Twelve years ago my life was irrevocably altered when my mother passed away from cancer. Before her diagnosis I was living in the house we had built four years prior. It was decorated in the style of college dorm meets daycare. There was crayon on the walls, stickers on the sliding glass doors and Barbie jeeps in the yard. My son was just a baby and I was enjoying my days of breaking up fights between little girls and gazing at this beautiful son God had blessed us with that wasn't planned but was such a gift to us. I couldn't get enough of his tiny toes and making him giggle by blowing on his belly. My mother couldn't believe a boy could be so wonderful having had brothers and I couldn't either having had no experience at all and being an only child.
We had had some struggles but we were finding our stride. We were watching more and more houses being built in our neighborhood and making some friends in the community. I had the family I never knew I always wanted and while I was a floundering fish when it came to having all the answers in raising children I couldn't imagine anything could change what we had finally achieved.
I remember the headaches were what started it all. I remember the rush to the hospital and the look in the doctor's eye when he broke the news that it was cancer and it was advanced to stage 4. I remember the shift. The look on my mom's face of total disbelief and shock. I remember the appointments that followed. I remember the argument with the doctor over whether she would lose her hair or not. I remember the yell from the shower when her hair was indeed coming out and that it was a friend that took her to get her first of many wigs. I remember eggs and how she always wanted eggs after treatments. I remember the day that I went to her room and she didn't know me, her only child who had been caring for her. I remember when her mind came back from wherever she had been and her yelling at me because she had missed a party. I remember the remission and how short it was. I remember taking her to the doctor and begging him to fix it and him asking me what happened. I remember saying I needed help.
I remember the nurse visits and July coming and asking if she would make it to my birthday it was only two weeks away. I remember the hot sunny July 13th that my family spent in our pool and checking to see if my mom would rebound and be able to speak to me....always checking. I remember being so tired and peeking in on her and she appeared to just be sleeping and my baby was finally asleep and laying down to rest for just a little while. I remember my mother in law waking me and asking me if I had checked and saying yes she was asleep and her telling me to call the nurse. I remember staying by her side through the night and watching a lightening show outside the window of her room in my house and for once not being afraid of the storm outside because my fear of what was coming inside the house had already started to take hold. I remember feeling Jesus at the foot of her bed and looking to see if I could see him and taking her hand and telling her best friend to take her hand because it was coming to an end. I remember feeling the life leave her body. I remember calling the nurse and the funeral home coming to take her away. I remember the next day and the day after that. I remember the funeral and coming home and falling to the floor surrounded by funeral flowers and that is when I checked out.
I went through the motions for two years and then with God's help I checked back into my life. I couldn't escape the pain and loss and I couldn't hide from life any more. I started making jewelry, I got involved in MOPS and later helped at preschool. Time started to move quickly but would slow down every year in July. I started writing this blog before I really understood the purpose of it. In the writing I found healing. July being the crux of it all. I'm not sure if it would have been easier if it hadn't all happened literally right before my birthday or not or if she had passed in a hospital. Those are questions I will have when I meet Jesus face to face.
I moved 1100 miles away from everything I've ever known. I moved for several reasons but it didn't escape my notice that it was the ultimate escape from every reminder that I could possibly encounter. That's the thing about grief really, it has a way of finding you no matter how far you run. July 13th and 14th will come every year no matter what until Jesus returns. This year I sit under an outdoor fan and my view is of a pool with the difference being there is a palm tree just beyond it. My great escape. I regret not one bit of this escape to my version of paradise. Not how difficult it was to get a drivers license, not how scary the roads can be, not even knowing exactly seven people in all of the state. My great escape wasn't really about running away this time. It was about running to a possibility. An idea that life could be more than what I had made it no matter how comfortable I finally became with it all. A what if....God has more for me than what I've allowed myself. A separation from the comfortable and predictable and an idea that the fear had had its hold on me for too long.
I remember all of it 12 years later. Grief finds you but it doesn't have to disable you like it did me for far too long. I miss my mom every day. I miss arguing with her, shopping with her, eating with her, talking to her on the phone. I miss her calling me 'Heth' and asking me 'what do you want to do next kong?' I miss that to her my birthday was a big deal and the one time that I was sure I wasn't a mistake. No one else can do that for you but your mom. I have no one left from my side of the family that calls to check in. I am blessed that God had that covered with the husband and kids and in laws that he gave me to do that. So yes, I'm still sad and I still kind of hate July. This year though I'm counting my blessings and watching the wind blow the palm tree and saving my tears for later and not allowing them to take over. This great escape has more to offer.