January 13, 2003 is a day that will go down in history engraved in my heart forever. It is the day my mom lost her battle with cancer. A battle that started in 1984. A battle that has shaped my life and outlook on everything that happens to me and others.
After 15 years without my mom I never could have imagined that the biggest feeling I have today is gratitude for the 22 years I got to have with her. After years of struggling to cope with her sickness today I recognize that her battle has made me appreciate so much more than I ever could imagine in my own life.
Nobody is entitled to anything. We are lucky for anything and everyone we have in our lives.
If I could go back in time and take the cancer out of her body I would in a blink but I can’t. After years of battling these thoughts I have found peace with what was and what is. Does it mean I never get sad and never miss her? Absolutely not. But it is not all the time anymore. When I do think of her the memory can pop in and out of my brain for a second. I don’t hold onto the feeling and never let go like I used to. Do I wish she could meet her grandchildren, play with them, get to love them? 100% of course I do. But the cancer didn’t have my family raise our hands and vote whether or not it should enter our lives. It did to us what it does to so many families.
I wish I could say it was a short journey to find peace with the cancer that aggressively attacked her. It was anything but short. It was filled with ungodly amounts of fear and anxiety. Not just during the years she was alive but after she passed.
One would think the fear during her living years is expected. Fear of how many more months will we get with her. Fear of the unknown. Fear of will it spread more. Fear what if the chemo doesn’t work. Fear of how will I live without the person who loves me more than anything.
But the fear after she passed consumed my life beyond anything I could have anticipated. Until you have lost such a significant human in your life it’s hard to explain or even comprehend what that hole in your heart feels like. To NEVER get to see them, call them, talk to them, share some good news, share bad news….whatever it is you NEVER get to do it again. To truly feel and comprehend NEVER is an enormous concept. This is where it gets tricky.
Once you know how it feels to experience that kind of pain you really don’t ever want to feel it again.
At least that is how my brain reacted. What does that mean? Well, it means you stop doing pretty much most things in life out of fear something will happen that will take your day as you know it away from you. After having kids, I was a disaster. Terrified something would happen to my children if I was not careful enough. Anything and everything you see as a potential fatal situation. It makes living hard. It’s hard to get through the day when all you can see is everything that could go terribly wrong.
Then there was a time after my mom died I did the polar opposite. I said “f*ck it” (this is before I was married) and I did whatever the hell I felt like because I felt I was just going to die anyways so I was going to challenge death and live my life knowing something was going to eventually kill me regardless. I felt at the time “I would rather die living then live my life dying.” This is a story for another day.
I have been writing for many years on this topic of loss. Long before I ever started blogging publicly and sharing these thoughts. Back in the day it was just me and my computer screen. Nobody else ever saw what I wrote. I pulled up a file I wrote in 2009 the other day. Six years after I lost my mom. The entire post is me raging with unapologetic anger. My words like venom on the paper. The tops of my hands getting hit with tears as I wrote back then. Filled with fury. So mad at the cancer, so mad at the doctors that couldn’t make her better, mad at the side effects from the drugs that did not work, mad that they did work well enough to destroy whatever healthy cells she had. So mad I could never call her. So mad that she left me in this world without her. So mad the cancer didn’t give her a choice. I wanted to tear the hospital down. My blood boiled daily. It took everything I had not to breakdown regularly. I felt entitled to have a healthy mother, I felt it was a part of life. Let me save everyone the suspense…..Living here on this earth healthy is a gift. It is not owed to any of us. It is not guaranteed. So if you are healthy get busy living. Chase your dreams as crazy as they sound. Chase them even if people tell you they are unattainable. Because this I promise you, a day will come and you no longer will be able to. I can’t tell you if it will be when you are 90 or in nine days but it will come. So get busy living!!!
What else I can tell you with certainty is if you lose someone in your life it might always hurt when you think of them but as time passes you will get better at coping. I promise you. You will get better at handling the emotions that come with it as long as you work on it. If you want to find a way then you will.
I try to make my life today as healthy as I can. Hopefully, I get to be on this ride of life as long as possible and physically able to do as much as I can for as long as I can. But even with that there is no guarantee. My advice…live, love, enjoy today. Find a balance so if you are lucky and you get to have a long healthy life you can have a body that can move and jump as you age. So you can do more with your life, see more, and be part of more events comfortably. That is my plan but as we all know god may have a completely other path for me.
Today and every single day. I remind myself of this:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
I wish you acceptance, courage, and wisdom on your journey.