How I Live With Intention After Unexpectedly Losing My Mother

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“It was April 23rd, 2017 and I was lying in bed with my husband of close to 5 months, laughing about something one of our cats did. I rolled over to get ready for the day when Nick, my husband, said, ‘Where are you going?’

At just after 10 a.m. on a Sunday, I was planning to see my mom, who lived about 7 minutes away with my dad and brother. She had just gone through abdominal surgery and was resting. I told him, ‘I’m going to see mom. She wants to hang out with me like every day.’

This is the moment I am most ashamed of in my life. If it sounds bratty and immature, that’s because it is. I didn’t mean it.

This was actually very unusual of me to say. I loved being with my mom. I work and live in the same city as my family because of them.

‘She wants to hang out with me like every day.’ That’s the last sentence I said before I got the phone call that not only changed my life but broke my heart.

My phone started ringing and I pick up my little brother’s call only to hear him panicking and crying. ‘Mom’s had a seizure or something, I don’t know what to do.’

I had about 7 years of lifeguarding under my belt, so my immediate response was, ‘Hang up and call 911.’ Nick is standing up at this point, very concerned.

I didn’t know it, but at that point, my mom had already died. She didn’t have a seizure but died from a pulmonary embolism.

Basically, she was gone before she slid to the floor right in front of my dad. Two ambulances are there trying to treat her, I am rushing to get dressed, and crying because sometimes you just know that this moment is a life-changing one. Full of dread.

Long hospital story short, my dad knew she was gone while she was in the ER for treatment. He actually performed CPR on her after we had just had a quick course at home the week before for my mom. She wanted to know how to do CPR in case my dad, who has heart issues, had a life-or-death situation, all I can say to that is, ‘Wow.’

In about an hour, my mom passed away and my family went into deep shock. This October 23rd marks 1.5 years without talking to my mom, touching her, laughing with her, dancing to the Bee Gees together, or going to see a movie, our favorite thing to do.

At 26, I am the second oldest of 4. I had to look all three of my siblings in the eyes at different times and tell them our mom was gone while my dad and nana were with her to end care.

My brother was the one to go home and clean up the carpet where she passed away because, as it happens, bodily functions take over. He was 19 at the time.

Since her passing, I joined a church. I share weekly meals with my nana. I planned my youngest sister’s graduation party and held a baby shower for my oldest sister.

I spoke at my grandfather’s funeral, at the same place, nearly a year to the day after my mom’s, his daughter’s, funeral. I still baby my brother and he still rolls his eyes at me with a ‘Whaaat,’ since I’m probably asking for something. I still call my dad at noon and 4 p.m., my mom’s old lunch break, and the time she left work.

It has been the longest 1.5 years of my life. I had one dream about her, in that dream, she hugged me, and I could smell her lotion. This was about a year ago, in the dream, I finally had the chance to tell her, ‘I loved hanging out with you. I love you.’

It doesn’t matter what age you are when a parent passes. It could be a peaceful passing or something incredibly shocking.

When it does happen, no matter what, you will randomly stop and think, ‘I can’t believe this happened to us.’ It sucks. It’s devastating.

The best way it can be summed up is by something the ‘This Is Us’ creator, Dan Fogleman, said. Dan also lost his mother.

He said, ‘My mom died 10 years ago, unexpectedly. It’s the hinge upon which my life swings.’ If there ever was a way to describe this feeling of total loss, this is it for me.

Call your moms and dads, call your siblings. Take your grandparents to lunch, plan a party, work a little too much. Talk to God often. Cry when you want to and, most of all, think about how soft your mother’s hand was when she would pat you on the leg and say, ‘Love you, baby.'”

mother and daughter stand together in formal attire on daughter's wedding day
Courtesy of Erica Peden

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erica Peden of Athens, TN. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

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