The passing of my mother was devastating, not because she had been a significant part of my life (she had not), but because she was my best friend.
There was no real maternal bond between us, yet she was my confidant, my partner in crime, and the other half of my comedy act. My mother abandoned me when I was nine years old. I met her again as a teenager, and quickly realized that although I had suffered immense abuse and neglect by her hand, I loved her. We remained in contact for a few years, but didn’t connect again until I was 40 years old and going through a dreadful divorce, and experiencing a huge shift in the life I had known. During this time, our friendship blossomed, and I grew to respect and admire her for the person she was trying to be. We had a beautiful and fulfilling relationship.
I was with her the day she received her diagnosis of Leukemia and the prognosis. A doctor with very little bedside manner, and even less apparent compassion, informed her that she had two years to live. My mother sat there with silent tears streaming down her stoic face. I hugged her close, trying to comfort her, but she could not respond with anything other than rigidity. We drove home with no words between us, only lumps in our throats and cracks in our hearts. My mother lived for six more months. Those were very chaotic, confusing, and dreadful months. I was a single mom working a full time and a part time job, driving over an hour to be with my mother every day that it was possible. I had to rely on others to care for her in my absence, but still had to make decisions regarding her healthcare, often while being ill-informed.
The day before her passing, she was in a sort of unconscious state and not certain of my identity; she mentioned to me how proud she was of her three girls. She seemed resigned and peaceful.
Throughout the day of her passing, I read to her and spoke to her often. I reassured her as best as I could. I reminded her that she was deeply loved, and although she would be missed, she was free to be released from this earth and her pain.
My mom fought hard until the very end. When she exhaled her last breath, tears once again ran down her face, and she simply let go. In the months and even several years that followed, I tormented myself thinking of all of the things I should have done and said — how I shouldn’t have encouraged the chemotherapy treatment because she would have enjoyed a higher quality of life in those last few months, how I should have allowed her one last cigarette and sip of beer, how I should have done more. Most importantly, I thought of how I should have been strong enough to forgive her sooner.
Today, there is no place for grudges in my heart. I tell my partner and my grown children every chance I get how much I love them, how special they are, and how very proud I am of them. I strive daily, and am mostly successful, at not standing in judgement of others and of the path they are on. I do not withhold empathy and compassion. Instead, I want to show love and to take the time to celebrate the best of who they are.
The passing of my mother reminded me that we all have a purpose, no matter what path we choose, and that sometimes we are granted a do-over, and we can be redeemed if love allows.
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