It was exactly one year ago today that I boarded a plane back to my sweet Mama to hug her, full of certainty that all would be okay. Truth be told, somewhere beneath the conscious state of life there lied a hazy cloud of fear and a true clarity that if hope could be suffocated I would have certainly accomplished that with how tightly I was holding onto it. That was the longest three hours of my life. It’s strange how the body is what is oftentimes associated with restlessness when confined to a small space; but, the mind can be just as restless when equally as limited. What I discovered that day is that it is also possible for the heart to take up so much room in your chest that it becomes fitful as well.
In all honesty, my memory of the day is much more like a snapshot of events displayed in a photo album. I often wonder if in order for the mind to hold onto important experiences during stressful times, it must reduce the impact of information to snapshots instead because the full documentary would be way too much to relive. I liken the day to a viewing with the old View Master from my childhood. I’m able to peer through the eye piece, clicking through each picture, but not recalling all of the little information in between each slide…..wiping a tear from behind the sunglasses shading my swollen eyes….hugging my sister at the airport….walking into the hospital….seeing my aunt and cousin approach in the hallway…the look of concern on my twin’s face…my brother holding hands with his lovely fiance…my Dad’s comforting embrace…my aunt’s beautiful blue eyes filled with worry…….Mama’s smile………Mama’s laugh………Mama’s strength…….Mama……..
The whole day is sealed in my memory this way, which is so out of the ordinary for me. My mind typically runs a reel of recollection, not simple snapshots. I can only guess that my mind, heart, and body have decided to work together to ensure I’m still standing throughout the constant highs and lows of reliving these days.
It does stand that some information is too close to the heart to even place down on paper. It’s as if it’s secured in a special spot that is only allowed access by those that experienced it together. I know the struggles my family is having during this time and find comfort in the notion that they truly understand every single snapshot that invades each of our hearts and minds during this recurrence of emotions and feelings of such great sadness. I also know that Mama is with me. I can feel the warmth of her presence and see her smile at the forefront of my mind. I will make it through this day….and tomorrow as well…and so on. My promise to myself is to let the tears flow when they come and the laughter bubble up as each snapshot clicks into clear view reminding me of the amazing mother that I was so very lucky to call my Mama.
Today, as I was looking through some paperwork in my study, my gaze fell upon a silver box holding several cards. I have often glanced at it over the past year, but have hesitated in rereading any of the notes filling it. I finally lifted one out and opened it again, knowing that what I would read inside was sure to bring tears. No one tells you when you lose someone that through all of the hurt and pain you experience there is an additional emotional tide that waves over you each time you feel the support of those reaching out to you. The love that is experienced in those moments is so bittersweet. It is a pure mixture of sweet kindness and bitter reminders. I don’t know how to ever truly thank those that have reached out to me in my lowest moments and carried me through my biggest struggles. I know that I have expressed thanks in various ways, but there is a place deep down in my soul that fears I will leave someone without proper acknowledgement. I hope they know how much all of their kind words, deeds, support, presence, and hugs mean to me. I also hope that Mama feels it too. I so wish that she could see how people love her and how much of an impact she made on all of our lives.
I read through each and every one of those cards today. It felt good to re-experience the kindness of my friends and embrace the love that was included within them. I have one friend in particular that gave me a statue of two figures in an embrace. It was gifted as a reminder that Mom’s embrace is always with me. I look at it every day and remember its message. I draw a certain sense of strength from it and am very cognizant of the blessing of friendships that I have. There are so many special things in my house now that seem to take on much more importance than others and only those closest to me realize the magnitude of significance they hold. To some they might just appear to be objects, but for me, they are constant reminders of those that have supported me, loved me, guided me, and continue to help me regain my footing throughout this difficult year. The cards are exactly that….a reminder that even when I feel I am all alone….someone is keeping me close to their heart and right in the center of their well wishes….and that brings a different sense of comfort.
The events of a year ago are flooding back in as if they’ve been out to sea for a while and have decided to return for a visit. I remember very vividly hanging up the phone with Mom and being profoundly affected by the change in her voice. The effects of her last radiation treatment had left her with slurred speech and this hit me like a ton of bricks. It was the beginning of a loss so great it shatters one’s soul. I remember crying at the thought of never again hearing the sound of my mother as I’d known it all of my life. It devastated me and fueled me into an all out search for anything that had Mama’s voice on it. I can remember replaying messages in hopes of rediscovering it. One night, as I sat idle in my car under a blanket of foggy night sky, I called my brother and confessed my concern of never hearing my sweet Mama’s voice again and how selfish I felt for even wishing to. I knew I should be focused on comforting and supporting her as opposed to fulfilling my own self-centered wishes. I couldn’t help it though. Just once I longed to hear the sound of her unaltered tone.
Somewhere in all the sadness and longing, I realized what the alternative would be and soon embraced a new hope that all would be okay and her eloquent dialogue would return. My aunt reassured me that there was a good chance that the effects would lessen as time marched on. The exhilaration of knowing this was almost too much to contain. I called Mama at various times in the day to listen to the differences. It was evident that morning was always a bit better and as fatigue set in; the evenings were more of a strain. One morning in particular she was very clear and glimpses of her former quick witted tongue were evident. I look back on that phone conversation in particular and realize it was just a few days later that I boarded the plane to return to her. We are approaching that day now. I know this is why I am faced with sleepless nights and an increasingly aching heart.
It’s always in hindsight that you realize you should embraced each moment as they come; because now, I wish I could hear anything associated with her, her laughter, her tears, her humor, and yes, even her slurred speech. I would welcome any sound from her and hold tight to it with every ounce of my being knowing full well how precious each utterance is.
The most amazing thing is, right now in this very instance………I can hear my wind chimes ringing…..and you better believe I’m going to embrace it wholeheartedly!
There are certain days in our lives that conjure up a multitude of emotions, such as holidays, birthdays, the death of a loved one, and other monumental moments in our individual journeys. For each person, they are different. The magnitude of how strongly they affect us is equally varied.
Memories of Mama and our holiday celebrations make me very nostalgic. Therefore, with the onset of Easter Day weekend, I knew the need to ease a little bit of the pain was essential. It was, in fact, the opportune moment to send up a few “floating prayers.” I was not the only one in need of a bit of support these days, so I asked my sweet friends to come along for the ride. Remarkable enough, the stresses, losses, and uncertainties have been prevalent in all of our lives lately. There remains one thing that is certain through all of this, the love, laughter, and unwavering support of our chosen family is a blessing beyond belief.
So yesterday, just as the sun was beginning to say farewell, we took a leisurely stroll by the lake. We must have been a sight, each of us holding tight to a thin, curly ribbon linked to a bright purple balloon adorned with personal prayers for our families and friends, good health and an abundant of well wishes for those who have passed. A day that predictably could have been lonely and fraught with tears was replaced with acknowledged grief, renewed wishes, and laughter among friends.
We used standard balloons and Sharpie acrylic paint pens in white and silver to write our prayers.
I know that Spring Break is supposed to be a carefree and glorious time; but to be honest, I’d barely made it out of the parking lot at work before I broke down into tears. We have had an incredibly stressful time at work recently and the “come down” was inevitable. Stress release is such a bizarre thing. I didn’t expect to have this reaction, but I know why I did.
The freedom of time, with no restraints has always allowed me the privilege of talking with Mom whenever I wanted to, which is what I would always do at the onset of vacation. We would chat about all sorts of things with no limitations. It also allowed for the luxury of jumping on a plane to catch a quick visit back home, if desired. At times, I chose to do that and at others I simply spent the time traveling to other places for relaxation.
At this point in time, I’m rethinking my decision to stay home. My initial thought was that it would be good to just relax and allow myself the down time to decompress. However, now I wish I had planned something to keep my mind otherwise occupied. I feel certain that I will feel differently after a good night’s rest…but for now…my heart hurts and I long to talk with Mom about anything and everything.
I love to eat Chinese food! There is just something about the blending of flavors and traditional dishes that gets me every time. But the thing I look most forward to is cracking open that crunchy cookie and discovering my hidden fortune! There’s a method and ritual to it that always wraps up a perfect meal. Today was a very busy day for me, so I decided to grab some Chinese food to go. Little did I know the absolute treasure waiting for me. I couldn’t believe my luck after gently pulling the perfectly curled paper out of it’s treasure box. “You know what you want – – Go for it!” I had to smile….it was the most fortunate of fortunes to receive on the exact day that I started with my Facebook page for “when the chimes ring.” One more goal accomplished. I have a feeling this is Mom’s encouragement. I truly believe that our loved ones who have passed on send us signs all the time. We just have to look closely, listen carefully, and slow down to pay attention in order to feel them with us.
Although I try not to allow my conscience to acknowledge milestones in recognition of Mom’s death, it is a lost cause, destined to be as if on some pre-programmed DVR. So as the 21st rolls around once more, I again lie in sleeplessness pondering my expressions of love towards Mom and wondering if I will ever find peace of mind as I muddle my way through fields of doubt. I imagine if thoughts had weight, that this one notion of doubt would require a new measurement, aptly called rue. So in order to tip the scale in the direction of confidence and trust in a belief that I loved and expressed all that I was capable of towards Mom at each given moment in my life, I’ve decided to play a mind game with myself. I’m going to imagine a scale in front of me. On one side of the scale in big, bold, black letters rests the word uncertainty. On the opposite side, as memories wash over me, reflecting joy and cherished moments, I will mentally place a pebble on the opposite scale. I know for a fact that I will ultimately tip that scale. I don’t know how long it will take to finally find my balance, but I know that it will happen one of these days. I will then sit in complete acceptance and ultimate bliss that I’ve filled my mind and heart full to the brim with complete acceptance, leaving absolutely no space for doubt.