My heart has been so heavy lately. My baby girl is turning 5, and while knowing your last child is really out of the “baby” phase is hard enough, her birthday holds particular significance when it comes to grief.
The day my sweet girl turned one is the last day my mom ever hugged me. It’s the last time I ever heard her speak in her own voice. It’s the last time she was ever in my house, and the last time I ever saw her out of a hospital bed not hooked to countless machines.
She had to leave S’s birthday party to go to the emergency room for breathing trouble, and she tested negative for the flu. She left the hospital with a diagnosis of bronchitis and asthma, and a handful of prescriptions. The only sense I have ever been able to make of anything that happened after was that she contracted the flu while she was in the emergency room. It’s a surprisingly easy thing to do.
S is also going to be the same age that M was when my mom died. I don’t know what it is that makes that thought so hard for me. I realize how young M was when she first had to face death and grief and the pain that comes with it. I realize how much my babies have grown and changed. S is at that age where she understands connections within families, and she is old enough to have asked me more than once where my mom is. She even asked me recently one night if she cried when my mom died. It absolutely broke my heart.
I imagine talking with my mom all the time, telling her about them — the people they are, how much she would adore them, how right she was about so many things she told me being a mother would bring with it. I am grateful for so much — truly — but her being only a memory to one of my children, and not even that much to the other hits harder than anything.
So February brings one of the two days of my life that I am most grateful for, and also brings the day that was the first time I lost my mom. She came back over after she left the ER on my baby girl’s birthday. She had missed out on most of the gift opening, and the one year old cake smashing, and wanted to see all the things her “light at the end of the tunnel” had gotten for her birthday. She was tired though, and couldn’t stay long.
So I walked my parents to the door, and my mom hugged me goodbye for the last time. Every time I look out my front door I can still see my parents driving away, and my mom rolling down her window just enough to wave goodbye to me in the silliest way with a smile on her face.
She was back in the ER just four days later, and I couldn’t make it there in time to see her before she was sedated and on a respirator. She almost died that day (and many others along the way), and it was hands down the worst day of my life. Even the day she died, over three months later, wasn’t as horrifying as that first day and the things that it brought with it. Sometimes you block painful memories out to spare yourself remembering, but I remember every detail of that day.
It’s been four years, and I’m not sure February will ever be easy for me. I hope so, and I am incredibly thankful that it starts with a day to celebrate my sweet baby girl. But this one feels heavier than I expected and is colliding with SO many other emotions. But I have been determined to never hide or ignore any of those feelings, so I will embrace whatever they bring. But I am never exactly disappointed to leave February behind me.