You know what I realized this morning? It's the 21st of September, there are technically 9 more days until the end of the month and from here on out, my posts would be talking about the end of Mom's life.
I can't do it, folks. I can't write about ovarian cancer for 30 straight days and maybe that's a good thing. It'll mean being creative next year. Maybe I'll do 30 days of how to use teal instead... Or... 30 days of how to live and DO what's on your bucket list, don't wait. I don't know.
I just know I can't write for 30 days about the saddest year and a half of my life so far. And you know why? Because life isn't about death. It's about living. It's about living even if you DON'T have a terminal diagnosis. Talking about that balloon festival trip brought up so much for me. So many things I had thought about when Mom died but let time do what it always does - distract me, derail me, shift my focus.
See - before Mom got sick, I fought hard against human trafficking. I did everything I knew to do to bring awareness of that horror to everyone I came in contact with and I knew my stuff, I'll tell you. I knew the stats, I knew what was going on where and I knew who to talk to to get involved. I knew I wasn't going to play some dynamic world-stage kind of role in that fight but I knew what my fight was.
Then, Mom was diagnosed and suddenly God said - focus here. So I did. I focused on Mom and our relationship and everything I could to make family as right as I could before she died. I did learn I'm not the best diplomat in the world but I already knew that. I learned I still needed to practice humility. I'm not so good at being humble. I learned I don't always have to be right but that I really, really like it when I am.
And I learned that we all have an "end" date and we don't know what it is so it's best to live each and every day as if today were that day. I believe in heaven and my faith tells me I get to live there when I die but it also tells me that not everyone I love here will join me. You don't have to agree with me but this is my blog so I'm not going to argue it. It is a part of my faith and that's that.
I had the privilege of staying with my mother through her last weekend. I gave her her last bath, I carried her from her bedroom to the dining room where the hospital bed was set up. I gave her her last dose of morphine that Saturday night. I found her at 4:30 AM Sunday morning, pretty quickly after she had passed. Other than that, everything that happened that weekend stays with me. I won't share it beyond saying the business of dying isn't at all glamorous, or quiet or easy. The images I carry from that last weekend have robbed me in many ways - of my mother's "real" voice, how a "real" hug from her actually feels, even her laugh... I can't remember the sounds of who she really was. All I can remember are the sounds from that weekend.
There is that side of it but then there is the other side of it. The side that says I was capable of being there. What happened that weekend took a strength I had no idea I had - because it wasn't my strength. This I know, with everything I am, if it weren't for God holding me up that weekend, I would not have made it through. Remember that conversation I had with the nurse about my ex-husband during my son's birth? She was oh so right - there is nothing worse, in my experience so far, than witnessing someone you love with all of your heart going through excruciating pain and you can do absolutely nothing to help them with it. I could administer morphine, I could wipe her forehead with a damp, cool cloth but she had to die without my help. I couldn't do that for her.
But God could and He could strengthen my hands, my back...and my heart... to get through those last 3 days.
As time has passed, the memories from that weekend have not faded. They are as clear to me as if they happened last weekend. What has happened, though, are other memories are coming back. It's as if they ran from a bully for a little bit, until they realized that bully really has no power. Mom died that Sunday but she is not dead. She is with Jesus. She didn't end so much as she walked through a door. I just had to close and lock it behind her. Once my memories started to believe that (ok - that's poorly written but I hope you know what I mean), they could come back. Tentatively at first but now? Now it's like a flood. Honestly, I still can't remember her real voice or her real laugh - but I can see her, the real her so I pray those sounds come back to me eventually, too. I keep saying I need to watch videos of family gatherings so I can hear her again but so far, I haven't been able to do that very much. Not yet. I know I'll get there, though.
So - I end my posts on ovarian cancer here. Maybe somewhat in defiance. Ovarian cancer won't go away just because October 1st happens. My mother won't come back to life because I share memories of her here. So...in defiance I stop. I stop trying to hold onto something I can't get back. Instead, I think, I'll turn a corner and see if I can figure out how to give it all a new look. A new hold... Sweet, beautiful memories of an amazing woman who I was blessed and am honored to have been able to call her Mom.
With that said, though? Please don't ignore the message of these posts. Ovarian cancer is a silent disease. It masks itself as other issues that women ignore until it is too late. Remember what I have said - Mom walked around for SEVEN YEARS with stomach issues, bloating issues, gas issues. SEVEN YEARS she was told it was in her head. And even though she was staged 1c, she didn't make it 2 years, let alone the 5 "average" for someone diagnosted at her stage. Don't ignore the signs, no matter how small they may be. Go. Be your own best advocate.
Now, I'm going to resume life in my "new normal." God bless.