In 2009, what I refer to as the worst year of my life, I lost four people that I loved dearly, my cousin, my second mom, my husband and one of my best friends. In that order. My first thought when I sat down to write this was “my husband”. Then I thought of my cousin and my two friends and how much their deaths changed my life. I got through it though because after thinking of the four of them I realized that the greatest loss of my life occurred years before in 1993. I lost my mother to the evils of breast cancer.
I was a young woman, not even 21 yet and pregnant when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I watched her battle it valiantly with very little complaining. I recall the letters and phone calls we had during her battle and she was always reassuring me of how much better she was doing and how good she was feeling. I was so young and foolishly believed her. She was my mom. Moms are always there. She would get better. I, not knowing then what I know now, thought that because they hadn't done surgery on her meant that it wasn't that bad. I didn't realize they didn't do surgery because it was that bad. Even when she was in the hospital for the last five months of her life my mind refused to believe she was dying. When I got the phone call telling me that she wouldn't make it through the night my mind couldn't wrap itself around those words. Several hours later I received the second phone call...she was gone. I was 23. I recall sitting and staring. Nothing seemed real. My friend, Allen, who many years later became my husband, was with me. We had been watching “Lethal Weapon Three”. I just sat there staring. I recall telling him then getting up to make the phone calls to my mother's sisters, her best friend, Dot (my second mom), and several others. I didn't cry.
At her wake I didn't want to go into the room where she was laid out. I couldn't look at my mother in a box. I couldn't see her laying there looking like a wax figure...still, cold with no expression on her face. My mother was always laughing and I couldn't see her in that box and face the reality that she would never open her eyes, never smile, never laugh and never hug me again. My oldest brother put his arm around me and walked with me to her casket. I shut my mind off as I looked at her. I felt tears streaming down my face but I felt like I was walking through a terrible dream.
After her services I came home, to Connecticut and tried to resume my life. I had a very difficult time doing so. I would close my eyes at night and see her lying in that box. To this day I still recall the cloying smell of the flowers surrounding her casket and hate walking into a flower shop. I started drinking to help me go to sleep and to numb my brain. My drinking got to the point that I couldn't wait until my husband got home to take care of our son so that I could get drunk enough to pass out and escape the demons that were chasing me. For three months I lived like that until one day I heard myself lying to someone about how much I was drinking. I took a long, hard look at myself and realized I was turning into my father who was and alcoholic. I refused to do that. I stopped drinking that day and didn't have a drink again for years.
I recall asking Allen one time, “When does it get better?” He told me that in time it would and that one day I would think about her and suddenly realize that it had been days or a week since I had thought of her. I'm still waiting for that day.
In 2009, days after Allen died, I recall talking to someone on the phone. They asked me if there was anything they could do, anything I wanted and I blurted out, “No because I want my mother but she's dead too and that really sucks!” Although it's been 18 years since my mother crossed over I still miss her every day.
Did her death make me stronger? I was already strong. But I had to learn to live with a hole in my heart and without her eternal optimism, her beautiful smile and her laughter. I had to learn to live without the light she brought into my life and the lives of so many people. . For 18 years my life has been a little darker without my mother in my world. And yes, that really sucks!