I haven't posted for a long time.
Mostly it had to do with life getting in the way, as it often does. But lately it has gotten in the way in the most devastating way possible. On September 22, my mother was diagnosed with Stage Four lung cancer. She was not a smoker or in any of the other normal at-risk groups; she was just very unlucky. After six weeks of struggle, often surrounded by armies of friends and family, she passed away on November 2.
About this I will have a lot more to say at another time, including a discussion of my emotions and my own final words, not to mention my mother's final words. (Let's just say they were almost something that would have been both funny and a bit obscene.) But for now, I'd like to talk about my sister Kathy.
Kathy was, of all six of us, the closest by far to Mom. A visiting nurse like Mom--indeed employed by the same association from which Mom retired only a few years ago--Kathy finally sold her own home and moved in with Mom to take care of her when it became clear that advancing dementia would no longer allow her to be on her own. Thus it was Kathy who was with her all of the time, who talked with her and walked with her, who essentially shared a life with her. And it was Kathy who lost the most when the diagnosis came that began to take her away.
Kathy's immediate reaction was to take time off from work indefinitely so that she could care for Mom. As Mom deteriorated, it was Kathy who dealt with it, who had to hear her moaning in the night, who understood the depth of the pain none of the rest of us--who saw her in the daylight when the meds had kicked in--could even begin to fathom until later, when we arrived in the final weeks to stay and help with 24/7 care.
My sister is the hero of a story that ends with sadness, as this story always had to end. Without her love, patience, guidance, kindness, and gentleness, Mom's final weeks would never have been as positive an experience as they were. It was Kathy who made it her job to keep Mom's pain under control, Kathy who watched out for times when things were getting to be too much, Kathy with her nearly intuitive connection to Mom who kept her as happy as it was possible for her to be as her time approached.
A month or so before she died, Mom asked Kathy to write her a poem to be read at her funeral. Over three very difficult days last week, Kathy did so. The first time I read it, I cried. Kathy, who cries way more easily than I do, somehow made it through reading it in the church. But everyone thought it was beautiful. And I'm sure Mom did as well.
TO MY SWEET BEAUTIFUL MOTHER
I express my thoughts through poetry,
what I’m thinking, how I feel.
At times it brings me happiness,
at times it helps me heal.
I realize as I search for words,
in the stillness of the night.
By far this is the hardest poem
I have ever had to write.
I solely dedicate this poem,
to a person like no other,
To my best friend and treasured gift,
my sweet and precious mother.
I love you deeply with all my heart,
I will miss you every day.
I struggle for the answer…… Why?
Why were you called away?
We had so many other things
still left for us to do,
I would have done them earlier…
if I had only knew.
I’ve never felt a pain like this,
like a knife that twists and turns.
A constant feeling of despair,
like a fire it burns.
I’ll miss the way we shared our day
and our quiet evening talks.
I’ll miss kissing you goodnight,
I’ll miss our morning walks.
I’ll miss the feeling of your hand,
gently wrapped in mine.
I wish I had the strength and power
to forever turn back time.
Although my world is torn apart
with the emptiness I feel,
I pray to God every day
that time will help me heal.
You spoke of God and heaven,
and how you weren’t afraid to die.
You said it's just a part of life
as moments passed us by.
You fought so bravely until the end
as the days began to turn.
Unselfishly your children were
your number one concern.
You always showed your love for us,
we knew how much you cared.
I know that I’ll find comfort
in the memories that we shared.
But as for now, although we seem
so very far apart,
You will always be right her with me,
forever in my heart.