“But when they went out to bury her, they found only her skull, her feet, and her hands.”
Jezebel’s skull, feet and hands were all that remained of her evil life – no power, no money, no prestige, no royal finery, no family, no spiritual heritage.
In the end, her life of luxury and treachery amounted to nothing.
Power, health, and wealth may make you feel as if you can live forever. But death strips everyone of all external security. The time to set your life’s course is now, while you still have time and before you heart becomes hardened. The end will come soon enough.
-From The New Life Study Bible
Fit in You Faith Today: Do you appreciate life more than power and money and social status? If you stripped away every material thing in your life, would you still consider yourself to be “rich” in your life? As the study guide suggests, it’s never too late to set your life’s course. Our time on earth is never guaranteed.
My mom passed away one year ago today and ever since, I have been adding a little bit here and there to this blog post, knowing I’d want to publish something on the anniversary of her death.
At first I was going to write about her life. And maybe someday I will. But now right now. Today I want tell you the journey she took to her final resting place.
She was diagnosed in August of 2009 with a rare type of T-cell lymphoma. She had already been displaying strange symptoms since March of that year but it took months of tests to finally diagnose her. After 6 rounds of chemotherapy, she was declared to be in remission by her oncologist. We celebrated that Thanksgiving. It seemed it was a miracle, although we were warned this type of cancer could come back in a few years and chemo might not work.
That news did not deter my Mom from living her life as “wild” as a 62year old could. She spent as much time doing things she enjoyed and said YES a lot more than she said NO. She would babysit my nephews more often. She would attend my nephews baseball games and come with us to Cedar Point and went to every wedding and graduation party she was invited to. Lots of lunches and dinners with friends and family as often as possible.
In June of 2012, she started having symptoms again. This time, all the tests came back negative for lymphoma. But it was obvious to all of us, and her, that something wasn’t right. This time instead of a cough and a rash, it was stomach pain. And back pain. And loss of her voice. Although her voice never completely went away, it was probably one of the worst things to happen to her. See, she was quite the gabber. She talked to my sister every morning over the phone for years! She’d chat with friends over lunch, she’d chat with her customers at the bridal store she worked at. That was all gone once she lost her voice. Not to mention the pain she was in was heartbreaking to witness.
Now, I’d come downstairs to see her in the recliner, sleeping, or trying to sleep, and in pain. The worst was the feeling of hopelessness as you watch someone in pain and there’s nothing you can say or do to help. Too sick to go to work. Too tired to go anywhere. Too weak to even move off the recliner. This went on for most of the summer until August when removal of her lymph node confirmed that her cancer was back. It had been a frustrating time since every other test did not show the cancer. But her oncologist said it was the type that hides. Well, it stayed hidden for months.
The chemo this time around was changed slightly to treat the cancer. And after a few treatments it seemed to be working. As anyone who knows someone or is on chemo will tell you, it’s like a rollercoaster. She had her good weeks when she was able to have enough energy to shop and visit with friends and she had bad weeks when it took many days to recover from the chemo.
By the time Christmas came around, it seems as though she took a turn for the worse. It became harder for her to breathe and she seemed weak. She didn’t want to sleep for fear of not waking up. She slept downstairs in the recliner and there was always someone with her at all times. A few days before Christmas she went into the hospital and it didn’t look good. We weren’t sure she would be home for Christmas at all. But she was determined. She knew the situation wasn’t good but she also knew she didn’t want to die in a hospital. She insisted to her doctor that she was going to go home. I believe his initial reaction was, “We’ll see.” But my Mom was quite stubborn. There was no way she was going to miss Christmas.
The situation was so grim, that she actually sat with me in the hospital and told me her final wishes. It wasn’t really a conversation. It was definitely one-sided as she spoke and I cried. She told me the dreams she had for me, she told me how she knew everyone would be okay but that we should look after each other. She did say something quite funny actually: “Michelle, oh you don’t need any man in your life so you’ll be okay.” 🙂 Thanks Mom, ha!
But she also said some sad things like “I don’t think Sean will remember me.”
“I don’t have any regrets in my life…but I do feel like I’m being cheated a little bit. I really wanted to watch Matthew play baseball one more time.”
“I’ve never been afraid of dying and I’ve always been a faithful person…but I’m wondering where is my faith right now?”
“I know this last round of chemo won’t save me. But if I could just have a few more months…”
Well, God heard her prayers, all of our prayers. Because the next day she got the all clear to come home.
The first thing she insisted on doing when we got her home was to finish wrapping the Christmas gifts. She could barely lift the scissors and the tape but she insisted. She was adamant about celebrating Christmas. It was always her favorite holiday, especially to see the look on my nephews faces as they opened up their gifts. And us too.
As we celebrated Christmas that year, it was clear this was going to be her last. You didn’t want to think about it, you didn’t want to believe it. But you knew. And you knew that she knew.
January and February of 2013 were pretty good. We actually had hope for a little bit. The best was when her voice came back. I came down the stairs to the sound of my Mom on the phone with my Aunt. I said, “Your voice Mom!!! It’s back!” She was glowing, she was so excited. It was the first REAL evidence that there was some hope here.
But, most of the time, you could tell she didn’t want to get her hopes up too high. None of us did. I always prayed for her to be healed. To be cured. I couldn’t help but think, “Are my prayers just being ignored? What gives?”
Mom had one more GREAT day. She got to spend it with my aunt at the casino downtown and eating Paczki on Fat Tuesday. She said to my Aunt, “This was the best time I’ve had.” She took this picture of her in the car, with her paczki of course.
It was literally a week or two later that she was fine one day and bad the next. You always hear about how that happens and you always think, “Oh I’m sure they’re exaggerating.” No really, she was really okay one day and the next day she couldn’t breathe. She went in to get the fluid drained from around her lungs and her heart and while she was there she sent all of us a text that said: “Hospice worker coming at one. Can you come?”
Well that pretty much knocked the wind out of me. It was one thing for one of US to think about hospice. But when SHE is initiating it…that changes the ball game.
Ironically, when we all walked in around the same time, my Mom looked better than ever. She looked like she never had cancer. It was the strangest sight. The hospice worker even looked at her like, “Ummm…are you sure you need hospice?”
But that was our Mom’s gift to us. She knew none of us would ever recommend or even say the word hospice unless she said it first. It had to be her decision.
It was clear from talking to hospice that Mom wasn’t quite there yet and she had options.
She came home the next day though and we thought, “Okay maybe she has more time than we thought. Maybe this isn’t so bad.”
About a week later, she was back in the hospital again. This time she couldn’t breathe again, and needed to be drained, again. But as soon as they drained her, shortly thereafter, the fluid was back. It was getting to be too much and they couldn’t keep up with the drainage.
She needed to be put into a wheelchair to get back into the car. And when she came home we needed to help her into the house. That’s when she changed right in front of my eyes.
Her voice became tiny and high pitched, and she said her legs felt “weird” and she said she was ashamed and embarrassed that she needed a wheelchair to get into her own house. We told her not to worry about it but you could tell the life that was inside her was diminishing. I looked at her for the first time and she looked like she aged 20 years in that minute.
Two days later she asked for hospice. She sat there with me and told me “This is no way to live. Call hospice, it’s time.” I didn’t argue with her. I don’t think I even cried. I was more just in shock that this was happening.
I stopped praying for healing or a cure. I knew it wasn’t because God wasn’t answering my prayer, He was trying to tell me I was praying for the wrong thing. This time, I prayed for her to go home.
3 days later, she took her last breath with my Dad at her side. Those three days were quite possibly the most beautiful moments as well as the most awful three days of my life. No one should have to see a loved one dying in front of them. But there were moments from that weekend I will never forget and some day I will write a nice long post about it.
Until then, I take comfort in the memories I have of my beautiful mother. The notes she left us that we found at Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas. The pictures of her around this huge empty house. The sound of her voice and her laugh that I still have on saved voicemails and videos. And of course, the look on people’s faces when they speak about her. I have given up trying to tell people how amazing she was. They simply will never know her and as much as it hurts and pains me to know that YOU will never know who she was, it’s okay now. She lives on in me and my sister and my brother and my nephews. So if you ever want to get to know her, just ask me.
When I get asked that question lately the subject always goes to the competition. Always. And I’m not tired of talking about it….yet.
Everyone wants to know what I’m doing, what I’m eating, how I’m working out, how do I stay on track, who’s your coach, how many weeks left, where is it, how much are tickets, what time will you be on stage??? The questions keep coming and I keep answering them with a smile on face, eager to share all the exciting news and information.
But when I’m alone, and no one is asking how I’m doing, I think about Mom. I think it’s normal to think of her, especially when it’s quiet, when there’s not much going on. OR when you’re counting down the hours until your next meal. 😉
But, unfortunately, the more I think about her, the more I miss her. The more I miss her, the more upset I get. And I get upset when I realize how much she’s missing out on.
She’s not here to watch me practice in my heels traipsing around the house in my bikini practicing my posing.
She’s not here to see me cook and prep my food and perhaps ask for a taste of something for herself.
She’s not here to take my progress photo’s and tell me my bikini is crooked or my hair is a little bit off.
She’s not here to tell me what she thinks about my ideas for the website or the book I want to write someday or the team I want to build after this is over.
She’s not here to tell me what kind of jewelry I should wear for the competition or how I should do my hair or what color my suit I would look best in.
She’s not here now and she won’t be there in October and she won’t be around to celebrate when it’s done.
And it sucks.
It’ll be the first of many “She’s not here” moments and there are going to plenty afterwards. There have been many already.
But I do pray that on that day I feel her around me, cheering me on, whispering in my ear to keep going, to not be nervous, to do my best.
I hope and pray she’ll be there. In the audience, smiling and beaming, proud and happy for her daughter.
This post is going a bit way off subject from the theme of my blog but I’m sure you will all forgive me this one time.
The subject is writing – And yes even though this is a blog, it’s far from what I would consider writing for me. I used to write on a regular basis. And by write I mean writing actual words on a piece of paper with a writing utensil, not typing. In fact it’s one of the jobs I thought I would actually have as an adult when I graduated college. I wanted to write ads. Even after my internship at an advertising agency I still had the “itch” to write but I suppose I had a bigger itch to move to Chicago and see what life was like there. And writing took a backseat.
This past weekend I went on a retreat for people in their 20’s and 30’s who are going through a “Transition.” It was advertised in my church bulletin a couple months ago and I recall telling my Mom that I really wanted to attend this retreat and she was so happy for me.
Everyone who knew my Mom, knew she always prayed for anyone in need. When she was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009, she received so many cards from friends and family praying for her and sending her well wishes. Lo and behold, months later she was in remission. The prayers were answered. This last time around was no different. Cards came pouring in. We kept all of them and I read them to her shortly before she passed at her bedside.
But what was the most amazing thing is that my Mom herself sent cards and prayed quite frequently – Thank You Cards, Birthday Cards, Just a note to say Hi cards…you name it, she sent them.
So this weekend while I was at the retreat, we had alot of quiet reflection time where we wrote answers to questions regarding the subject matter we had just heard. Then we discussed what we thought. Well, I didn’t do much writing at all because I did better “talking” my thoughts rather than writing them.
But then on the last day of the retreat, we were asked to write our own Personal Creed. I sat in my room and just started free thinking…free writing? Scribbling down some thoughts here and there and before you knew it I had a rough draft. The rest came pretty easily to me. So here it is!
Sorry it’s so small but if you click on it you should be able to see it.
I’m pretty happy with it. The best part was sharing it with my small group and getting their feedback which was all positive. The only question I got was: “Is this how you see yourself living your life NOW? Or is it a goal of how you WANT to live your life?”
Before she even finished the question I answered: “It’s the goal, this is how I want to live.”
I suppose it’s come full circle: Even though I’m not at my goal yet of being “stage-ready,” I’m constantly working to get there. As with my faith, although I am not living this Creed at this moment, I feel like I’m getting closer to it. I would have to say Mom has a lot to do with it. I definitely felt her presence at the retreat.
Before I end, I must share this random cute story:A co-worker of mine found my Mom’s prayer card from the wake on the seat of her car as she headed into work this morning. Funny thing is, she has no idea how it got there. I had given her a thank you card with my Mom’s prayer card INSIDE of it, but she didn’t even see it. The best part is, she was having a bad day so seeing my Mom’s smiling face on her car seat gave her a little boost to her day. My mom has that effect on people, even now. 🙂