I can tell you how many birthday or holidays have passed since my mom died, or how long she's been gone. Dates and numbers go through my mind, especially at certain times of year. It's one of the ways I remember my mom, always wishing she was still here with me.
Six years ago today, my mom was still with us. She was very sick and in a lot of pain, but she was here and I could pick up the phone and talk to her. My mom ended up in the hospital on October 15, 2008, had surgery on October 20th, came home from the hospital on October 23th, and then died three and a half weeks later on November 16, 2008. Some people may think I am odd or weird for remembering these dates. It's what I call the numbers game.
My Numbers Game
I am good at the “numbers game.” It’s funny because I am not very good at math and barely made it through my required high school classes and my one college math course. But when it comes to dates, phone numbers, the day I met someone, birthdays, anniversaries, or how long it has been since something happened I can tell you, sometimes down to the exact day.
Sadly, I became really good at this numbers game after my mom died.
I often think about my parents, my grandparents, my kids, and basically how much time we had together. I was almost 31 years old when I lost my first grandparent. But my son was only 9 and my daughter was 2 when their beloved grandmother died. My mom was 62 years old when she lost her mother; I was 39.
I know many people reading this blog were a lot younger than I was when they lost their parent. Trust me when I tell you that I am grateful I had 39 years with my mom. I just wish it could have been more, and I wish many of those years had been different. Both of my mom's parents were 92 when they died, so I never thought I would lose my mom at age 65. I always thought I had more time. It was something I took for granted and shouldn't have because now my mom is gone. The time you spend with someone is important, and my mom's death has caused me to look at a lot of things differently, especially myself.
My “numbers game” may not be the healthiest or sanest thing for me to do, but I can’t help it. Sometimes certain numbers and dates just run through my mind. But with this game of dates, numbers, and, ultimately, time, comes anger and sadness. I look at my kids and see how much they have grown and matured since my mom died. I think of all the family get togethers and fun times my mom has missed with us. I think of how my kids were robbed of time with a wonderful grandmother. I think about how much life has changed without my mom in it. I think of how my mom should still be here with us, getting ready for the upcoming holidays.
I will always believe that my mom was taken from her family way too early. Even my daughter says at times that it’s not fair that she didn’t really get any time with Grandmom, and that breaks my heart. My mom was always so full of life, and there was so much she wanted to do with life and her family, but then pancreatic cancer came and destroyed so many dreams and memories that could have been.
Always in My Heart
Things have gotten easier in terms of my mom’s death. The ever-present cloud of grief has drifted away, leaving me to feel at peace. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish my mom were still here with her family, or that I don’t miss her. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my mom in some way, and there will always be a place in my heart for her.
This is a difficult time of year for me. Starting with my mom's birthday on September 17th through the holidays, I struggle a bit more until the new year comes. For me, this is the time of year when my mom's illness worsened. It's the time of year when I watched a horrific disease change my vibrant mom into a walking skeleton and then steal her life. The coming holidays are the ones my mom loved to celebrate with her family. The holidays she made so special for us. Memories flood my heart and mind because, even after 6 years, I still miss my mom. I always will.
I promise you that things do get better after losing a parent. It may not seem so at first, but slowly you heal and life returns to a new normal. Sometimes living in this new normal is not easy, but we adjust and adapt.
It's natural to think of the past.
Some days you just need to take things one day, or even minute, at a time.
It is ok to think about the parent you lost, to miss him or her, to remember the times you spent together, and to wish that your mom or dad was still here. That wish, the wish the that my mom was still here with me, will forever be within my heart.