Today would be my mom’s 87th birthday.
She isn’t here any more – we lost her at the age of 80 to complications from pancreatic cancer. She hadn’t even started her chemo/radiation yet. Once night she complained she wasn’t feeling well. Later that night, she woke my dad and told him to call the doctor. He left the room for a moment, came back and she was gone. Blood clot in the lungs was the informed guess from her physician.
When she died, it was like the center of our world went dark. For my father, 82 at the time and with myriad health issues, the sun had ceased to shine when his wife of 61 years left him behind. For us, it was simply astounding. Mom was the strong one, the capable and steady one. My father was battling so many health woes – cancer, CHF, kidney failure (caused by the cancer treatment!) and all of the minor ills that come with these major deals. Mom was his caregiver; the keeper of binders full of test results and physician notes, the one who handled his dietary needs (considerable, for a dialysis patient), kept all of his doctors straight, doled out the drugs. Sure, my brothers and sister and I helped but she was the rock in the center – all-seeing and all-knowing.
Time to step up. The next year became a whirlwind of cleaning out, organizing care, communicating with everyone and the very difficult task of helping a truly heartbroken old man find a way back to living again. We had Dad for another 2 1/2 years before finally losing him to a stroke.
I think the crazy whirl of activity helping put my dad back together – and keeping him that way, at least while we could – in some ways blunted the grief I felt for my mom. Yes, when it first happened and the shock passed, I sobbed. I found myself in tears at the oddest moments for at least a year. I also found myself on an anti-anxiety medication, but that’s a story for another time. I expect that some day I’ll have to finish my abbreviated trip through the grief process for Mom. Days like today, her birthday, and the feelings that have come over me in waves today make that apparent. It’ll come. In the meantime, I miss you Mom. I still need you.