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I’m trying to make sense of everything that’s happened. But it’s hard, because trying to rationalize why you died is like trying to understand gravity. I guess I could say that it just happens – that God had a bigger plan for you than any of us down here did. It’s the logical side of me that is strangely calm about your passing. At least you’re not suffering anymore. At least you’re not laying down in bed for the remainder of the afternoon after you painted the deck for thirty minutes, because you’re so exhausted from any physical activity. At least now you don’t have to stare at the brand new car you paid for, and never got to drive because the steroids to control your brain tumors was pushing so hard against your brain that it became hard for you to see, or difficult for you to stand, or to walk around our favorite department store. At least now you don’t have to constantly live with the knowledge that you had Stage 4 Breast Cancer since 2011, and have to explain that to people, which you usually did, mostly at yard sales, to get a discount.
The logical part of my brain tells me that your suffering has ended and you get to be free, and back to your normal self – the level of normality that the surgeon we saw last week says is unattainable because he HAS to say that. What’s normal anyhow? For me, it was to see my mom laughing with her wicked sense of humor that sometimes made you question her sanity. Her sense of humor was so off beat, so wicked that I swear she could have done a one on one comedy routine with Joan Rivers…and won. Normal for me was to see her haul ass at a yard sale to pick up a chandelier or some other random antique that she knew my father could make a killing off of. I think back fondly of their antique business days, and believe me, there was no one more dynamic than my mother. She even made professional tractor trailer drivers speak to her with envy because she was an absolute boss at backing up into a space in a large van, and even larger trailer hitched on the back of it.
Normal for me, was hearing us gossip about co-workers, or family, or what kind of goofball one of my friends was dating. Monday night, the last time we spoke, we even joked around about that and she asked me to send her a picture of my friend and her new guy – but I didn’t. I forgot, and went to bed, and than at 5:30am when I woke up for work, got ready, did my makeup, threw up my scrubs, and finished my cup of coffee, my mother had already been dead for an hour. Most times, my mom had this uncanny ability to know when I was suffering, and likewise, I did too. We had this bond that transcended most mother-daughter relationships. She was literally the Sophia to my Dorothy, and I can never watch our favorite episode of the time they dressed up like Sonny and Cher without the gnawing feeling that I should text her what channel it’s on.
I had always expected a decline, yet as a daughter of someone who has cancer, it’s the last thing you want to happen. Still, we’re taught from an early age that death is a routine part of life. We mourn, but we move on with our lives knowing that whoever is gone is in a better place. The worst part for me is not knowing if you’re okay. The worst part is wanting to ask you, “hey mom, are you okay with this? Do you have any regrets? Do you feel sad?” and receiving no reassurance. I was so desperate to talk to her yesterday, gone for five hours, and me, sitting on my parents’ front porch when I sat Friday night, laughing with you over coffee. I stood in our kitchen, alone, the only soul in the house, and told you out loud that I loved you. I asked you for a sign to let me know you’re with me, because I wasn’t ready to let go of you yet. I had gone to bed the night before, knowing I’d talk to you the next day to tell you how my day at work was, to update you on how the Godiva milkshake I’d hung up with you to go get was futile because the stupid store closed, to text you a picture of my new Tinkerbell scrubs that you asked for, and I was too exhausted to do. All of that was coming the following day – and the last thing I’d expected was a call from a stranger at 7:00am holding back info, and telling me to get to my parents’ house as fast as I could.
My fiancé had to tell me in the car you died. He just laid his head down on the steering wheel, tears flying uncontrollably, as I looked over at him, and muttered, “my mom’s dead, isn’t she?” And he pushed through to look at me, and said, “Court, I’m so sorry.” I was in shock all of yesterday – all my friends stopped by, my brother, my sister, my father’s sister, and we laughed, we cried, we sat around in silence over the meatloaf our neighbor made, trying to avoid the hallway you died in yesterday morning from a heart attack. You went so quickly, so painlessly, I hope, and the one image that kills me is the one my father told of him hearing you fall on your way to the bathroom, and he ran to you, and just like that you were gone. They worked on you for two hours, and I was sitting at home, on my new olive green couch you never got a chance to sit in, drinking coffee while twenty minutes away, some stranger in a blue uniform is pronouncing my mother dead.
That’s not my normal.
I slept in your pajamas last night, in your bed, with the maroon and gold comforter you were anxious to dispose of. I wanted you to come to me last night. I wanted to hear from you that you were okay, but instead I tossed and turned all night, waking up every hour, and about an hour ago, thinking about your funeral, and feeling this emptiness in my heart that I never knew could exist, or hurt this badly. My dad woke up, offered me a cup of coffee as I’m writing this, tears streaming down my face, in a house that my father and I both agree is no longer a home but rather four walls with a bunch of pointless possessions in it that we all just had to buy. It’s the people in the house that make it a home, and we weren’t ready for this to transform so god damn quickly.
I keep thinking of the big things that you’re now going to miss – my wedding next year, the birth of your first grandchild, seeing me graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, seeing me work as a writer in New York even though you told me a thousand times how terrified you’d be for me, and how sad you’d also be because you’d miss me. You won’t get to hear and dance with your husband to Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love” at my wedding which was your wedding song, and one you danced with me a million times in the kitchen growing up, blasting those lyrics so the windows rattled.
The big things suck.
But it’s the small things that I’m heartbroken over.
You’ll never call me again. When something good happens, I can tell you, but I’ll never hear your voice telling me you’re proud of me. You won’t be there to help me buy things for my wedding, or for us to look at gowns, which you were really looking forward to. I won’t ever feel you hug me again, or stand in JC Penney’s a few racks away, buying crap we didn’t need, and us having some of our most amazing talks. I guess I should be grateful that for the better part of twenty seven years, we had an outstanding relationship. We talked with ease, and there was never a moment when you didn’t tell me that you loved me, or how annoying I’d say you were because you would call me every five minutes. I should be grateful that you saw me fall in love, that you were out shopping with me on the night I got engaged, and that up until the very end, you spent the entire day organizing my kitchen when I moved in to my new apartment.
But it’s hard to look positively in this kind of situation. You’re not supposed to lose your mom at 26. You lose your mom when you’re settled, when you have a family of your own, and your mom is 85 and tucked in her bed surrounded by those who love her. Not at 61. Not from a heart attack. Not from falling to the ground, and your last moments are something I can’t even comprehend. Were you scared? Was your last thought of me, or dad, or how annoying the dog Bella was as she kicked you off the bed probably a few minutes earlier.
I’ve often heard that the week leading up to death is often a peaceful one. I’m not sure how much validity is in that statement, but it is a bittersweet pill to swallow. You were going back to work, after months of disability, this Monday and it was going to be the first time we’d ever be working in the same office together. I was looking forward to lunch, and you acting as my anchor at a new job, which I knew you would have been. The leg pain you’d had for five years instantly went away, and your tumor had gotten smaller which meant they had canceled surgery exactly one week ago this morning. You were in good spirits Monday night, ready to get your life back together.
I’m finding it really hard to understand how God took that away from you. I cherish my faith, because it’s what’s gotten me through all of these horrendous times when I would ask my fiancé if you were going to survive surgery, or if breast cancer is what would get you in the end. He’d always tell me you’d be fine – and you were – so answer me this, God, why in the hell did this happen? I don’t want to be angry with you, but, why did you take away my mom? I wasn’t ready yet. I still had pictures of my scrubs to send her. I still had stories to share with her. I still had one more shopping trip. Why my mom? Why take away my best friend, and my other half? Why take away my dad’s partner of 40 years? Why take away someone who had so much life to live, and love to give? These are the questions I have for you, and I’m antagonizing myself, feeling so hollow, so fucking broken right now that I can barely see the screen through my tears.
People told me that the second day would be harder than the first. I guess the first you’re still in shock. You know the person’s dead, yet there’s still this feeling that they’re going to walk through the front door any minute. Today, my mom’s been passed for 24 hours. It’s the first morning I’m waking up, and it’s just my dad and me, in my childhood house, when right now, she’d be having a cup of coffee with us. The house is quiet, and me and him don’t know what to say to one another, except that I feel like I need to be strong for him – that maybe I can get it out in the best way I know how, to write, and be brutally honest, and raw and admit I’m angry with God.
All I want is to have my mom back, not go to the funeral home today to make arrangements, not to see her funeral procession, or to witness her casket being lowered into the ground. All I want is one more Christmas, and one more Mother’s Day, and to take me to the Olive Garden again for my birthday because I should have gotten her Olive Garden last week when she asked, and I said no, because it was my treat and I needed to conserve my money. Instead, we went to the diner, but looking back, I should have done it.
Just like I should have sent her the picture of my new Tinkerbell scrubs when she asked me on Monday night, squealing about how excited she was to see them, because Tinkerbell was her favorite.