I have always known that I was lucky. It’s not that life didn’t have its struggles; it always does. But even as a kid, I knew I won the mom lottery, and it’s one of the last things I ever told her …
I can’t say I never got annoyed with her, especially when she insisted on trying to start a conversation before school everyday with her non-morning person daughter or when she always reminded me of how she would do something in the kitchen even though I make a living off of cooking. I can’t say I never talked back to her or slammed a bedroom door too hard in frustration. Every relationship has these moments. But those moments weren’t the important ones and they were far between compared to the moments of love, support, laughter, and even friendship.
I am the youngest of 4 kids by quite a few years. I have been thinking about our family dynamics a lot since my mom’s Pancreatic Cancer diagnosis last summer – the good, the bad and the inevitably complicated. Mostly, I’ve been trying to think about our unique relationships with Mom. If we all had to, how do we define that connection and now that loss? I will never speak for my siblings on that front because honestly, I’m not positive what they would say, but I know my answer.
My siblings are 10, 8 and 6 years older than me, and for most of my childhood, I thought I was probably an accident baby. So did my siblings. This isn’t a “woe is me” story though. It wasn’t anything that ever bothered me at all because I always felt loved. It wasn’t until I was 15 and my oldest sister’s bridal shower that I overheard my mom talking to my now BIL’s family. She was telling them how she “wanted to know what it was like to just have one at a time” and that she “wanted a buddy to go to lunch with and go shopping with.” And I was exactly that – her buddy.
We watched hours and hours of old movies and mysteries together. We would even watch mysteries over again after awhile because neither of us could quite remember who the killer was. We’d spent an entire day running errands and shopping, stopping for lunch and maybe a lemon bar. We read the same books, me starting Harry Potter immediately after we returned from the midnight release so I could make sure to give it to Mom the next day to start. We talked about the blog and worked on aspect of the blog together; she was always willing to brainstorm or browse ideas at the craft store or spend hours stapling together paper chains for my Inside Out party. We talked about the future, family, her being a grandma again one day …
Finding the right words to write about mom feels impossible. As a whole, I strive to be as real with all of you as possible. I shared with you the pain of my migraines and feeling like a failure when I couldn’t continue teaching and being in pain everyday. I shared with you my anger and despair about watching someone I love dearly be bullied and fall into depression. I shared with you fights Bryan and I have had over money, jobs, and life.
But I did not share my mother’s cancer with you all because she wanted to keep things as normal as possible. Many of our friends and neighbors never knew she was sick at all. She wanted to laugh when she saw people she cared for. To hear about someone else’s day because she truly cared more about what was happening with them.
Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer last June. By the time we found it, it had already spread to her liver. We thought we were winning the fight as December scans showed positive test results, but her health quickly deteriorated at the end of February and beginning of March with multiple trips to the hospital.
After 9 difficult months on chemotherapy, there was nothing else that could be done except love her and make her as comfortable as possible. She passed away Thursday, March 17th, 2016 at 11:40am.
To say we are devastated to have lost her is so far beyond an understatement. I have heard so many times in the last few weeks that time will heal this pain, that things will get back to normal, that at least I still have the rest of my family. Time will never completely heal this pain – I will always miss her, always want her there when I have my children, always want to call her when I get to work with a big brand, always want to go out to lunch for a lemon bar, always want to ask her for advice. Things will never get back to normal because the normal we all knew is gone. We have to struggle to find a new normal, one that will always feel a little less whole. And yes, I still have my family who I love and could not survive this loss without. But at the end of the day, I still don’t have my mom.
There are those of you that will find that negative or pessimistic. I consider it realistic. There is no good way to ever lose someone in your life – only different kinds of hell and pain.
I am simply not the same girl I was just a little over a month ago when we still had hope my mom would beat this and I am definitely not the same girl I was over 9 months ago before the pain and fear of hearing her say “I have cancer”, the trips to the hospital, the nights laying awake worried. Before watching her in pain, too weak to go to lunch, too tired to even watch tv.
However, if we could not have more time with her feeling pain free, than I am grateful she is at peace.
One thing remains though – This blog will still be about making moments matter. There will never be enough moments in this life to say I love you, talk around the dinner table, laugh together, and celebrate the good. I will still share fun ideas to do with kids, recipes to make for game night, and date night fun. I will share trip ideas because it brought so much joy for us to look at all the places Mom had gone. I will share the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, because that is life. Both happening often simultaneously, and I know I am not the only one with this ache and these struggles.
This year has emphasized to me that LIFE needs to be the priority in work-life balance, and I will never feel ashamed about putting my family and my needs first before work success again because I hope that when my time comes, my children can say that they got the best possible mom, just like I was able to say to mine.