“Mom was diagnosed last year with small cell lung cancer. There’s not much they can do for that. She fought hard though, and was so very strong. When she was diagnosed with this terminal cancer and was going through treatment she said, ‘I know I’m not going to win this game, but I’m going to try to go for extra innings.’ She kept working, too, right up until the final weeks.
December 18th she went to the hospital because she suddenly got too weak to walk. We found out chemo stopped working.
We decided on hospice at home, and that’s when my work as a daughter began. I was able to work from her bedside, and my sister moved herself and her kids in to my parents’ house. My sister and I lived together in the room with my mom for six weeks as she made this journey.
We administered her meds and took care of her body. Never was my mom alone. Not even for a moment. At one point I got a violent stomach flu, at another my dad had a near heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital. They were able to treat him and get him home in time.
It was a hell of a journey and it was my privilege to be at her side for all of it, doing everything to keep her comfortable. She left us yesterday at 1:15 p.m. She left us like in this picture: my sister, my dad, and I holding her hand, watching her last breath.
It was an honor, mom, to be your daughter. I will miss you for the rest of my life, but I’m glad I could be with you when you left.
I was fortunate to be in a position where I could be by her side every minute during those weeks, but watching her die was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to do things and see things that I wouldn’t have thought I could handle. But love is such a powerful thing, it was love that gave me the strength to do it all, unflinchingly and unfailingly.
Those weeks with my mom were giving back, in such a small way, everything she’d given to me. She gave me life and sacrificed to take care of me until I could take care of myself. The least I could do was take care of her when she could no longer take care of herself, and do what I could to ease her passing from this life.
The early years growing up with my mom can only be described as busy. My mom had to balance a career, running a household, and raising my sister and me. Once, when we were all sitting around reminiscing as we sometimes liked to do, I asked her what she remembered about when my sister and I were little. She replied, ‘Honestly, it’s all a blur.’ And it was. She was, to use one of her phrases, a ‘whirling dervish’ – always on the go, working full days then picking us up from daycare and listening as we chattered on about little childhood dramas that meant so much to us then, as she ferried us to piano lessons (which my sister embraced and I resented), then getting us home, starting dinner while mediating our disputes and making sure we finished our homework.
As busy as the days were she always made sure we sat down to dinner together every night. Sometimes another sisterly spat would break out, but mostly that was our time to talk with our parents and tell them about our days. She’d send us off to bed in pajamas that were always clean because she was always doing laundry – an effort we only appreciated once we grew up and had to do our own laundry.
She gave us a wonderful childhood and we don’t know how she was able to pull it all off. We used to laugh at her that she would fall asleep so quickly and early. But now that we are both adults, we get it. She was going from before sunrise to well past sunset. And somehow, between the rides to and from places and the dinner table conversations, she managed to impart the lessons and wisdom that would build our character and lay the foundation for the women we would one day become.
But first would come our turbulent teen years, which were responsible for at least 75% of the lovely silver hairs she had on her head. I’m sorry to say that we didn’t make things easy on her then. We gave her many scares, frustrations, and sleepless nights. But we grew, and she grew, from those experiences, learning valuable lessons like which battles are worth fighting and when to let go, and how to keep ‘sending the message even if you don’t think you’re being heard’ as she would often say later.
And no matter how hard we pushed at her, or how much trouble or sass we gave her, she was always there for us. She was always supporting us, our greatest ally and fiercest advocate. She gave us the space to go through our own journey, even when that was scary for her, and yet still stayed close to us and got us through our roughest years.
When the dust settled from those trying times, we found we had forged an incredibly strong bond with our mom. We could talk to her about anything, and we told her everything. She was our counselor, cheerleader, sounding board and most of all, friend. She was the first person we called when we had news and even when we didn’t. We talked to her almost every day, and she kept each of us updated as to what the other was doing, serving as the information hub for our family. We not only loved her, we loved her company. We could crack each other up and nothing was better than surprising a laugh out of my mom. It rolled out of her in a delightful, infectious wave. We feel so deeply blessed and fortunate to have had that bond with her. She did her work as a mother so well that in the end, she raised two best friends for herself.
Which is why, during her final weeks, we were able to do our work as her daughters with absolutely no regrets. Everything she had given us, our whole history with her and our deep bond, gave us the strength to carry through on a promise we both had made in our hearts – that just as she had always taken care of us, we would now take care of her through everything, no matter how hard it got. It was our turn to do that for her. As sad as it was, we had the comfort of knowing that everything that needed to be said had already been said. She knew our hearts and we knew hers. So we would tell her the only thing we could — that we loved her so very much. And for as long as she was still able, she would always whisper back, ‘Love you, too.’
Every experience is going to be different, but if our story helps even one person be less afraid, or helps them confront what is happening, then that is all I want. It would be another way to honor my mom, for everything she did for me, for how much she loved us.”
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