Monday, May 31, 2010

Just breathe...

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about my mom being sick and how she asked me what I was going to do when "this" was all over, she of course was talking about her life. She wanted to know what my plans were. Of course at the time I wasn't making any, I am still not making any right now I am just trying to breathe and keep my head above water as I do my best to get on with my day to day life and be strong for my kids. I am trying to remember all the good times with my mom and the bad times too, they are character building and also help me be who I am today. Anyway, during that conversation with my mom (who suffered from COPD which is a deficiency of the lungs, she only had 25 % total lung capacity so breathing was so difficult for her)
she had told me that she wanted me to be happy, that she wanted me to be around people that loved me and that I loved too. Yesterday I was walking through Kirkland's (there has been soo much retail therapy around here you have no idea!) anyway I came across this saying and it hit me like a mack truck standing there in the store my eyes welled up with tears because I really, truly felt as if she was there speaking to me.

Do what makes you happy,
Be with those who make you smile,
Laugh as much as you breathe,
Love as long as you live.

Wow I just love that. I love tha tso many times in the last two weeks since she has been gone that I have felt her right here with me. Guiding me, supporting me, loving me. Just being my mom. I went to lunch today with my husband and kids and we talked about her. We laughed, we remembered funny, crazy things that she used to do. I am so grateful for the fact that my kids were so close to her, that they knew her so well. I know they are young and so many of their memories of her will fade away, but I am going to do everything I can to keep them going for them.
This Friday is the day we go back to Rose Hills to bury her next to my dad, right where she belongs. Thinking of seeing their headstones right next to each other brings on such a wave of emotions for me and I hope that I am able to be strong.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and supporting me and being so, so kind. I don't know what I would do without the support I have had. It's true what they say, "old friends are the best friends" I am so glad I had so many friends growing up because they sure are coming in handy now!
 I just want to close with the line that I wrote about my mom on her memorial card because really, it says everything I want to say about her.

Her strength inspired me. Her humor warmed my heart and her wisdom guided me.
Love you mom.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We said goodbye..part one.

It has been 8 days since my mom died. Eight days and it seems like I spoke to her 6 months ago, I hate that feeling, where you feel like things just happened yesterday but at the same time it feels like you haven't spoken to the person in ages. I don't know if anyone else feels this way, I just know my mom and I used to talk about it when my dad and my brother died. Like it was a million years since we had heard their voices yet we could mentally and emotionally be taken back to the day we lost them in a heartbeat. It's a sad feeling.
Last night I was looking at an old family picture taken of my me, my brother Mike and my parents. It was taken at my grandparents house. I realized that I am the only person alive that was at that house that day. Wow. That really hit me hard. To be my age and to have already lost so many kind of hit me hard.
Anyway, I am not writing this to explain my loss again, I have explained it enough already. I am writing this to tell the story of how we said goodbye. The reason that this is only part one is because next Saturday we will say goodbye again, this time at the cemetary where she will be laid to rest right next to my dad.
On Monday May 24th, exactly one month after my birthday and just one day shy of one month from the day I called 911 for my mother we all gathered at my home to say goodbye. The weather was perfect. The house looked great and the backyard was ready. We had ordered tables, chairs, umbrellas, a canopy and a podium from a party rental place and they had come and set it all up earlier that day. It was a little strange I have to say to think that this very "party" atmosphere was actually where we were going to have a memorial for my mother. The reason I did it was because as I was planning I couldn't think of anywhere she would rather be. She loved being here with me and the kids. She loved looking out her window at the mountains. I decided that whatever happened, that day was going to be all about her. So I made sure all her favorite foods were here, Allison and I worked hard on the playlist of music, we wanted to make sure that it was just right and all of the songs that she would have loved.
This was a photo board I made the morning of the service. It came out nice, but truth be told I took it apart that night, it made me too sad to look at.
So everything was in place, it all looked wonderful and the guests were arriving. It was then that it hit me...I thought 'oh my gosh, not only am I giving the eulogy but I guess I am going to have to emcee this event also.'
I never thought I would be able to do it. But I did. I thanked everyone for coming, I introduced my mom's cousin who was the minister doing the service. Then I sat down hoping it was going to be a long, drawn out service, that she would reflect on childhood memories with my mom and say about 5 too many prayers, just so I wouldn't have to get back up too soon. But I am not kidding in about 3 minutes flat she was done! Just the way my mom would have like it, short and sweet. But then? It was all me. Here is what I wrote.
First I need to say I am forever grateful for all the love and support shown to me and my family over the last week. The comfort it brought us was immeasurable.

In many ways I have been preparing myself for my mother’s death for a while now. Mentally picturing how I would react, what I would say to my kids and how I would tell people. What I didn’t prepare for? Is how I would feel when I was all alone, when I was upstairs in the bedroom and trying to listen to hear her t.v. coming from her room. Wanting to pick up the phone everytime I had something to tell her. We spoke on the phone so many times a day that I swear I have tried to call her a couple times to tell her about her memorial plans! I wasn’t prepared for the unbelievable emotions that would come over me as I walked through Target or Marshall’s. How I would picture her walking toward me with a smile on her face, so pleased with her purchases. These moments are when I am at my weakest.

For the last several years my mom has led a very simple life and it has been the little things that make her happy. Me remembering to pickup her favorite ice cream or iced tea would thrill her, if I remembered to stop and get the mail too? Sheer elation. All she wanted was to be home and have me and my family around her. She would love it when one of us walked in that door just to sit and visit with her. Unfortunately our lives are busy and the four of us probably didn’t get out there as often as we should.

When I was growing up my mom and dad were very hard on me, they were forever on me about my weight, my lack of enthusiasm and involvement in school. I always felt picked on. Many years ago my mom finally stopped doing that she finally let it go. She was no longer worried about what I was doing or if I was making the right decisions all she cared about was being with me and me being happy. We still argued don’t get me wrong it was just about other stuff. It’s just that she had really started to believe in me. It was as though she was my biggest fan.

Recently a secret was revealed to me about my mom, I found out that she had a son, that I had another brother. My mom had kept this secret for 50 years. She kept it because she didn’t know how to tell me, she was afraid I would hate her, I would lose respect for her. In reality I had the exact opposite reaction. I admired her strength. I knew how much my mom loved us kids and I knew how incredibly hard it had to have been for her to leave him. Finding out about Randy actually brought my mom and I closer together. I had become HER biggest fan.

My mom was a very strong woman. A woman who had so much pain and suffering but persevered through it all. She lived through it because she didn’t want to give up, she felt if she gave up she might miss out on something!

Over the last few years she would often say to me, my kids or really anybody who would listen, “well, I hope I live to see the next holiday” or “well I am not sure if I should buy this, I might not live long enough to use it”. Years later and she was still here. Despite the odds and in spite of what the doctors were saying she was still here. Seeing many more holidays and using her products until the bottle was empty.

She was an amazing lady who was tough and told you what she thought, no holds barred. But you had to respect her for that, although sometimes you could get your feelings hurt. Sometimes I think that is what my dad loved about her most. He wasn’t able to say how he felt because he was so admired and loved, everyone thought he was so nice, he wasn’t about to jeopardize his reputation so instead he let her say how she really felt and just sat back and admired her for it. I am not sure if this is true, it’s just reflective speculation. All I know is that somewhere they are all together, My mom, dad , Mike and the many other relatives that went before her, and that gives me so much peace.

Thank you.

I read the whole thing, I choked up a little a few times, but I didn't break down. I was so proud of myself. I held it together. But then? Both of my girls said that they wanted to speak. Oh boy. That was unbelievable. Here were these two young girls who have lived with their grandma for 5 years and were experiencing their first loss and they were ok sharing their feelings with a crowd of people. I was so proud. They both did so well. Everybody told me how wonderful they did and how proud they were. I know this is a really long post so I will close for now. I am just so glad that so many wonderful people were here to share this day with us, in our home where she loved to be.
I miss her terribly and cry often, but I know that very soon the pain will subside my memories of her suffering will start to fade and things will be better.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Decisions...and sleepless nights.

About 17 hours after I wrote my last post my mother quietly, peacefully passed away. She just couldn't fight to breathe any longer, and quite frankly I don't blame her. Her struggle was long  and she fought it bravely and hard. She is without a doubt the biggest influence and inspiration in my life. Her strength amazed me daily.
Since the day she died (almost 4 days ago now) I have been making more decisions than I care to. While I am usually a quick decision maker and do not like to vascilate much these decisions have been different, they are the kind that make your heart ache, the kind that nobody wants to make. While the out pouring of love and support for me and my family has been overwhelming and so touching the final decisions, no matter how much support I have are all left up to me. If I am being honest here so much of the time I still feel like a little girl, like the youngest in the family still waiting for help. I am trying so hard to keep my head above water to make the to do lists, to check the items off one at a time. Every morning when I get up I put on my brave face and forge ahead. I want my girls to see me handling this with strength and grace, I also want them to see me breakdown when I need to so that they know that's ok too.
Before my mom died (still trying so hard to get used to saying that) I loved being alone, my peace was found in my solitude. It was when I did my best thinking and when I was my most productive, no distractions so I was able to get things done. Now it seems like when I am along all I do is think and right now thinking about anything other than my to do list just makes me cry. Literally. So I find myself clinging to my kids and my husband, not wanting them to go to school or work but wanting them to stay with me so I can have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to look at me and say "whats for dinner?" so that I can keep my mind on the day to day tasks instead of the real task, planning my moms memorial.
I know that before long this will all be over and our lives will go on. The kids will be busy, I will be preparing my classroom for the big school year ahead, Chris will be working on new jobs and this time in my life will seem like a distant memory. So much of it forgotten so soon. Which is why I am writing this blog in the first place right? "So they will always remember".... it's the theme of my life right now, trying to preserve everyones memories of my mother and document my own thoughts and memories so that I never ever forget.
Today I will sit down and write my moms eulogy. I know, it's crazy. I know that I will cry when I read it. But it's also been a huge regret of mine for so many years, I always wished that I had spoken at my grandfathers, my brother and my father's funerals. I used to tell my mom that all the time, that I wish I would have said my piece, that people could have heard how I felt. This time they will hear me. This time I will make my mom proud.
I am going to sign off now as the sun is rising and the day is beginning, it's time to wipe my tears and put my brave face on...

Monday, May 17, 2010

I am losing her...

As we get older and our parents get older too we kind of prepare ourselves for the inevitable, we know logically that at some point our parents will be gone. You know as they age and become grandparents that there will come a day when we will have to say goodbye. That day is coming close for me. Today hospice workers came to my home and tried to prepare me, to explain to me how this will all happen. they were so wonderful, kind and comforting. I was so grateful that they were here. The whole time they were here I was stoic. I controlled my emotions, completely, even keeping my sense of humor and letting them think I was so strong. As soon as I was alone, after they were gone and my kids were out of earshot I lost it. I have bawled like a baby all day. I am crying now as I type. I don't want to do this. I have done it many times before, but I have never ever done this as the primary caregiver, I have always been the "assistant". I don't think I am ready. I don't even know who to call. My mind is blank. I was told today that I shouldn't call 911 anymore, that if something happens to just call them and a nurse will come immediately. This is because my mom has a DNR order, which means she doesn't want any drastic measures taken to save her. She just wants peace. This woman has had so much tragedy, trauma and suffering in her life. All I can hope and pray for is that she finds that peace.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Playing Favorites...

I love these 2 girls. I mean I know that is stating the obvious. As their mom it's my job to love them right?
Lately my younger daughter has been questioning my love for her. She has come to me late at night and said "mom, why do you love Allison more?" Ok, so the first time she said this my heart was broken. I got teary eyed and told her that this simply wasn't true. I explained to her that it's the same way she feels about me and her dad. You love us both equally. I told her I was so sorry if I ever made her feel that way and that I would make every effort to to pay attention to how I treat her and her sister. Fair enough right? Problem solved.
Nope. Not a chance.
So it was about 3 weeks later and she came to me again. This time the conversation went like this - "mom, I know you told me that you love me and Allison the same but I can tell Allison is your favorite. You guys are always laughing in the car and you have all these inside jokes. She goes everywhere with you. You just like her better." Ouch. She was right about so many things. Allison and I do spentd a lot of time together and we do have fun, we are always laughing. I told her again how sorry I was if this hurt her feelings. I went on to explain to her that right now at this time in our lives (Allison is finishing up her freshman year in high school) Allison and I are very close. We share stories with each other and we understand each other and quite honestly we just like being around each other. I then told her that it hasn't always been this way. I explained to her that when Allison was in middle school I didn't even really like her all that much. I even told Allison that to her face at one point. She was being a rotten pre-teen and I looked at her and said "I love you very much and I will always take care of you but right now? I don't even like you at all" to which she responded by looking me straight in the eye shrugged her shoulders and said "hmm, alright" and walked away. And really, that kind of sums up Allison's personality right there. She's not overly emotional, she's very strong willed, stubborn and has always been extremely independent. Almost instantly when she was born it was as if she didn't need me. She liked me but she didn't need me. She slept in her crib, in her room the first night after she came home from the hospital and she's never looked back. When she was little she would come into our room at night if she had a bad dream and climb into out bed, immediately she would start to fidget, tossing and turning and maybe 10 minutes later she would say "I am going back to my own bed now". She had her first sleepover at someone else's house at 3 years old. By the time she was 8 she had flown out of state without us twice and had been to 3 sleep away camps. All the while my heart ached. I cried and stressed about how much I wanted my little girl to want me and need me. But then a little angel was born. Gianna came along and gave me all the love I could ever need. I told her that when she was a baby I used to say "there has never been another human being that has loved me like this child does." Gianna and I bonded instantly. I knew the first time that I held her that our relationship was going to be different. For 9 years now its as if everything Gianna does is in sharp contrast to Allison. When Gianna was little nothing made her happier than climbing into our bed and snuggling up as a matter of face I am pretty sure she would do it now if we would let her! She's emotional, she wears her heart on her sleeve and if I go anywhere she is calling me asking me when I am coming home. She makes me feel love, wanted and needed. She takes care of me when I am sick and she still loves me like no other.
So the moral of this story, is that when your parents say they aren't playing favorites, they are lying! Ok, so maybe they don't realize they are lying but we do favor our kids for different reasons at different times. We love them equally, would give our lives for them instantly and want nothing more than to see them happy. Just sometimes along the way we may bond with one more than the other but that doesn't take away the love we feel for them...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers Day...

Two weeks ago today, the day after my 41st birthday, I walked into my mom's room to find her passed out and in a horrible situation that I can't even write about on here to save her dignity. Let's just say it was heartbreaking and more than I was ready for. I had to call 911. She ended up spending 3 days in the hospital and then her insurance cut her off. They said her infection was gone and there was no way that she could stay in the hospital, yet she was not ready to come home. They sent her to a "rehab" (kinder word for nursing home). I went to check her in and on the way out my girls and I all cried. It was a horrible, horrible, dirty place. The people were rude, the place smelled horrendous, which I know most of them do but this one was the worst one I had ever seen. The next morning at 8:30 am my mom called me and asked me to pick her up. She was out of it a little but she said the doctor had just come in and told her she could go home. I hung up with her and called the nursing home and they informed me that there hadn't been anyone in to see my mom and that she was absolutely not ready to be picked up. I knew what I had to do...I had to go break my mom out of nursing home hell! I called my husband and he went with me and we simply packed her bags put her in a wheelchair and walked out. It was that simple.
Now I was relieved to have her home but so not prepared for what the next two weeks have brought to me. I have been caring for my mother full time. Feeding her, bathing her, making sure she has her medication, and keeping her comfortable and happy. All while working full time. And taking care of my family. It's not an easy job, but what are my choices? This woman gave me life and raised me and now it is my job to take care of her. We have argued a little, laughed a little and cried a little. It's been tough. But you know what? I wouldn't change it for a thing. With everything we have been through together, all the funerals we have planned, the moves we have made and the friends we have lost we have had each other. Me and my mom. At times she is hard to take and I just have to take a deep breath and walk away but I am so glad that we are sharing this time together.
Today was a particularly rough day for her, she couldn't really breathe, and she was feeling very weak. I went out to change her nightgown, change her sheets on her bed and get her dinner. We were sitting across the table from each other and she said to me "what are you going to do when this is all over?" I said "you mean after your gone?" (and then of course I started crying) and she said yes, I asked her what she wanted me to do, she said "I know you want to move. I want you to go back to be with the people you love the most and that love you" she also said "I want you to make Chris happy". That made me cry harder. The idea that she was not just worried about me and the girls but about my husband too meant a lot to me.
It's a sad conversation to have. I have prepared myself in so many ways for her to go. Lord knows I have been through it many times in my life. But this feels different this time.
I wanted to write this post because it has been on my mind all day. It's Mother's Day and I am not usually a big fan of what I call "Hallmark created holidays" but today I really want to honor my mother and all that she has endured. It has been a tough life. I just hope that being with me and my family these last couple of years has brought her some peace. Happy Mothers Day Mom, I love you!