The First Time I Lost My Mom

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.

Thoughts, Prayers and Privilege.

I don’t know what it is that infuriates me so much more about this Texas church shooting than the others. Maybe it’s that more children are dead this time. Maybe it’s the astounding irony of hearing “thoughts and prayers” coming out of my television speakers when the shooting happened in a church, and to praying people. Maybe it’s because churches are on the list of places the people we love can be riddled with bullets by the guns some of us seem to love more.

Whatever the reason, this one has created a knot in my stomach more than most mass shootings (and God knows there are plenty.)

I watched the governor of Texas say this morning that “killing was illegal too” and the gunman still committed murder. That was actually his response to what can be done about the availability of guns. The leader of the state threw his proverbial hands in the air and spewed idiocy rather than say he’d look into what could be done about the fact that in the state he leads, a convicted domestic abuser legally acquired a gun and murdered people.

And then there’s the “mental illness” claim. The other thing we blame and do nothing about. But I don’t think this is mental illness. And the fact is that mentally ill individuals are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes, not the perpetrators. Mental illness is the explanation we allow white Western men, but not brown Eastern ones. We don’t even allow those explanations to unarmed black Americans when they are shot in the back or choked to death.

Sure, some of these shooters were disconnected from reality. But what seems to be the case more often than not? White male entitlement. Most of this domestic terrorism is committed by white men who think it is acceptable to blow away the things they don’t like. The things they can’t control.

Over and over again, these men kill what they can’t control, because they think they are entitled to do so. Because our culture, and even our laws have told them they “deserve” to look out at a world that looks and acts the way they want it to.

They are wife-beaters, they are criminals, they are Neo-nazis, and they are white supremacists. Or they are regular guys no one, not even their families, suspected. But they are frequently white men who just aren’t getting their way in a world that has told them they deserve to.

But again and again, we will hear all of the political acrobatics to avoid doing anything to change the culture and even the laws that facilitate these mass murders. We will offer our thoughts and prayers, but The Bible tells us that faith without action is empty.

And we will hear about how faith will get these people through their loss. And that is true. I have been trudging through this grief thing for years now, and my faith in God has held me up during the many times I have been at my lowest.

But it is not that simple. The beginning of grief is a blur. Faith is easy in the beginning. It gets much harder when the fog lifts, and you look at the raw reality of what your loss has left you with.

These people who have lost parents and spouses and children have a much harder road ahead of them than those who don’t know what grief really feels like can understand. It is a long, ugly road. It will be going on for these people of Texas, and Orlando, and Las Vegas, and Sandy Hook, for much longer than our Facebook statuses will offer thoughts and prayers.

So until we do something meaningful, and we stop only praying, nothing will change.  Until we demand change that is founded in facts and statistics (as boring as they may be) we can live in this new reality. And until we stop telling white men that they get to make their own reality look the way they have decided it should look, nothing will change, and any of us is vulnerable to their rage.

While I hope a LOT of people are praying for change and comfort for these people, I hope when they are done, they demand more from the people perpetuating the culture that is the real problem.

Today I Let Them Play Together Longer

We needed to get our day started. Really. It was the beginning of a new homeschool week, and the morning was crawling closer and closer towards the afternoon. I looked across the room at my girls, ready to tell them it was time to head upstairs and get started.

They were totally immersed in the imaginary world they had created in our living room. They were laughing and smiling and making silly voices for their toys. It was priceless, but I still started to open my mouth to interrupt it all and get our school day going.

But then her voice and her words echoed in my mind, and I stopped myself.

“Take care of each other, because one day it will just be the two of you, and you will need one another.”

Read more at Her View From Home

What I Learned After Killing My Flowers

I have a pretty set morning routine, and it always starts the same way. I get up and walk through my house, opening the curtains and blinds, letting in as much natural light as I possibly can. I love seeing the sun shine through my windows in the morning.

My favorite view, though, is once I open the blinds on the french doors leading out to our porch and backyard. But the other morning, I opened those blinds and discovered that I had managed to kill my potted flowers on the table outside. Not on purpose of course. I just forgot to water them. For like, a week. (Oops.)


Read the rest at Her View From Home

Are We There Yet? Looking for the end of my grief journey.

“I saw that one-year anniversary on the calendar as a milestone. I would get to that day, a whole trip around the sun without my mom, and it would be an accomplishment. I felt like the kid in the backseat asking “Are we there yet?” I was just so ready to feel differently than I did.

And then the day came. And you know what? Nothing felt any different. I’m not sure what I thought would happen– they don’t exactly give you a medal when you make it through. No pats on the back. And no tangible relief. Kind of a rip-off, right? Because that was HARD work, and a long road.” …

Read more at Her View From Home


What Next?

I — again — hadn’t realized how long it has been since I have written here. I have been focusing on writing for a new publication, a digital magazine called Her View From Home. I made it a goal to get published somewhere new this year, and this one kind of fell into my lap.

The best part about the magazine, without a doubt, is the incredibly supportive community of writers I now get to interact with. We read each other’s articles, ask each other for advice, build each other up when we are insecure about what we have written or are thinking of writing.

It is also incredibly intimidating. I am in the company of widely-read bloggers, journalists, and published authors. Many, if not most of them, came into the magazine with substantial online followings.

So — yeah — not me. Maybe some day? But not now.

I never really thought of this blog as something I wanted to become huge. It was literally never on my mind. I knew I needed to write to make sense of this grief and the ways it is always changing. My hope was that even one person would read something I had written and be helped by it. That is still really my only goal.

Alright — so I need to figure out where this blog is headed. First things first, I have decided against publishing the journal entries I made while my mom was in the hospital. I can’t do it. I want a digital copy of what I wrote, but I think they need to stay with me only. I published the first two (which I have since removed) but as I mulled over posting more, I became more protective of them.

These were essentially my last conversations with my mom. I wrote TO her. I couldn’t talk to her, so I was desperate to find an alternative. They really only get heavier as they go along. I guess I thought giving a voice to them would help me move forward. I was definitely wrong on that one.

So for now, I will share my articles here (they’re great and let you have your articles back after 60 days to publish elsewhere.) And I’m sure I’ll write random things here along the way. I am working on something now that I hope I have the courage to publish, if I can get it to come together.

Thanks, as always, for reading.


Saying something new

I have neglected this blog for quite a while. The reason I started writing in the first place was to write openly and honestly about the grieving process, in the hopes that it would not only help me, but someone else who possibly stumbled across it and found a connection to their own story.

My absence here has been due to the fact that I felt — at least at this point — that I have said everything I needed to say. I have become somewhat closed off, not wanting to open up about my grief. It feels like a broken record to me, with the same themes repeating over and over again. I have become all too familiar with the themes, and the thoughts, and the struggles. There was nothing new to say. So I stayed quiet.

But there is an entire, foundational portion of my grief that I have ultimately never given a voice to — the days my mom spent in the hospital. The stories are there, and the memories. They bounce around in my head all of the time. They lurk over my shoulder, and I have not known what to do with them. It feels morose to share the specifics as a factual account, and most of the people who want to hear the ugly details have either heard them, or were there when they happened. The rest either knowingly or unknowingly recoil when I do reminisce. And I’m sure others avoid the topic so as to not upset me. And I understand that.

But these memories and these moments made me. I am a different person than I was before my mom got sick. I ultimately have more anguish over the moments that made up the last few months of my mom’s life, than I do over the nearly three years since she died.

When my mom was in the hospital, I kept a journal. My dream, which I reference more than a few times, was to share the journal with her when she recovered. But that day never came, and the raw emotions and reactions are stuck on pieces of paper, and stuck in my mind.

But that journal is some of the best, most honest writing I have ever done. So I will share those moments here, on this blog. My hope is that it will give a voice to a part of myself that I have never really given the respect of acknowledging. I hope that it will be a new phase of progress for me. And I also hope that someone who is hurting and grieving and feeling alone will stumble across it, and feel connected.

There are parts of some of the entries that I will omit, and a lot that is deeply personal and emotional. It flips between hopeful one day, and devastated the next. It speaks, at times, in a few medical terms that I learned along the way (which I will try to explain when necessary.) It spans the time my mom fought to recover from a deadly flu, starting a few days after she went into the hospital, and ending at about 4 a.m. the morning after she died.

I’m not sure how long it will take to write it all up, but I intend to keep at it until it’s finished, and hopefully find it to be worthwhile.