Grieving; Losing My Mother
A short story of a great loss; My Mom
So after reading a few topic related Hub-pages today, I decided to write about the recent loss of my mother and how it has impacted my life over the last few months.
My mother and I had not always had the perfect mother and daughter relationship; I was a rotten teenager and young adult. Overtime and as I grew older we became close. I guess our turning point [more my turning point] was when she had her first heart attack in March 2003. I was scared to death; I had worked on the Intensive Care Unit where she was the previous year and knew all about the seriousness of heart conditions. I also knew that if you were getting admitted to the ICU it also meant you had a 50/50 survival rate. I know that sounds terrible to say but it's just another days work in the nursing world. A few days after getting stents put in she went back to the hospital; this time it was a minor stroke. Another scare that worried all of my family. When my mom finally came home my whole attitude change toward her. This situation some what changed my mother too; a woman who was usually high strung about everything in life seemed to have a more "relaxed" attitude toward everything now. I feel bad that it took the thought of her being out of my life to bring us closer. But at the same time I'm glad we had a chance to bond.
My Mom & I
My mom and I grew closer over time. She lived less than 5 miles away from me so I would visit her everyday and if I absolutely couldn't visit I made sure to call her. I would take my mother to all of her appointments and run her errands with her. During these times with my mother I began asking her questions about her life that I didn't know. I had realized that she never really spoke of her childhood and I was curious of my mother's background. I also wanted to be able to tell my children stories of my mom growing up. She loved talking to me about it, I could see it in her eyes as she reminisced of her childhood growing up in the Philippines. You could tell these were memories she didn't get a chance to revisit often and I'm glad she had a chance to share them with me. By her telling me her life's story I understood why she was the way she was; a strong, independent, hardworking woman. Doing whatever she had to do to make it and take care of her family. Now knowing all of my mother's struggles and obstacles she had to overcome I looked at her like, "My God, I think/thought I have it hard." When actually I had no idea. I am happy I had these chances to talk to her about her life and grow closer together.
In the summer of 2005, my mother decided to move to Texas where she had her first brand new home built. I was sad my mom moved so far away but that is what she wanted at the time. So we continued our connection through phone calls made almost everyday. When she could(She was now on dialysis and it was difficult to make arrangements to accommodate her and her treatments) and afford to she would come to visit us in Virginia. My children and I loved her visits. My boys [especially my youngest] would be thrilled when she came into town and wouldn't want to leave her side while she was visiting.(Maybe that was because "Nani" spoils everyone)
Time continued to pass and we continued our many telephone conversations over the next couple of years. Up until last year...
Last November (2007) I remember having a phone conversation with my mother the day after Thanksgiving. That Friday when she called she joked around with me saying, "Hey, I'm just calling to let you know, I'm still here." I laughed and joked with her back saying, "I'm still here in Virginia too." [An inside joke to us because I was supposed to be moving to Georgia and it took longer than I anticipated] She proceeded to clarify her statement by saying, "No, I mean I'm still here, you can call me." (Keep in mind we spoke Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving. For some reason we couldn't catch her on the day of Thanksgiving, so I left a message) I chuckled again and replied, "Well you know Mom I heard there's ways people can contact you." Following quickly with, "Never-mind I'll end up in a mental institution, scared to death if you call when you're gone." She started cracking up saying, "What am I going to do with you?" We both continued to laugh and talking for a while. Come to think of it now she also called my the very next day in the morning, Saturday, while I was at work and I chit-chatted with her then too.
On Wednesday, November 28, 2007, my mom called me from the hospital. She told me that her heart was acting up and she wasn't sure what it was exactly, but wanted to let me know that she was in the hospital. Over the years it wasn't anything really new to hear she was in the hospital anymore; it more so became part of her life. But for some reason I had an eerie feeling something was not right. I began to ask her questions but she was rushed off of the phone when the doctors came into her emergency room. I found it odd too, that she did not obey hospital rules and called me from her cell phone anyway. I did not hear back from my mom for the rest of the night. When I woke up Thursday morning I began to worry and decided to call her phone. There was no answer and I had no clue what hospital she was at. I kept trying throughout my work day to reach her; I was unsuccessful. It was almost time to leave work and my office phone rang and I saw her number on the Caller ID; so I answered. To my surprise it was not my mother but my sister-n-law. She called to give me my mom's status and because she saw me trying to call so many times. She began to tell me that basically her heart was beating irregularly and that she would have to stay in the hospital for 30 days to get it back on track. I was sad to know that she had to stay in the hospital for so long, but was happy she would get to live and go home eventually.
I went to work Friday just as normal and again as I was getting ready to leave my office phone rang and this time I noticed that it was my brother in Texas calling me. (This will be a moment I never forget in my life.) My brother began by telling me to sit down, then told me that the doctor's told him that her condition had gotten worse and she now only has 24-48 hours to live. I felt my heart break at that very moment. My whole life with my mother flashed before my eyes and I broke down into the hardest cry I may have ever had. I couldn't even talk to my brother anymore and got off of the phone. When I collected myself together, I left work and went home to share the news to my brother (whom I lived with at the time) and my sister in Indiana. Everyone wanted to keep hope alive that she would make it through this tough time again, but I felt very different. I felt very strong that this was it, this was actually going to happen in matter of hours.
That evening my siblings and I did 3-way conversations so that we could all talk to my mom together one last time. I don't know how many times we said I love you to one another that night or how many I'm sorry's were said, I do know it was not enough. All I can really recall from that emotional conversation was my mother asking where I was at a couple of times. I feel like she knew by my silence how hurt and scared I was about what was going to inevitably happen. I just kept telling her, "I'm right here mom and I love you so much!" I didn't want her to hear how hard I was crying either. My mom the strong woman she is kept trying to talk to everyone but eventually had to get off, but before she did she said to me, "I love you, you make sure you take care of those two boys." And that was it; my last conversation with my mother ever in life.
Saturday, December 1, 2007 my siblings and I were trying to make arrangements to travel to Texas to see my mother before anything happened. My sister and I had been calling on and off all morning to check on my mom and her status to find out she was no longer talking to anyone. We continued to call about every half hour for updates. It was sometime in the afternoon when my sister and I tried to call again and this time we couldn't get any information and they transferred us to her room phone. My brother answered the phone and said to us, "Mom has left us." I must've cried like a baby. I ran to my brother in the other room and told him and we just hugged each other and cried. We had been packing all morning to go so that we could see her before she passed but we didn't make it in time.
This is the most painful thing I have ever endured in my life. My mom is now gone; and now there wouldn't be anymore phone calls. There would no longer be any funny little messages on my phone with my moms Filipina voice talking to me. I would not get a chance to see her in her new house that she was so proud of. All these things that were routine in my life are now gone suddenly without any immediate warning.
That same Saturday, my brother and I found the strength within and went ahead with our 2 day road trip to Texas. Many miles, hours, and tears later we finally arrived at my mother's new home in San Antonio, Texas. I finally saw her home that she spoke so often of with my own eyes. It was so beautiful, she had all her different colored rose bushes(Her favorite) throughout her front yard that she planted and told me about. As I walked up to the porch I could see the chair that she would often sit in and call me from. I began to cry as I saw everything that she once told me about during our phone conversations.
As I walked inside, I looked around her house I looked at all the old photos of myself and my siblings she had on display. I looked at all the furniture and her knick-knacks that I grew up with and began to cry some more. I wandered around my mom's house looking at how everything was left. I guess I was trying to see if she knew that she wasn't coming back home at all. Her bed was left unmade; there was a cup of water sitting by the kitchen sink, and a butter knife that still had butter on it, in the sink. There were also tons of leftovers in the refrigerator. My mom was a very clean person who always at least fixed her bed everyday. So I came to the conclusion that she thought she was coming back home that Wednesday and never had the chance to.
This visit to her house was so surreal; the whole time I was in her house I kept having this vision of her walking out of her room any minute excited to see us there in Texas. I did not want to face the reality of what actually happened. The whole week I was there in Texas, I don't think that my mother's passing totally sunk into my head, even with all of the funeral planning and sorting through her belongings. I didn't want to face my reality.
We had my mother's funeral Friday, December 7, 2007. This would be my first opportunity to view my mother's body since she passed. As my brother and I neared the church the whole car was quiet, even the children. No one had anything to say at all. I think that's because we were trying to mentally prepare ourselves for what we were about to see for the first time. I remember my brother took his time going in and that I couldn't wait to go; so I, along with my sons went inside the church. When we walked in an usher handed me some tissues and a bulletin for my mother's service. I looked towards the alter and saw the pink casket donned with the pink lilies I picked out for her. I slowly started to walk down the aisle with my boys by side to see my mother for the last time.
The tears poured down my face as I neared the casket. My sons and I approached the casket to see my mother and say our final goodbyes. By this time I broke down and my sister came to my side and just started hugging and holding me. I couldn't say or do anything other than stare at my mom. I just kept looking at her like, "Wake up! Wake up, please!" I held my mom's hand and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She was so cold to the touch. A body that was full of life and warmth was gone. Even if I shake her she won't wake up I told myself. There's nothing that I could do to fix this situation and make it better. I sat there looking at her knowing deep down inside I have to accept this and that in this matter I don't have a choice. No matter how much I cry, beg, hope and wish, my mother was not coming back.
The Mass was beginning so I went ahead to my seat, my boys on either side of me. As the service started, I couldn't even pay attention to what the priest was saying; I just continued to stare at the pink casket that was surrounded by beautiful flowers. It was about midway during the Mass and the priest had me and my siblings come to the casket to say our final goodbye to our mother. We each looked at her one last time, said our I love you's, and said goodbye. The pall bearers came up to my mother's casket and began to close it and tighten the top down; this was very hard to watch. Because that was it, that was the very last time I ever saw my mother's face. The Mass continued from this point like a regular Catholic service; like the readings, gospel, choir songs, "Our Father" prayer, and communion. Except this time when we left we would take my mom to her final resting place in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.
As we were in the funeral procession, I remember Dobie Gray playing softly in the background; the song Drift Away was on.[I still get extremely upset when I hear that song] I watched the hearse driving in front of us, and still couldn't believe nor wanted to accept what was happening. The hearse turned into the cemetery as I began to let the tears flow again this time it was accompanied by this huge, painful feeling lump in my throat. I began crying so hard I started to get the uncontrollable"twitches" you get from crying like a little kid. We pulled near where my mother's grave was and parked behind the hearse. I could now see the green awning and green covered chairs waiting for all of us. I slowly started to exit our vehicle to walk to what would be one of the saddest moment's I would ever have in life.
My sons and I were one of the first people to walk over to my mother's grave. I remember sitting down in front of the empty hole in the ground and watching my two older brothers, along with four other pall bearers, carry the casket towards me and placed it on the stand over the grave. The priest came over and said a little prayer over my mother and then my older brother spoke. I do not remember exactly what my brother said that day, but I do know I saw my older brother breakdown like I had never seen before. Once my brother was done speaking, it was time to lower the casket into the ground. I didn't know that this would affect me so bad, but it did. As they slowly lowered my mother into the ground I began to cry so hard all over again; I even stood up and watched her go down until she was at the very bottom of her grave.
I thought that was the hardest part, but it wasn't. The hardest thing to do now was leave her grave. My brother, our families, and I were the last to leave the grave that day. I wasn't in a rush to go to my brother's house to gather with all my mother's family and friends. I wanted to stay as long as I could with her and we did. That was until the people who work at the cemetery were coming with the cement top to put on the casket. The workers there still had their job to do and we had to respect that. So we left, but we didn't go straight to my brother's house, instead we went to my mom's house.
There was this really strange thing that happened as soon as we pulled into her driveway the Everly Brothers came on the radio singing, "Unchained Melody." The reason why this is strange to me is because my mother was a big karaoke fan, and this is the song she ALWAYS sang. What are the odds that song just starts playing on the radio from the very beginning? It may just be coincidence but I'll take it as a special meaning to me and that she was there with us. We stayed in the car until the song was over and we all cried the whole time it was playing.
We only stayed at my mother's house for a short while before we left and headed to my brother's house. When we got there I guess you could say I began acting antisocial with everyone. I was too upset and I didn't understand why all these strangers were 'acting' as if they were just as upset as I or any of my other siblings were. I didn't believe it was real and didn't care; I just wanted to be around my brothers, sister, and our immediate families. When everyone finally left we decided to sing karaoke on my mother's favorite 'toy' her Magic Sing. It was terrible not one of us could make it through any songs without shedding a tear. We all attempted her favorites and decided at the end there was no comparison to our mom's voice.
The very next day my brother and I had to leave back to Virginia, it was a two day trip and we had to get back to work and my boys in needed to get back into school. This was the quietest trip ever, barely anyone spoke. The van was full of dazed faces and swelled eyes. Every now and then you could hear someone start to cry which was then followed by long periods of silence during the whole trip.
As soon as I returned home I let my employer know that I was back and ready to get to work. I went in the very next day on a Tuesday. I believe I was trying to act like this event didn't even occur and that everything was 'normal' when it wasn't.
The whole situation is a blur to me. To this day I still have some disbelief about it. It's like I have this small hope inside that my phone will ring and it will be her. I finally made my way down to Georgia and I want to let her know so bad that I made it. I want to tell her about my new job and how my son graduated elementary this year. I wanted to hear her voice on my birthday with her strong Filipina accent say, "Haffy Birfday." All these little things that I want and can't have are tearing me up emotionally. All the cliché things that people say your going to feel don't help me. They make me mad instead, because I know all the stuff they're telling me. There's plenty of it on the internet.
Up until recently, and I mean like last week, I was getting to a point that I didn't know what to do with myself. My emotions over my mother's passing were starting to get out of control. Then I decided it's time for me to get some help and seek out some grievance counseling. I was sure before that I didn't need it. Now, I know I need help. I don't know what it is I have to hear or do to calm my emotions down but I think talking to someone may work. Maybe all I need is time, but I don't want to take that chance and become very depressed down the line. I've heard that happens way too much and I see myself heading down the same road. I needed to stay strong for my family but not bottle up my feelings.
Last December of 2007 was the worse experience of my life. I will never forget my mother or the day we laid her to rest.
I plan in the near future to add a part two to this story once I have dealt with my feelings and my mother's passing a little more. For now, this has helped me feel a little better writing about my situation.
For My Mother, Pacita L VanDzura 1948-2007
"I love you forever, I like you for always; as long as I'm living my mommy you'll be"
Quoted from Robert N. Munsch's, "I Love You Forever"
Leave a thought and light a candle for my mother, Pacita.
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