Keeping PromisesCategory:cancer,Death and Dying,Lifestyle,loss,Writing
I was kind of lost the last time we spoke. Somehow our positions had gotten reversed.
I’m not really sure when or how that happened.
You were always the strong one. You who never forgot a single birthday or any other special occasion for that matter. Christmas, Easter, even Halloween, believe it or not. And to be honest, I didn’t always understand why. Because, I wasn’t even your child, and you were not my mother.
Over the years you watched as another foster mom would take me into the store where you worked standing behind the counter in your spotless white coat. You told me many times how you would tell your own mom how much you wanted me for yourself. I never understood that either. No one else seemed to want me, so why would a complete stranger even look at me like that. I was just a dirty welfare kid.
But love is like that, isn’t it Mom. She is not concerned with where you have come from, what you may have or how you may look. She wants to show you great things and limitless possibilities. She sits in the beat of your heart and rises in the precious air that we breathe into our bodies. She is always there and everywhere. You cannot measure or restrict the depth nor breadth of her reach. She is omnipotent.
I am so sorry it took me so long to understand how much you loved me or why. I really didn’t get it. I was so broken. My scars cut so much deeper than I had thought they ever could. But that didn’t stop you, did it? No one else had loved me the way you did. No other mom came to my rescue. Even though I spent so many years waiting for her to come riding in off the sunset, telling me it wasn’t my fault and that I was worthy of a mother’s love, of anyone’s love.
Many times I wished that you could have found me earlier. But I have you now right, so that’s all that matters. That’s all that should matter. Because regardless of how much time we were given, I got to love you and to be loved by you.
It is the quality of that love that truly matters, even though our hearts will always ache for the quantity too.
You must think I’m silly. Talking to you so much. Saying goodnight to a picture frame. If Dad is sitting next to you, he’s probably just shaking his head saying, “that’s our little girl.”
Come on now Mom, you have to see the irony in all of this. I talk to you more now than when you were alive. What’s up with that? Am I a silly human just being human or a woman who is just coming into her own.
I understand that so many of us struggle with the passing of a loved one but I find solace and comfort in honoring your life, by keeping you here with me – in as many ways as I can. Don’t get me wrong, It still hurts, very much, but in a different way. It’s a heaviness now more so at times, rather than that initial piercing through the core of one’s very being. And I’m learning to be okay with this, and in time I will be. But not just yet though.
That day I walked into the hospital to see you, was the day my heart broke in two. I cry each time I go there in my head. It makes my heart hurt so much. No more would I walk into the house on Marine Drive. Dad would have my ham in the oven, already half cooked and you would be fussing all about. Lord help us if Dad or I left something out of place. You walking around like a sentinel making sure we didn’t.
Do you remember that one time I purposely put a candy wrapper in the ashtray in the living room? I had a friend with me there that day. I told her you would catch it within seconds (laughing). And sure enough, in you came, walking through the house – and before you even had your coat off – there you were scooping the candy wrapper out of the dish. You pretended to be affronted when I first told you but I could see you holding back the laughter. You loved when I teased you like that.
But that day in the hospital room was so very different, wasn’t it? I started crying as soon as I saw you, then your niece started crying, then you began to cry, and then the other lady in the room started crying. I know they were crying because you and I were smiling ear to ear while bawling like babies. But it was beautiful wasn’t it mom. They were tears of joy and love and, and……
That was also the day I learned why your arm was hurting you so much. It wasn’t the diabetes was it? Cancer had spread to your bones. It was in your arm, your hip and even your shoulder. Cancer that we didn’t even know about. It was supposed to be diabetes remember? You said it was just your diabetes and the doctors just wanted to do more tests.
It seemed to happen overnight. Just mere months to announce a life must now come to an end. That seems so cruel, don’t you think? But then again we all live with not knowing when, don’t we? Why is it we seem to believe that death only comes to those who appear ill or frail? None of us are immune, are we Mom? The one thing none of us can escape.
I could see that it was causing you so much pain, so much unnecessary crippling pain. We come into this world kicking and screaming and sometimes it seems we must leave the same way as if it were some bad cosmic joke that none of us really gets. Is it the universe getting its wires crossed or is it just doing its own thing.
You lay there propped up in bed – looking so frail. A beautiful tiny porcelain doll in her pink cotton PJ’s with soft white lace trim. You looked so fragile, so small. How did you get so small? When did you get so small?
I sat on the bed facing you. I was very careful not to sit on you, because you know I can be a total klutz sometimes. I just wanted to scoop you up and squeeze you so tight, but I knew I couldn’t. It would cause you too much pain. So I sat next to you, gently holding your hand, trying not to break in two, trying my hardest to be a mom for you. You looked up at me with the saddest most vulnerable expression I have ever seen and asked me, “Judy, am I going to die?”
And without any hesitation, and tears sliding down my face, I whispered, “no mom you’re not, I promise.”
Maybe you have gone on to a different place or time – who knows, sometimes I can’t make any sense out of it all. Life, death – they confuse me. But as you can see – to me, you didn’t die and you never left me.
And I will continue to celebrate loving you and being loved by you each and every day.
Because mom, a promise is a promise. And you taught me that. And whenever I have any doubt I will always do what you told me to do…
“Just look in the mirror Judy.”
I will Mom, I promise, I will.
© May 12, 2019 Judith Mallard