Tuesday, June 8, 2010


It's been three weeks since my mom died. It feels like that day was sometime last fall. It seems impossible that everything that's happened--everything I've felt, witnessed, experienced, learned and cried over--could have possibly taken place in just 21 short days.

I feel like nothing i write could ever do justice to the extent of sorrow, the ups and downs of emotions, the outpouring of love, and the abundance of peace we've all felt over the past weeks and months. But, as I've been going through my mom's poetry, short stories, journals and little notes she's written over the past 45+ years, I'm learning that ANYTHING that's written down has more value than you might imagine. And so, although i have neither the time nor the energy to organize my thoughts right now, i'm going to write them down. Three weeks is too long to have put this off. And i doubt i'll even post about the funeral tonight--which was beautiful--or any of the other MANY things i need to write about. Tonight is just for spilling out some thoughts...

One thing i've been extremely aware of lately is that I haven't been nearly as sympathetic as i could have and should have been in the past when those around me have suffered similar losses. I've even found myself briefly resentful toward my peers who are sad to see their grandparents die--only because mine were all gone by age 11--and how could they possibly be sad when they got to have grandparents into adulthood?? I've found myself silently cynical towards people in their 50's and 60's who talk about the sorrow of losing a parent-- how dare they feel sorrow when they got to have their mom or dad around for their kids' weddings?!?!? These usually dormant feelings of resentment and anger have made a strong debut in my emotions these past weeks. And, as i guess could be expected, I've spent quite a bit of time in the "angry" stage. But I feel that this stage is passing. For whatever reason, it's taken me a while to recognize that no matter what the circumstances--losing a parent is always going to be hard. And everyone suffers from the same sorrows (albeit in different ways). There is no "comparing" sorrow--and this is a lesson i've needed to learn. And, along these same lines, I'm learning that being mad at the people around me who still have what i no longer do, will only hurt my heart--not heal it. I'm ashamed that this is even something i've had to learn.

In contrast to the anger i've felt, there has been an equally strong feeling of love, peace, gratitude and acceptance in my heart. And lately(unless I'm alone) these are the feelings that tend to make their way to the surface most often. These positive feelings that come with this experience could quite easily be ignored or rejected. There are many times, in fact, when i choose not to accept them--sometimes it feels easier to ignore them. I'm reminded often of something my sister said a couple of months ago--that "feeling peace is a choice." And I'm glad to have that reminder--it makes me feel like i have some control in an otherwise out-of-my-control situation--and I need that.

I've been aware of something else that happens when a person dies--and i'm sure many of you have experienced this. I wish that it could happen before we die--because it would truly make the world a better place. For some reason it seems that the moment a person dies, all of their weaknesses, any of the things about them that used to drive you crazy--just disappear. And i truly mean disappear--as in--I can't even remember an instance in which my mom did anything to drive me crazy. I mean, i know that such instances existed, because i can remember hanging up the phone and complaining to Reid about this or that, or yelling something like "mom, you drive me crazy!" But i can't remember what it was that drove me crazy.

And all of my mom's strengths--all the wonderful things she was, and taught me and did for me--they're all magnified ten-fold now. Not just magnified, but maybe even exaggerated. For example, i know that i dreaded piano lessons from my mom. i know i did. But right now as i recall sitting down with her for those lessons, in my mind's eye there are butterflies floating around in the strawberry-scented air. Her hair has golden ribbons and white flowers in it, and we're giggling like little girls at a misplayed chord. . . . Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but the fact remains that everything she wanted or needed to change about herself no longer exists to me. And everything she was great at, or even sort of great at, is now the strongest part of my memory of her. Why must a person die for this to happen? I don't know. Maybe it's because we humans have a seemingly unchangeable need to embrace the faults of those around us. Or maybe it's a coping mechanism. Or maybe God allows us in these difficult moments to start seeing what He's been seeing all along, as a part of His abundant and everflowing grace. Whatever it is--I like it. I like that nothing but sweet and happy memories fill the part of my mind that my mom will forever occupy.

I miss my mom. I miss her more each day, actually, which is surprising to me. But I'm okay, too. It sucks that my mom died. It really does. And everyone i talk to who's been through this usually takes those exact words out of my mouth. But there is so much living to do, too.

My sweet girls have been such a happy place for my siblings, my dad and for me. What would we all do without them?!?! At least 3-5 times a day Grace or Abby come up and give me a hug and say, "Mom, i'm still sad about Grandma" or, "Mom, i really miss Grandma." It is so nice to have people around me to mourn with. And although i don't know that Abby gets what she's saying (she does just about everything Grace does), her hugs, along with Grace's, help more than they will ever know.

I didn't know, 23 days ago when my sister called to tell me that my mom only had 1-2 days left, if I should hop in the car and try to get there in time to say goodbye, knowing that my mom was mostly comatose, or if I should wait here until arrangements for the funeral were final. Grace's preschool graduation was five days away, and for whatever reason it absolutely tore me up inside to think about taking her away from it. It seems silly now, it really does. But it was so important to me in the moment. And i didn't know if i needed to be there for the moment my mom actually passed. I'd spent so much time with her, and had so much closure--did i really need to drive back in a mad rush to be by her bedside for her last breaths?

The answer was yes. I don't know how to describe what happened inside of me, but about 4 minutes after getting that call i felt inexplicably compelled to throw my family and all our belongings (okay, it wasn't all, but it kinda looked like it) into our van and get to my mom's side. Reid was the voice of reason and thought it would be best if one of us (him) get a good nights' rest before making that trek. I slept one hour that night. Reid woke us up early and drove most of the way there!! My heart and eyelids were both too heavy to operate a vehicle--what would i have done without him?!?!

The drive only took 7 hours--a record. But it was the longest drive of my life. The thought of getting there too late started to hurt so much. What was i afraid of missing? What more did I need to say or experience? Why did i need this so much? Why did I plow over my welcoming crew the moment we pulled up to my parents' house in a mad rush my mom's bedside?

The nurse said she was in a coma. And maybe she was. But when I held her hand and said "mom, it's me, Emily. I love you so much" I knew that she was hearing me. She knew I was there. Still with her hand in mine i said, "Mom, if you can hear me and know i'm here squeeze my hand." One second passed. Two seconds passed. Three seconds passed. And somehow she mustered up the mental and physical energy to give my hand an unmistakable squeeze.

That was what i'd needed. That was what had so strongly compelled me drop everything and rush home to her. I needed my mom. I needed to have one last interaction with her. In a most selfish way, i needed her to expend all that she had left, to give me this final moment of being together. And in her typical selfless fashion, she took care of me when I needed her.

The next 14 hours until she passed were filled with moments too personal and too sacred to share on this blog. But I will say this--that just as when when a life is brought into this world, when a life is taken from this world, there are angels attending, there is an abundance of love to be felt, and there is no denying the Greater Plan of which we are all a small part.


merathon said...

i'm sure that you and your children will both be grateful that you wrote down these thoughts. just beautiful. and as for me, i might have to stop reading your posts if i don't want to keep being brought to tears! okay-- compose myself and go finish making kendall's lunch!

Susan said...

Such beautiful thoughts Emily. Time sort of stops for you when someone you love so much is gone doesn't it? At least for me it did. The thing I kept hearing over and over when my mom passed away was something she always used to say....."this too shall pass." I felt like I would be a muddled mess and walk around in a daze forever. I didn't want it to "pass", but her wisdom continued and her words were true even after she was gone.
If there was ever any doubt that angels are present to welcome, escort or greet someone when they leave this world, that doubt is gone. My mother held on just long enough for me to get to her side and say good bye as well. She was also in a coma, but I was able to make it in time and she passed away 2 hours later. I had to fly to California two days after I heard she had an aneurysm and then race to her bedside.
My mother was actually my grandmother, but she was my mother too. She and my grandfather raised me and they couldn't have been any closer to me than if they were my mother and father.
You have been blessed to have some very special memories and time with your mother that will go on forever. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

Stacey Mom said...

That was so beautiful to read Emily, thanks for sharing it.


dkeaquinto said...

Once again, you speak from the heart and it's beautiful. I wish I could shoulder your burden, even for a little while. We love you!

Elise said...

I've been meaning to email you for weeks. Just little thoughts I wanted to say to you, but obviously that email has not been sent. I hope soon I can make that happen, but just in case I can't, I wanted you to know that you have been on my mind.
Thanks for sharing your heart.

Isa said...

This was beautiful. My deepest sympathy on the loss of your mother. Thank you for sharing, even with those of us who didn't know your mother.

I lost my father two years ago. I know that grief doesn't compare, and I'm not trying to. I just wanted to let you know that I know what you mean about angels attending both that process of giving and losing a life.

Hugs. :)

Gillian Brown said...

I love you so much. You are so amazing Emily.

The Busby Family said...

Thank you so much for sharing Emily, it was so beautiful. I'm so glad you were there in time. I am always thinking and praying for you. I need to call you.

Karen said...

Emily I'm so glad you were willing to share such a difficult and touching experience, I love you sooo much and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Candace said...

You are truly amazing, what a hard thing to have to go through for anyone, but I'm sooo glad that you were able to make it to your moms bedside in time, what a special time I'm sure that was for you. I totally know what you mean about angels and the spirit is so strong in those moments.
Good luck with everything. Your girls will always have your moms memory with them just as if she were still here, so don't worry about them.
Love ya girl!

Liz said...

Your words bring me to tears Ashworth. I've thought a lot about you over the past 3 weeks and wish I could do more for you. Love you.

spideybrian said...

Hey! I just found your blog, hope you don't mind the intrusion, but to be honest, I think I needed to read this post. I've kind of just hidden behind the "out of sight, out of mind" excuse with my mom...somehow trying to convince myself that it doesn't REALLY affect me. Most of the time, it doesn't because I try not to think of it...but Mother's day sucks for me...oh, and I HATE (I'm confident that I can't emphasize that word enough) the movie "The Notebook"...if I stay away from stuff like that, I'm okay.

I know it's different, but still related. Thank you for your post.