Nana and Allison came with me yesterday to the grocery store. They ended up staying for lunch and even dinner–we had the absolute best time, and my heart still feels happy and content and full of love from the day we shared together.
After Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and pre-made frozen lunches, the three of us snuggled on my couch while Everett took his afternoon nap (which was exceptionally long) and watched home movies back from 1992 to 2005ish. We laughed and cried and talked and argued about what we watched, what we heard, and how we felt.
It was special.
For Christmas, Terri had all of the dvd’s copied for us four kids, so now I have my very own collection. It truly was the best present.
I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we watched those movies, though. You are alive and well inside my head and I just want to take you out of there and hug you for real.
Now there are tears welling up in my eyes and my stomach feels tight, right across through my belly button and down into my gut. Because seeing your expressions and hearing your voice makes me remember just how beautiful and vibrant and FUN you really were.
You know, I’d cross the earth ten times over just to see you once again.
I have kept journals the past ten years, and I know you know that because you used to read some of them when I was younger, particularly the first one I started as a freshman in high school. I hid it under my mattress and you weren’t so good at putting it back in its exact position.
But just like watching those home movies, I love reading through those journals–they’re like reading a book about my life. They are evidence of who I was, who I am and who I’m still becoming.
So just now I opened up the drawer where I keep all twenty three of them. And I picked the one out that was written around the time of your death. There’s a sticky tab attached to this entry:
August 6, 2008
Mom seemed okay today…a little more alert than she has been recently. She is back from the hospital and Dad made sure her last days would be at home. She’s confused, doesn’t talk much and has her days and nights mixed up. I don’t know if she knows who I am.
Yesterday Dad got her to laugh hysterically by sticking chocolate covered almonds up his nose. She would point her finger at him and look at me, as if to say, “Do you see this guy? How funny is that!?” I will never, ever forget that.
After cheerleading practice, I sat beside her bed and she squeezed my hand. Her eyes were open but I don’t know how aware she was. She reached out to touch my face and I just stared at her. And tonight I laid with her while she was finally falling asleep and held her hand, again. I told her that I wish there was a way to let her really know how much she means to me. And how she has made me who I am today and how lucky I am to have someone like her in my life. I also said that I finally realize what a good marriage her and Dad have and how much it’s taught me about love. I got the feeling she was taking all my words in too, because she would squeeze my hand throughout me talking. I love her so much.
And after finding that entry, I went and searched for this one:
January 27, 2008
I don’t want to be writing this at all, but I’m going to have to eventually. Wednesday night, the 23rd, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. Grandma took me and Allison upstairs to my bedroom with Aunt Katie. It was dark outside. Grandma sat on the futon with Allison and I sat in front of them on top of my little coffee table. Grandma said the word cancer, and my mind went fifty different directions. I didn’t say anything, just stared and then once those words semi-set in, I cried and cried while Grandma held me. She rocked me like a baby as I snuggled up into her. I’m sure Allison was being held too but I honestly can’t remember. I felt like I couldn’t move my body. Aunt Katie held me for a little and then I asked to be alone so I could call Nana. I did, and I just cried more. I don’t know what I even said, all I’ll remember is being in the corner of my room near the closet, the phone in my hand and feeling absolutely dead. Like there was no hope left in my body.
Then I called my best friend Stephanie and she came over a few hours later. I was sitting on the floor and she came up the stairs and sat there with me, holding me and talking and crying. She brought her things to stay the night. Before we fell asleep, I asked her if we could say a prayer together, so we did, laying beside one another in my bed. We got up the next morning and got ready for school together. I was glad I didn’t have to do that by myself. But once we got to school, the whole senior high was getting out at 10:15 because of a water line break or something like that. I got home and went to the hospital. Grandma and Papap drove Allison and I.
I approached her room and stopped, immediately turning around to Daddy behind me and we stood in a spot Mom couldn’t see us. He hugged me so tight and for the first time, I saw him cry. I remember feeling like I couldn’t stand and he just kept holding me. He could barely get his words out, but he said his love for Mommy and me and all us kids was beyond words, that love wasn’t a big enough word. He said that he feels so much pain in his heart for all of us and wishes he could just rip it out. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.
Then I went up to mom’s bed and just hugged her. I couldn’t help but cry. Seeing her so weak and sick made this all so real. We found out what kind of cancer it was and I was relieved when I heard it was breast cancer. That is the cancer that people beat. We stayed until night time–it felt like the longest day. I can only imagine what Mom and Dad feel like. He has spent every night there with her. We couldn’t have a better Dad to get us through this.
Today is Sunday and Aunt Katie took me, Allison, Cole and Tatum down to the hospital again. Mom had her chemo the day before. She still looked pretty, just super tired and weak.
Seeing Tatum hold onto Mom was hard. I got to spend five minutes alone with Mom and held her hands as I told her she had to promise to fight this not only for herself but for us too. I told her how confident I am in her and how I couldn’t believe it took cancer for me to realize how much I need her. She said she hoped this was just a lesson from God and I hope it is too. I really feel that it is.
I’m going to make the best of the days to come and stay positive. I’ve got the best friends and family and the best mom I could ever ask for.
That between time, from your diagnosis in January to your death in August feels like a dream when I remember it/read about it. You were so suddenly so sick, and then remember how you improved? You ate clean foods and continued your chemo and were happy. And I don’t think you were faking it either. We all believed you would be healthy again–I felt like our family was in the clear, so to speak.
And then came that last beach vacation with just the six of us. I think that was the last time we were all together, tucked away in that innocence. At least us kids still were.
One night before we went out to dinner, you and I were in the master bathroom of the beach house finishing getting ready. You put on a blue and white tie dye dress (the hippy clothes were coming back then) with white heels. I argued with you, explaining how you can’t wear heels with tie dye–that you have to wear a flip flop or some kind of relaxed sandal. You took my advice and we all headed out to this seafood restaurant that was on the water. They served sweet honey rolls.
While all six of us were walking back to our car, us kids ran ahead of you and Dad. I’ll always remember how you looked, casually waltzing in that beach breeze holding Dad’s hand, safe and protected in your tie dye dress. You were content. And once we were about, oh I don’t know, maybe twenty feet in front of the two of you, I looked back directly at you. I saw you looking at your four children together and I felt you wondering if you would see us all grow up. I silently heard you question what would happen to your family if you left us.
In the split second I looked back at you, I saw the disease through your eyes rather than my own.
And never again until now have I truly mourned your death through your perspective: through a mother’s perspective.
The thought of something happening to me and having to leave Everett, feels so absolutely scary, my mind can’t even comprehend it. Or the thought of being pulled away from Chris is equally frightening. Thinking how lost he would be…how sad he would be…how I know he’d try desperately to pick up the pieces with Everett and our house and dinners and plans and all the love I gave that was just gone.
For you, I feel so sorry as your daughter.
I feel even more sorry as a mother.
I want to take the pain I feel now thinking about all of this and rip it out of me, like Dad said on that January day almost exactly eight years ago.
How scared were you for us kids? How scared were you for Dad? Did you worry we would forget you? Did you wonder how we would all turn out without you taking care of us every day anymore? Were you scared about Dad remarrying? Were you sad thinking about all you’d miss? You had to have thought about graduations and weddings and babies and birthday parties and family dinners…
But how could you have missed that all? There is simply no way that you did.
Because when I watch those home movies or read back in my journals, I know with all the truths I can possibly feel in my heart that someone like you would never leave.
A mother could never leave her children. Not one like you, at least. And now I understand that if something ever happens to me, which it will eventually, I will never be gone from my kids. I will never be gone from my husband.
I want to close this entry with one more thing. This is from Everett’s favorite book and I always think of you when I read it to him:
In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…
in the clouds floating by…at the top of a tree…in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…..
“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved”, they all say.
Those words remind me that you’re everywhere, Mom. They remind me that you’re loving me always, just as I am loving you always.
You never left and you never will. You simply transitioned forward and left your physical body behind. I don’t have to look for you, I don’t have to wait for you–you are here, in the green of the grass, in the smell of the sea.