“My mother is going to die.” I’m repeating this sentence to myself as I slowly dance around my kitchen, cradling a glass of her favorite scotch and humming along to my neighbor’s music.
This morning, when my mom told me that she was going to die, I was surprised. I knew before she told me, but I was somehow still surprised. She spent the better part of a decade battling pervasive breast cancer, tolerating treatments and losing weight at extreme lengths. She’s always maintained a positive demeanor, but her appearance couldn’t hide the progress the disease was making through her body.
She sent me an email this afternoon, explaining the details she’s planned out for her funeral. She said that she didn’t want me to have to plan it all after she’s gone.
It’s no surprise that our parents will die. We’ve been taught the circle of life since early childhood and we’ve been raised on the reality that, some day, we will all end up in the ground. Pets were “sent to live on farms” and grandparents “left to be with the angels” but there’s no euphemism for death so close to home.
I sat in front of my laptop looking at the list of florists and I wondered if I was going through denial. Despite how natural death really is, the idea of losing someone forever just doesn’t sit right. I looked up the different stages of grief and tried to figure out what I should be feeling. I decided to start mentally preparing myself for a life without my mom, and it just seems so wrong. I feel guilty missing her before she’s even gone, but I can’t help it.
The Internet is brimming with self-help advice and detailed information on how to cope with grief. I appreciate that others were able to leave something behind so we wouldn’t have to go through this alone, but its not enough to make the situation bearable. If anything, it makes me think of all the people who’ve gone through greater loss. It seems sick to compare the magnitude of deaths, but losing a child seems far less natural than losing a parent. I’ll miss my mom dearly, but at least she led a full and robust life before leaving.
I took a break from the Internet to look through our old photos, trying to pick out the best ones for her memorial. I liked the ones from my first birthday party where she baked me a cake that looked like a carousel, and the ones from our family vacation to Mexico where we bought matching bracelets that said our names on them. I decided to leave out the pictures from the time I took her to a music festival and she taught me how to roll a joint, but I kept it in the back of my mind because I know she’d love it.
Now that I’ve grown up and moved out, I don’t rely on my mom the same way I used to. I know that I’ll survive without her but that doesn’t mean I’ll be okay. I’m lucky that she lived long enough to raise me and see me graduate from college, but she won’t be around to cry at my wedding or see the birth of my child. She’s going to miss so much and that breaks my heart.
I can’t cry anymore, so tonight I’m practicing how to be okay. “My mom is going to die,” and I’m going to live. I’ll be around for years to come, and the best tribute I can pay her is achieving success. She taught me so many things that I’ll teach my daughter when she asks about her grandma. Tonight, I will dance around my kitchen and drink to all the qualities that make my mom such an amazing woman.
Tonight, I will be okay on my own. Tomorrow, I will grieve the loss of my favorite person.