January 27, 2017. My mother would be 84 today. She died when she was 62. I often think, she was just done. She seemed a bit tired of living. Just before she died, she decided to quit radiation for her brain tumor. Chemo never was an option and the radiation was purely to extend her life by days, weeks or months. Years were never part of the conversation.
So she said she was done with radiation. I asked if she realized that she would die. She said she did. She said she could be in heaven with my father or on earth with my sister and I. It was up to God, as He had work for her in either place. It was like she had had an entire conversation with God. They had chatted and He said, “JoAnne just let me know what you want to do and I’ll make it happen.”
Radiation ended, we had this conversation, and 6 days later, she was gone. Just like God and her had a deal.
At sunset today, we walked on the Cambria beach with its rocky coastline and vibrant blue water. The sand was littered with drift wood and new pathways were evident where runoff waters made their way to the ocean – evidence of the recent California rains. My mother loved the ocean. She loved the rocks, the seagulls, lighthouses and the crashing surf. She spent many years as a seascape artist, working in oils capturing the vision of what she loved so much.
It seemed fitting to walk on the beach on her birthday. I miss her. In my world, she was a force – unique, eccentric, artistic, brighter than bright, funny, silly, sharp and insanely intuitive. By the time, I was 15, she was my worst enemy. Two females living in one house. The adult mom and the 15-year-old who thought she knew it all. Oh my, when I think about my disrespect and sass. Ugh.
By 19, she became my best friend. And I became her sidekick in business and in life. What I wouldn’t give to go back and spend some time with her just talking about her dreams and wishes, and memories. In the months that she was dying, we had very sweet times. Every day I made homemade bread so she could have bread and strawberry jam for breakfast. She would sit in the family room, in front of the fire place and watch TV – usually something inane like Barney, the big purple dinosaur. But at the time Barney and Snicker bars made her happy. Brain cancer is a weird disease. So be it.
I knew when my mother died that in some unexplained way she would still be with me. But I also knew from that day forward I would be a different person. It may be viewing our own mortality or seeing someone we love so dearly and whom we’ve relied on our entire lives, pass. The loss of a parent is overwhelming. At that moment, you are thrust into full adulthood – no matter what your age. The person who was there at your beginning is gone and you are on your own…an adult.
Maybe it was more so for me, as my mom was my sole parent with my dad dying at a young age. Nonetheless, losing a parent changes you. I don’t think we can ever truly be ready, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of stage in life. When a parent dies, it pushes us to to evaluate our own lives. What’s important, what’s trivial, what needs to be said, what needs to be done. In a sense, the death of a parent gives us the gift of birth into a new life. As they pass, we have the profound opportunity to look at our own life and decide if we will live our life like our parent did. It can be sobering.
As I think about it now…
- I am glad she never saw me divorce, though she had warned me I was marrying an alcoholic.
- I am glad she didn’t witness by road of infertility.
- I am glad she wasn’t here to watch her business, then my business, burn.
- I am glad she wasn’t here to witness 9/11.
- I am glad she wasn’t here to see our men and women go back to war.
- I am sorry she didn’t get to see her grandchildren (my nephews) grow up, almost as much as I am sorry they didn’t get to know this incredible, fun and bright woman.
- I am sorry she didn’t get to experience the internet. She had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, she would have devoured the internet.
- I am sorry she didn’t get to know my husband (2nd) Mick. Oh my gosh, they would have locked into nonstop conversation and solved all the world problems – economic, political, social, environmental and global.
- I am sorry she didn’t get to meet me after I found myself and knew who I was.
- I sorry she’s not here to hear how often I say, “My mother used to say …”
- Mostly, I am sorry she didn’t get to experience one more sunset, one more Barney show and one more snicker bar.
- I am sorry one more year is going by where she’s not here to celebrate our birthdays together.
I miss you, mom. Happy Birthday. Give daddy a kiss for me.