November 14, 2010. I wish I could say I woke up feeling like this day was starting out as any other day, but when I woke up my body seemed to know this day would be anything but normal. I was not currently aware of this, but looking back I think I did deep down that day would change my life forever.
The two weeks leading up to this day, my mom and I had been dealing with a huge problem. On top of everything else, my mom had spent almost 6 weeks very sick. I had never been so mad at her, I had never yelled at her as I had yelled at her during those two weeks, I had never felt so disappointed with some choices she had made. I had never gone a few days without talking to my mom because she was my best friend, but I had in those two weeks. I had told her that I was not joining her at church that morning like I still did every Sunday. I also knew I needed to stay on campus to study as we were getting to Thanksgiving and all of my professors had decided to have an exam or a paper due that week. But that morning when I woke up, my body told me to get up and go to church.
I woke up before my alarm and my first thought was I should go to church today. When I arrived, I found my mom in the church bookstore as I did every Sunday morning. Instead of listening to the sermon in the hall, we decided to sit in the library and just talk and this was the first time that she had expressed to me that she was concerned about how she was feeling. For the first time in two weeks, we fell back into our normal relationship and I did not feel angry at her. With how bad she felt, I sent her home, I ran a meeting she had at church, went to lunch with a friend, and decided to stop by my house on the way back to school. She had fallen asleep in the car, so I got her inside and into bed then told her I’d be home tomorrow to clean for her, hang out, and probably start decorating for Christmas. For the first time in probably two weeks, I told her I loved her.
I studied a bit at my boyfriends (now husband’s) house for a bit, and then went to go pick up my best friend from the airport. While I was in the arrival pickup line, I called my mom to check in on her on her cell and the home phone that I had left next to her. She didn’t answer. Ok, she’s tired, I’ll try later. My best friend and I pickup pizza (per usual) and went to her apartment to study as we did most Sundays. I tried calling a few more times and just resolved that she was tired.
The next morning, I woke up with a sense of dread. I knew what had happened. She hadn’t called. She would have called if she was ok. But I was not accepting the inevitable. I got up and went to my first class and did a shift working at the library while I played all the scenarios in my head of what could have happened. Halfway through my second class I decided it was time to head home. I left my class, called a family friend, and told her to break into my house if she couldn’t find the key. I had just pulled out of my parking spot and started driving when she got into my house and told me my mom was dead.
I lost it. I pulled over. I called my boyfriend, I called my best friend, and I didn’t know what to do. I started driving again, called my mom’s brother, told him what happened and he told me to pull over and not go home. I pulled over at my best friend’s apartment and when she pulled up next to me and got me out of my car I melted in her embrace and felt the heaviness on me that I knew would be with me the rest of my life. Though these memories are engraved in my brain, the rest of the week and weeks that followed are a blur and my husband remembers many things that I do not even remember happening let alone what actually happened.
I share this with you today, because this is what I have been reliving this week. I have been reliving all the moments leading up to this day and all the thoughts and feelings that I had leading to her death. It’s been 10 years today and even though her gravestone says November 15th, I as her daughter know today was the day. She would have called back. I also want to share that reliving these moments is normal. It’s a part of our grief that stays with us and lives in our bodies. Even 10 years later, this year, this week, my grief has been heavier than in years past. Part of that is I think this year there is less hustle and bustle of life and I’m at home by myself working for the first time in my life.
I share these moments, because I want to normalize that no matter how much time has passed, no matter what job we have, we are allowed to feel. We are allowed to grieve. We are allowed to have days that are just flat out awful. As we get older and learn new things about ourselves or our loved ones who die, or our families, or the events surrounding the death, we will grieve again. We are constantly learning new things that we have to process in order for our loss to make sense. No one can tell you how to grieve. No one is allowed to tell you that your feelings are invalid.
If you are feeling unheard or overwhelmed by your grief, I encourage you to find a therapist or a support group so that you can try to be able to manage your grief to make it less heavy. This does not mean that your grief will go away, but the hard days will come less frequently.
To my sweet mama. Today we will honor you by visiting your grave, eating some of your favorite foods, and watching some of our favorite movies. It also turns out I will be fixing some of the lights on our Christmas tree, which will be another way to honor you. You are still so loved and still so missed by those who had the opportunity to know you, because you were and still are such a blessing. Thank you for being you and for fighting as hard as you did for me and our life. I love you more, most, better, best, more than that.