshots. Not before, not after. In between. The screenshots of the cat emoticons all say 9:17, and the screenshot of the poem says 1:04. It’s of a totally different thing, and not even anything that I remembered seeing before or capturing. So I stopped to see what it was and to read it.

This is the screenshot:

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I’m sure that some technically savvy soul out there could go digging and find some “logical” explanation for how this happened and why a totally random separate screenshot that I’ve never seen before got popped in-between the three messages I took of my mom being silly at one of her last happy times. I’m sure there is some explanation. People love reasoning and things that can be categorized and easily referenced.

But I’m going to chose to think it is just my mom, stopping in and telling me that she misses me too. Reminding me that she is always here with me, and that I only have to stop for a moment and look, and I will find her.

My Mom

untitled-0290It was 46 degrees this morning. The snow has all melted and every standing object is covered in dew. The frozen lake is a slick layer of glass with ice heaves and broken pieces of concrete jutting up along the shoreline. The fog is so dense that I can only see the world in pieces, nearly everything hidden from sight in the dull gray light. It’s mid-December, but it feels like no season at all.

untitled-0253My mom died almost 2 weeks ago. And like this weather, it makes no sense. It makes no sense that life can go on so completely without her, or more so, that I can.

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This was not sudden or surprising really, my mom passing away. She’s battled health crisis after complication for 15 years now since her initial heart attack in 2000, and she’s had lots of good times in between. But we saw her cardiologist last February and he told her she only had maybe a year left, more if she got very, very lucky. There was nothing more he could do for her. It’s been a downhill slide since then, with an increasing number bad days where she could barely move around her tiny apartment because she was so weak. But then she’d bounce back and I’d try to forget what was looming.

I worried a lot that she would fall, as she had blood clots in her legs and such severe arthritis that her legs bowed. I called and texted half a dozen times a day to check in. Ironic, since she fell in October anyway, and she did it at 4:30 am when I was asleep. I woke up at 7 am to a phone call that she was at the hospital and she couldn’t walk. Then they found the fracture in her pelvis.

I knew then that it was the beginning of the end. Not just because hip and pelvic fractures tend to point toward that in the elderly, but more because I just knew her body could not handle one more big problem. She already had so many. She really wasn’t even doing well before the fall.

I stayed positive for her and told her she was doing so great and how proud I was that she was working so hard in therapy. And she was trying so hard. But she just declined anyway, adding more problems to her list like pneumonia and severe anemia and the inability to keep food down. They found what looked like lung cancer, but since there was no way to treat it in someone so sick, she refused the invasive biopsies.

It finally become clear to her too that she wasn’t going to walk out of that nursing home. And when she realized, she had me help her choose Christmas gifts for everyone and order them online. Then she wanted to be moved someplace else, and to be put in hospice in hopes that they could better control her pain and suffering. It took longer than I wanted to have her moved, a little over a week, with me on the phone for hours trying to get her help, and then going over to see her struggle to breathe and be so sick. I finally got her signed up for hospice and moved to a new facility. It was the last day of her life. My only wish is that I could’ve gotten her there sooner so there wouldn’t have been so much suffering at the end. I am truly glad that her last hours were peaceful.

Like this warm foggy December day, I’m not clear about what I feel. Sad, of course. I miss her. And I kind of don’t know what to do with myself after so many months (and years) of doing things for her. But the past two months have been so very dedicated to her. Daily visits, of course, but also buying what she needed, paying her bills, doing her laundry, taking care of her cat and her apartment, dealing with her insurance and banking. Living her life, basically, plus talking to doctors and nurses and hospice. The list goes on and on.

Then it was planning her funeral. And now, she’s gone. And all of that is gone too. The space left behind feels huge.

untitled-0276But do you know what I feel most of all? Relief. Because I don’t have to watch her clutch at her chest because she can’t breathe and can’t even get a word out. Because I don’t have to watch her so ill from trying to eat. Because she is not disappearing before my very eyes anymore. And I have to believe that she is in a better place, even if I don’t believe in the traditional version of heaven.

Still, I wish she was here for me to talk to. For me to send texts and photos and to tell the stories I keep thinking of that I know she’d enjoy. I keep forgetting that I don’t have to check in on her. I wonder when that will stop.

But what I do believe is that she is with me. Not only because my mom believed that and told it to me many times over the years, but because it’s true. My mother grew me inside of her, and the very fabric of my body was knit together out of pieces of herself. I am her, at least in part. That is just science.

No matter where I go, she’ll be a part of me. In the songs that remind me of her, in the stories and memories we share, in all that she taught me that helped shape who I am. In my children who I made from myself. I truly don’t believe that anything in this world just goes away.

My mom is still here, I know this. Like the world covered by the fog, she’s just beyond where I can see.

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Rest in peace, Mom.

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Patricia Ann Roth

February 9th, 1946 – December 4th, 2014