Wednesday, July 10, 2013

on mama loss

to jennifer
my life is mostly an open book.  and my career is all about listening to people.  i think i've been blessed with the gift that when someone has something to say, i mostly listen unfettered, engaged, and as non-judgemental as i can.
however, there was a point in my life that i didn't listen that way.  i didn't listen that way to my mom.  and if there is one thing in my life that i could go back and change, it would be that.
i lost my mom in 2005.  she passed away after a short and ferocious onslaught by lou gehrig's disease.  it was swift and cruel and unexpected.  and looking back on it, there are a lot of things that i could kick my own ass for.  i was completely self-absorbed.  my agenda was more important than anything else, and i thought i was entitled to that.  the truth is, i was completely wrong, and will regret that to my dying day.  why i didn't take more time, why i didn't come home more, why i felt it was so important to keep charging forward with my own thoughts, i have never understood, and i have continuously regretted.
well, i'm finally starting to understand.
my life is not normal.  what is normal, anyway?  as much as i'd like to dress me up, the truth is that i'm stubborn, and bullheaded.  i have an intense need to be right.  i have to have the last word.  i have an abnormally long fuse, and it takes me a long time to get mad at anyone, but when i do, it's not usually a good thing.  i have a flare for the dramatic when it comes to getting my way.  maybe that's just me being female.  but like i said, i have this leftover nagging guilt in the back of my mind that i should have tried harder to be by mom's side, i should have taken the burden off my aunt and my grandma that were trying to take care of her while i was in medical school.  i should have done more, talked more, visited more.  i should have been the one to set up the fundraiser that was done to help us pay for mom's medical bills and equipment needs.
as a side note, for anyone not familiar with lou gehrig's disease, the "real" name of this is "amyotrophic lateral sclerosis", which is a nerve disease.  basically, the person's muscles and brain are fine, but the nerves that connect the two become progressively lazier and lazier, and eventually, the impulse from the brain to the muscles stops.  most people that have it end up suffocating because their diaphragm won't move to let them breathe.  typically it's a spontaenous disorder, only inherited in about 2% of cases.  the normal course of the disease is anywhere from 2-15 years from onset to death --- mom was diagnosed 6 months prior to passing away.  there aren't any good treatments currently except controlling symptoms to the best of our capabilities, and there is no cure.  patients end up needing total care,  not being able to walk, cook, eat for themselves, becoming dependent on a breathing machine if they choose.  but the mind stays intact, and it's so sad that these patients have to knowingly watch their body deteriorate, knowing that every day they live could be their last.
mom told me that she would have been so pissed off at me if i had done any of the things i mentioned above.  because she wanted to see me live out my dream.  at the time, i thought this was a load of crap, because really, i should have been there.  it was incredibly selfish of me not to be there.  and looking back, i know that i chose not to be there because i was scared.  i was so incredibly scared, down to my core.  i was scared of seeing my strong, tough-as-nails mother in a weakened state, unable to feed herself, unable to laugh.  that was not her.  that was not my mother, that was not my best friend.  my mother was lively and fun and never quit giving someone a piece of her mind, good or bad.  she was not this shadow of herself, confined to the bed, unable to put on her own make up or get dressed by herself. 
but, i don't think her words were a load of crap anymore.  because i am a mom.  because i understand now what a mother's love is.  a mother's love never stops.  it doesn't bend, it doesn't hide, it doesn't lie, and it's always there.  a mother's love forgives, no matter what the offense.  a mother's love pushes her child into her dreams, into her goals, into her fears, without fear of judgement or punishment.  and a mother's love doesn't quit, and it grows, and it lasts the test of time.  a mother's love is wise with experience.  my mother told me not to stop my schooling because she knew i was scared.  she knew i was afraid of what was happening.  she knew that if i quit, i'd likely not go back.  she knew that i'd fall into a deep abyss of depression when she died, but she knew that if i didn't have school, and Jay, and family to keep me going, i would have given up.  she knew that she'd never see me graduate, she'd never see me get married, she'd never see me have children.  but she also knew that if she didn't push me to keep at it, i would have stopped.  and i would have been a shadow of my former potential. 
it was the last motherly thing she could have done for me.  she couldn't voluntarily put her arms around me anymore, and she couldn't ease my pain because she had the same pain.  but she could push me to strive to be the potential i had.  and that is what mothers do, isn't it?  they encourage, they lift up, they support, they discipline, they laugh, and they love, sometimes to their own detriment.  by pushing me, she did the mother thing by helping me be what i was always meant to be. 
and while i still feel guilt about the things i did, and thinking that i should have done more because she deserved more, she still sort of got what she deserved......a daughter that realized her dreams through hard work, just like mom taught her.  so in a way, my guilt is undeserved. 
i did what you wanted, mom.  i am successful, i am loved, i am blessed, i am humbled, and i miss you every day.  and i know that somewhere, you're awfully proud of me.

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