It’s that day. The one day of year that seems to bring a fog over the house, a depression that settles in among the hearts of the occupants and just festers.
Eight years ago today the doctor came into the tiny little conference room and told the family that it was hopeless and my mother was brain dead. Eight years ago I ran from the room to the nearest rest room feeling what little I had eaten over the last 2 days coming up one, my chest crushed by grief, my eyes burning with tears I couldn’t stop. I had to use every ounce of strength not to give into the temptation to slam my head into the brick wall to stop the overwhelming pain of loss.
Five minutes passed before I heard a knock on the door and my husband asking if I was okay. Okay? No, not ever again.
Eight years ago my dad sat alone in the same room answering heart wrenching questions from the organ donation team. Eight years ago I watched my uncle (my mom’s sister’s husband) pray endlessly at her bedside for a miracle. One I knew would not happen. Eight years ago…the last time I begged a god I barely believed in to have mercy on us and make this whole thing quick.
Eight years ago I watched my younger brother, then 21, break down in tears because he never got to say good-bye and hadn’t talked to her in months. Eight years ago I watched as my mom’s brothers and sisters gathered for their vigil, holding each other, working through the pain of losing yet another sister (my mom’s oldest two sisters died in the early 90s).
Eight years ago I had to call my best friend and tell her they were taking my mom off of life support so if her and her parents wanted to say good-bye now was the time. Eight years ago I stood and watched it all alone, like a stranger looking in on some warped family reunion, but never feeling like part of the events. I stood alone, trying to hold it all together.
After it was over we went home. My dad went to bed and didn’t come out for days. My brother drank away the pain with some of his high school buddies that he hadn’t seen in a few years. My husband took care of the baby (my oldest daughter was just a couple months old). Me…I cooked for everyone and cleaned the house and kept busy. I fielded calls from out of state family wanting word on how my dad was handling things, how my brother took the news, how the baby was doing, did my husband find a job yet?
I don’t remember anyone every actually asking me how I was doing. And me–I was barely hanging on by a thread. During the day I could keep busy with chores and the baby and visitors stopping by and my brother. Night…night was different. At night I curled up in bed, hugging my stuffed bunny and jamming a pillow as far into my mouth as I could to stifle the sobs of grief so I wouldn’t wake my husband and baby.
Eight years and the pain and the anger and the grief and the emptiness hasn’t gone away and on this day it is ten time more pronounced.
My parents would have celebrated their 37th anniversary next week if my mom hadn’t died. She would have been 60 years old in November. She would have been a grandma of four now…four very spoiled little kids if she had been here.
Things would be different. Instead everything is the same. The house looks almost exactly like it did the day she died, only 8 years of dust covers most of her knick-knacks. Instead I sit here remembering what it was like those 3 weeks of hell as we said our good-byes and planned her cremation and memorial service.
September 1st was the service, up in Michigan with her family…where she truly felt at home. It was hot. One of the hottest days of the year. We were all soaked in sweat and miserable. My brother drove to get his friend in another town 30 miles away. We’ve known this guy since he was 5 and my mom had been a second mother to him. He was absolutely devastated. He cried harder then my brother and father.
The night before the service was a good night, though. See, deaths in our family are different then most. At least I think so. We don’t so much stand around grieving and asking “why?” as we do celebrating the life they lived. The night before the service we had what a normal family would call a “wake”. It was an amazing site. The funeral parlor director had to dig up more easels and tables to display all the picture boards and handmade items. My mom was a crafter and made quilts and stuffed animals for most of the family. Every available surface in the room was covered in these items that she made through the years. The director said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
After the service on the 1st we all went back to my Aunt Nora’s house, peeled out of our “Sunday best” clothes and brought in the keg. Yep, my uncle got a keg. This is where our family traditions become real apparent. When someone dies in our family we throw a raging party. My mom’s party didn’t end until 2am. By that time there was just a few of us left, my dad was passed out in a spare bedroom and a lot of other people were sleeping it off on the floor in other rooms. My aunt sat outside with some of my cousins just talking and reminiscing.
It’s been eight years yet I can still picture it all like yesterday, yet, I’m starting to forget her smile and her voice. I notice, though, every now and then when I laugh or say certain things that I sound just like her. Exactly like her. It is kind of creepy.
Eight years and I miss her as much now as I did the day she died, the tears still come late at night and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her at least a dozen times.
I miss you, Mom.
gone but never forgotten
The last photo of her alive taken on August 17, 2000 with her sister, Nora (the two people I named my youngest daughter after).