Anyone who knows me or has ever seen my social media knows how close I was with my mom. We’ve only been on rocky ground during my two week teengage rebellion phase where I would act out because that’s what all of my friends were doing. I quickly realized my unnecessary behavior was hurting my mom’s feelings. So instead of continuing to act out, I let my mom in and from then on we weren’t only mother and daughter but the best of friends.
My mom and I lived together until I moved out on my own at the age of 24. Looking back on that decision I could’ve stayed with her much longer but I was itching for independence. Despite living separately we spoke on the phone every day and saw each other at least once a week. We had become so inseparable her own parents would frequently call us each other’s name.
When I made the decision to move to Germany last year I was going to be missed by a lot of friends and family but none more than my mom. She asked me, “What am I going to do without you?” We had never lived more than a 45 minute drive away from each other so a 13 hour flight was going to be a huge adjustment. After my move, the only thing that changed was having sleepovers and going to our favorite restaurant to order the same meal every week. Regardless of the time difference or a couple of hefty cellphone bills we still spoke to each other everyday.
I would call her while I was cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, on the way home from a bar or date. Not too long ago I told her, “I’m the most productive when I’m on the phone with you,” because I got the most writing or research done when we talked. When I would get quiet she would ask, “Are you writing?” We would spend up to two hours on the phone at a time. She would put her earpiece in while she was working so no one would detect she was on the phone. Many times I would call her and she would say, “How did you know I was on my break?” Because that’s how in sync we were.
As with any best friend, I flew home to be by her side while she was recovering from knee surgery. I had so many plans for us to go out to eat, chauffeur her around from appointments to my grandparents house, and maybe even catch a movie because we hadn’t been in so long. A friend picked me up from the airport, I headed to my grandparents’ house, and rushed my mom to get her stuff together because as usual, even though I told her when I would arrive, she wasn’t ready.
Early the next morning I peeled myself off the couch and told her I would drive her to her first physical therapy appointment. “If you’re too tired I can drive myself,” she told me. I had flown all this way to spend time with her, I could sleep later. As I watched her walk into the doctor’s office I said to myself, “Look at her walking without her crutches, she’s fine.” Then as the door closed I drove off to get us breakfast and coffee.
A few minutes later my mom collapsed inside the doctor’s office and never regained consciousness. Unknowingly I sat outside waiting for her to come out for another hour and half until I walked inside and didn’t see her. That’s the moment I knew something was off. We were so close, I felt like I should’ve known sooner, in my gut or my heart, that something was wrong.
When my grandmother got ahold of me and told me that my mom had been rushed to the hospital I thought maybe she was lightheaded because she hadn’t had breakfast. There was no part of me that even considered I would never see my mother alive again. Until they took us into the room without windows outside the emergency room.
After a prolonged explanation of what happened, when the doctor told my grandparents and I that my mom had passed I let out a scream like my insides were on fire. I wanted him out of the room because now, to me, he was evil. He was somehow responsible because he’s the one who told me this unbearable information. He offered to leave but first asked us if we wanted to be with her.
I wasn’t ready to face it. I couldn’t accept that this was my life. Despite knowing that this is how things will end for all of us, I couldn’t imagine a life without my mom in it. As my grandfather dragged me down the hall because my feet wouldn’t move and the doctor showed us into her into her room, when I turned the corner I let out another gut wrenching scream and fell to the floor.
What kind of cruel world would take the life of a beautiful 50 year old woman who worked hard, loved everyone equally, volunteered and advocated for missing children, and had finally found love? My mother was robbed of her life and I was robbed of my mother’s love. I didn’t know how or why but this was an injustice. My family and I demanded answers because we needed someone to blame.
The next day, we realized whatever the answers were, it wouldn’t bring her back and it wouldn’t ease our pain. We were forever changed and no medical or spiritual explanation would reverse that. My grandparents never thought they’d have to bury their child. My uncle had lost his only sibling. And I had to face a life without my mom and best friend.
I had been irrevocably changed. Nothing looked, felt, tasted, or smelled the same. What I went through was trauma to me. From watching her walk into the doctor’s office to only a couple of hours later being told she was gone forever to seeing her on that hospital bed. Those 24 hours replay over and over in my mind as I think about how different my trip was supposed to be.
Instead of finding different restaurants to eat at I was finding funeral homes, burial plots, and the last outfit my mom was ever going to wear. I went from daughter to beneficiary which required dozens of calls and forms. After the worst day of my life there was never a moment of peace.
The stages of grief are a real thing. I went through denial for a few days then settled on angry. I was angry at people who told me ‘she’s in a better place’ because my mom’s better place was with me, her family, and friends. I was angry at anyone elderly because I didn’t understand why they got to live so long and my mom didn’t. I was angry at my friends who said they were going to be there for me but in my mind somehow fell short because my mom never fell short. No matter what day, time, or place my mom was always there for me.
So I wanted to be there for her. Seeing someone just after they pass, gives you this illusion that maybe someone made a mistake and there’s still life in this person. But seeing someone as they are about to be buried is an entirely different experience. When I saw my mom at the funeral home I asked my grandma, “Who is that?” Because that wasn’t my mother, my mother was full of life with a smile that brightened every room.
I had made the decision early on to do my mom’s makeup for the funeral. Looking down at the body that my mom’s spirit used to occupy, and never having touched a body with no life in it before, the love I had for her helped settle me and guide my hands so that I could make her look more like herself.
The sudden loss of my mom was unimaginably painful. Add to that being weeks away from Mother’s Day where every place I entered bombarded me with images and text of ‘Celebrate Mom’, ‘Show mom how much you love her’, ‘Moms are your best friend’. Everyday was Mother’s Day for my mom. She always knew how much I loved her and I did things for her without needing a reason.
I would give everything I had for my mom because she did the same for me when I was born. I’m still angry that my mother isn’t here for Mother’s Day. I don’t know if I’ll ever get past the stage of anger. Some people say, “Talk to her, she’s still with you,” which I believe is true. But for someone who feels robbed of time and experiences with their mother, it’s not good enough.
If you’ve read through this, you’ll notice I never use the ‘d’ word to talk about my mom. It seems so cold for someone who was so warm. My mom was my everything. She gave me life, then as I grew she gave me purpose, and no matter what encouraged and supported me. For those of you who are blessed to still have your mothers around, please cherish them. Not just today, but everyday. Because now that my mom is gone, I find comfort in the fact that she knew how much I loved her.