Things I hope my mom knew before she died.

I read this original post (cue tissuefest 2015) and decided I needed to write out a list of what I hope my mom knew before she died at the young age of 53 after a short, hard battle with stage four lung cancer.

  1. I hope my mom knew I wasn’t (and am not) mad at her. There’s a stigma that comes with having lung cancer. When it comes to cancers, it’s pretty much the worst because society in general can’t ‘blame’ the cancer on ill-fate or genetics. My mom was a smoker for almost 40 years. I don’t know if she thought she could avoid cancer after that long of an addiction, but I know that mom struggled with guilt over ‘doing this to herself’. I wasn’t angry at my mom for getting cancer and I hope she forgave herself before she died.
  2. I hope she knew how hard it was for me to be the strong one. That day on the porch when I told her we had to talk about her will, last wishes, funeral options, burial locations… it was the worst. Never, ever did I want to be the one to talk to her about it, but I felt no one else would and I wanted to have all of the information I could. I hope she knew it didn’t mean I was giving up hope or that I didn’t believe that she was fighting. I hope she knew that it wasn’t easy for me since I wasn’t crying. I’ve since made up the tears 10 times over thinking about that afternoon. The day of her benefit and the planning that led up to it. It’s difficult to describe how it feels to invite people to an event because your mom is dying of cancer. It’s overwhelming (in a good way) to see how many people loved and supported her, but it wasn’t easy being the one to say “There’s a need here. Let me fix it.” It wasn’t easy to go to the doctor appointments and take the notes, to clean the bathrooms after she was sick from chemo. It wasn’t easy when she was hallucinating late at night and she looked into my eyes and said, “You can’t see what I see, can you?” and telling her honestly that I couldn’t. It wasn’t easy accepting that look of sadness and loss in her eyes when she realized her brain was turning on her. None of it was easy, Momma, but you always said, “If it was easy, anyone could do it.” I hope she knows how difficult it was to be her rock, but that I did it with pride knowing not anyone could do it.
  3. I hope she knew she raised a strong daughter. My life took a sudden shift after she died. If I’m being honest, shit got hard. And it didn’t get any easier for a very long time. Overwhelmed by grief, I shut so many people out, including my husband. Not only were we both grieving the loss of my mom, someone whom my husband also loved dearly, but then our efforts to start a family were stopped in place by unexpected medical issues and a few realities for me that I wasn’t ready to face. Dealing with my mom’s death alone was difficult enough, but then I tried to grieve the loss of unborn babies by myself also. It took a while to see the damage my seclusion was causing and great efforts to bring my life and relationships back to where they needed to be. I hope my mom knows I never gave up. I always pushed through and I am stronger now because of it.
  4. I hope she heard me telling her I loved her as I held her hand  as she took her last breath. I hope she heard my prayers, my cries. I told her it was okay to go. To end her suffering. I hope she knows I meant it and I have never wished to be any other place than on her right side with my head near her shoulder as I watched her chest rise and fall for the last time. I hope she knew that.
  5. I hope she knew that she was the best mom. I mean, I think she had some idea when all of my friends always wanted to come to our house and they all called her ‘Mom’ too. For years after my brother and I moved away from home, many of those friends casually stopped by the house, one by one, and my mom would say ‘Amy doesn’t live here anymore’ and they would reply ‘That’s okay, because I stopped to see you, Pam.’ And they sat on the porch with her and told her stories of how their lives had turned out. Their success stories. Their struggles. Life lessons she taught them and that they carried with them through the years.
  6. I hope she knew that she taught me how to be a mom. When I was pregnant with Evelyn, I cried and cried one evening. I had this terrible fear that I didn’t know how to be a mother and that I didn’t have my mom to call and ask what to do if I got lost and needed guidance. In the stillness of that night between my quiet cries, I heard her voice in my head, “Amy, what do you think you should do?” It was a question she always posed back to me anytime I said, “Momma, I don’t know what to do. Tell me what I should do.” And she never would. She always pushed my question back on me and showed me how to trust my instincts. She showed me that she had already prepared me for this crossroads by giving me a lifetime of unconditional support to trust my own judgement. I hope she knew that she equipped me with the foundation to love my daughter unconditionally and to know Evelyn. Trust her. Learn her fears and her dreams and embrace them both.
  7. I hope she knew how badass she was. I mean really. She was a painter, an artist, a car restorer, artifact collector, antique-lover, builder, designer, musician… the list goes on and on. How many people have that many skills, hobbies, trades, crafts? She was really amazing.
  8. I hope she knew I meant it when I told her we would all be okay. I promised her that after she died we would all be sad, but that we would pick up the pieces and be ‘okay’ — whatever that means. I thought that it would bring her comfort since she was talking about not being able to die because everything would go to shit. Now, there are days that I feel the family has grown so distant and that I feel so disconnected and alone. But it doesn’t make us not okay. We are different now. Our family unit has shifted. My mom was the central line feeding out and connecting the entire family. We all came home to her. Without our central point, we’ve broken off into smaller clusters that come together occasionally and stay connected mainly via social media. This doesn’t make us any less okay. It just means her death changed us all.
  9. I hope she knew that I remembered the in between moments. There are some moments, while seemingly insignificant, leave a lasting impact. Like that time when I was a sophomore in high school and my boyfriend cheated on me and my bff knew about it and didn’t tell me and I thought my life was crashing down around me and that no boy would ever think I was pretty and that all girls were mean… Yeah that time. She found me sobbing in my room asking her why it hurt so bad and why people were so mean. She sat on my bed with me and wrapped her thin arms around me and cried with me. She told me to be the good in the world and not let the actions of others be an example of how I should live. Then the next morning she cancelled all plans and drove me to downtown Indianapolis. We talked the entire two hours and sang songs that came on the radio. She took me to the most amazing mall I had ever been to and let me walk in every store I wanted and even let me pick out some new clothes. Clothes shopping outside of back-to-school wasn’t a norm, nor was my mother taking me to a mall. It was a very big day and one 15 years later still sits fresh in my mind. I hope she knew that I appreciated those moments she spent shaping me into a young adult. I certainly wasn’t perfect then, and still am not, but she taught me compassion, love and how to lend your heart to someone who is hurting. I hope she knew I didn’t take those moments for granted.
  10. I hope she knew that she was my person. I called her every day. I confessed failures without feeling like one. I bragged about successes without feeling boastful. I complained about situations or people without feeling like a nag. She was my person who accepted me 100% for who I was without passing any judgement. She’s who I wanted to impress and never let down. She was a ray of sunshine in my day. Her southern drawl on certain words made me smile. She started every phone call with “Hey baby girl,” or if she dialed me “Hey, it’s me. Just callin’ to say hi” and we ended every call with an I love you. We called one another just to sing a song that came on the radio because it was one of ‘our songs’ and we didn’t care if it was on key, which it never was. I hope my mom knew that she was my person.
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