1. It will forever be a part of who you are. This isn’t to say that you introduce yourself with this life detail like, “Hi, I’m Jess and my mom died from cancer”. But it’s sort of like a battle wound: hidden beneath the layers, and invisible to everyone around you. But you can feel it, and it reshapes who you are, how you view the world, and where you go from here.
2. Some days are easier than others. Hard days are really hard, and make it seem like the world is out to get you. But, other days are perfect, and easy, and fun, and just what you need to keep moving forward. The hard days during my mom’s battle with cancer were emotional and devastating, but when we had those good, easy days…they were priceless, and formed new memories for us to look back on.
3. Life is too damn short. My mom was 51 and I was 17 when she passed. We argued at times, and there were moments we couldn’t get along. Being grounded for a month felt like eternity; but, now looking back, those 17 years I had with her seem like they happened in the blink of an eye. Sometimes life is taken for granted. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have, today. It’s all worth appreciating, no matter what.
4. It never really gets easier. I remember at her funeral, a family friend told me “time will heal the pain – it will get easier”. This, unfortunately isn’t true. She’s gone, and she’s not coming back. It’s never any easier to realize that. What does happen, though, is your ability to cope. It gets better. You become stronger. You focus on the good instead of the bad.
5. Good memories are basically gold. I will literally never forget those last few days she was with us. After months of no appetite, she craved everything –we shared some shrimp together for lunch just like old times, and she told me she loved me. I can still hear her voice. All of her silly quirks that used to embarrass me are now things I remind myself of when I’m feeling down. I can still see her crazy dance moves, hear her loud laugh, and see her larger-than-life smile.
6. The bad memories will stick with you. In those 17 years we had together, we fought and disagreed and had moments we didn’t get along. I was a teenager! I said some things that hurt her feelings at times. And, while she forgave me eventually, I will still hold those words close to heart and feel guilty for saying them in the first place. Had I known then what I know now, I would have spent every day telling her how great and awesome she was, instead of wasting breath of petty arguments that really mean nothing today.
7. You need to tell people how you feel. When I was younger, telling my parents that I loved them felt uncomfortable. I’m not sure why. But I couldn’t say it until I saw the writing on the wall. If I didn’t start telling my mom, she would never hear those words from me. I wasted so much time not saying it. I wish I started saying it sooner, so that I didn’t have to squeeze all the “I love you’s” into a few, short years.
8. Sometimes it’s out of your control. Watching someone you love suffer through excruciating pain day-in and day-out is one of the worst experiences you can imagine. You can only stand by, hold their hand, and try to distract them from what they are currently feeling. You feel helpless, and you want to take on the pain for them. Sometimes, all you can do is be there for them.
9. You can always make a difference. You may just be one person in this world, but you can join forces with others. I have made it my life mission to raise money towards finding a cure of cancer, and that’s why I run marathons. My fundraising goals are in memory of my mother, and they will make a difference one day. For someone who needs hope. For someone fighting for their life. For someone like my mother.