When I began this blog 5 years ago, it ended up being a catch-all for whatever slogged through my brain, mostly writing and the difficult journey that was caring for my mom.
After a year+ battle with multiple cancers and the complications of surgery, and a 40+ year battle with mental illness, Mom is finally at peace. I held her hand as she left this world, tearfully reminding her she wasn't alone, that she is loved, and that I would be with her through the end. I'd like to think she heard me. She wasn't conscious that day at all as far as we could tell, but she was gone right after I spoke.
In harder moments in the last few days since she died, I tell myself she's at peace, for perhaps the first time ever. I don't know where I fall in terms of belief when it comes right down to it, whether my mom is reunited with her mother and grandparents in a brilliant utopia or has simply ceased to exist. Either way, she's no longer tormented by the horrors and aftershocks of a nightmarish childhood that harmed her in ways she couldn't heal from. I hope (and regardless of my uncertainty I do pray every night) for her sake there is something better where I'll see her again someday, where I can know her as she truly is.
I am left with a silent paranoia that I can't remember enough good times with her. I know there were certainly plenty in my childhood, and though her illness tried it's hardest to eliminate them, there were good times woven in my adult years with her as well. I've felt this panic before, after the death of a loved one, that I couldn't remember specific details about them or my relationship with them.
On the other side of that fear is a bit of clarity. What I struggled with for so many years, was not truly my mother, but the "demons" of her illness trying to take away those of us who meant the most to her. I will never be known as the most patient of people, but my heart is fierce and I know I fought endless battles to hang onto her as long as I could manage. The war is over, but it was a worthy one.
At the moment, aside from a ridiculously high fever that's swept in without warning, I'm left with the perplexing bit of things. Life keeps on going, regardless of how empty or fragile you feel. Life is both exactly the same but completely different, all existing at the same time. My father and I go through her things - we've already made a donation of extra medical items to those who most need them through her hospice. I've written and had published her obituary - the writing was agonizing, the reading of the exact same sentences published was like sucker punch to the gut. My home is still. Her absence is strangely palpable to the energy of the house. I did mention the high fever, yes? Even money on her absence or the fever being the cause.
I have eaten a verifiable-y insane quantity of chocolate in the last week, completely unrelated to Valentine's Day. I could do some serious damage to a variety of baked goods at this point, just sayin'. I'm from hearty Midwestern stock and Southern by marriage - comfort food is the backbone of funerals and grief.
There is, truth be told, a new reality to adjust to, and that is for the first time in my life, my life is sort of my own. My mom and her illness have been so deeply etched on my psyche, completely self-inflicted and unbeknownst to my family, that many decisions I made had to be balanced against what I'd need to do about or for my mom. As I process the grief, as I wobble between days wanting to curl up in bed and sleep from the sheer exhaustion of the last year and days wanting to spend hours writing or exploring the world, I'll be getting to know myself in some capacity. I think catching up on shows & movies I've missed and zoning the hell out is the first order of business.
But, there are still things to get done. Clothing donations to make. Her de facto hospital room to change back into a spare room or office. Her ashes and death certificates to pick up. A celebration of life to set up (flowers, food, memorial cards, location). Etc, etc, etc. Zoning out for a bit sounds pretty darn good right about now.
My momma is gone. All I want is one more afternoon with her from when I was about 9, just her and I in the car while she gets us a sandwich and an orange soda while I tell her about my day at school. Or a morning when I was 3 and I'd snuggle up with her on the couch to watch The Price Is Right. Or a Saturday night when I was 11 and I'd feel so grown up helping her perm or color her hair in the dining room.