“I will never leave you, Mom.”
“I know, Vandie. You never have.”
It wasn’t long after that exchange of promise and appreciation that my friend, Vandie’s mom, passed away.
Funny how no matter how much you do – how much you try – how much you care… it just doesn’t seem to be enough when a loved one passes away. Why are we riddled with guilt? Someone asked me once, a long time ago, why I felt so guilty when my Mom passed away? The question kind of took me aback. I thought everyone had that feeling – the feeling that they just could have done better. The feeling that if they had done something differently – well – maybe “she” wouldn’t have passed away. It is not logical, but it is human. And it is all about caring. And it is all about loss, grief, love.
My friend Vandie is no different. I seem to be, these days, re-living my Mom’s death through her mom’s death. Things I had forgotten about how I felt have been re-kindled. And even more strange – I am glad to have these feelings come back – it seems to bring my Mom closer to me.
There is nothing nice about death and loss. Nothing. It is hard. It is painful. I wish I could simply “let go” of the hurt – but I can’t. I work at forgiving her for leaving me. I was so mad that she left me. Weird. At nearly 50, I felt abandoned. Why would anyone need to be forgiven for dying? Just sounds strange. But – that’s what I needed to do. I still work on forgiving her for leaving me.
I do not want this feeling of hurt for my children. That in itself is a powerful motivator for me to fight this cancer. Every step I take, weight I lift, oar I pull is to prepare for the fight – which I don’t even know I’ll have to have at this point. Death sucks.
After it’s over, though, there is a strange calm that descends. For me – time slowed down just a bit. The roses smelled slightly sweeter. I hugged harder, prayed more, and laughed louder. I lived for my Mom – who was not able to.
Mom admired the green of the trees. Now, I do too.
Mom felt joy in the laughter of children. Now, I do too.
Mom loved to cook big meals to celebrate. Now, I do too.
She may have left her own body, but sure as heck, she did not leave mine. “What will I do without you Mom?” I remember asking her.
“I will always be with you, Stacey, in your heart.”
And sure as rain, she is.
There is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my Mom. And, of course, the same with my Dad. They were special people to me – and remain that way.
My friend has a long road ahead of her – healing from the loss of her Mom. I don’t envy her that journey – but I know that she will not walk it alone. As she has been there for me – I will be there for her.
Yes, death sucks. There is just no way of getting around it – unless you think about how much relief it has brought the person who died. But how the heck is it possible to not feel sorry for yourself? It is selfish to be so self-indulgent. So what? As long as we don’t stay there in that place for too long. It is so tempting, for some reason, to go “there”. To get out, in fact, takes a lot of will power – strength – and tears. To get out – one must forgive.
Vandie was a good daughter. She was loyal, brave, and thoughtful.
Vandie is a good person. Period.
When I told her that the reason I pushed so hard in her fitness classes was to be ready should I have to fight cancer again, she cried. “You can’t leave me, Stacey. I can’t take another loss.” My heart sank. Of course, she can’t. So – I need to fight for Vandie now too. And that, is a promise.