Dealing with the Death of My Mother – or rather, a story about how I am not dealing with it at all.
Last week I called my mom.
I was driving so I pressed that handy button on my steering wheel and said “call mom”. The speaker phone started to ring and 3 full rings in it hit me.
She isn’t going to answer. She’s not there. She’s gone.
I had something to tell her. I have had a lot of things to tell her. Details of my trip last week to Macinaw Island, Noah’s birthday, Father’s Day, the upcoming Indiana State Fair, gossip, my 40th birthday planning, so on and so on.
Today it has been 2 months exactly since the death of my mother. There is not one hour of my life, both while awake and asleep, that I do not think of her. Her life, what she is missing, where her recipe for Texas Sheet Cake is, did she hear what I whispered in her ear as she passed, was she scared? These are but a few of the many things that run through my head at any given moment. I am haunted by unanswered questions.
I would like to say that I am finding ways to deal with this enormous loss in my life- but I am not. I do not feel any more at peace with the death of my mother than the day it happened. I want to say that because she died without warning, and since we were not prepared, that we were spared watching her suffer through cancer. But that would be a lie. She was a fighter and her doctors were optimistic that she would get past this. We were optimistic and really never let it get us down. We were robbed. Cheated. She was not done living her life.
She thought she would be going home.
My mom, Susan Lynn King was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in November of 1957. She met my dad while they both worked at the Dairy Queen on the east side of Indianapolis and they were married in 1976, the year I was born. On April 2 of this year they celebrated 40 years of marriage shortly before we all attended the wedding of my sister on April 15. I am so grateful that she was here to celebrate her anniversary and attend Katie’s wedding.
She was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, April 28th in a septic state and treated for an infection. She was slated for a surgery on Friday, April 29th and when we all left for dinner that evening at 8:40 pm, she was still waiting but in good spirits, in very little pain and happy we were all together there with her. She wanted to go home and she gave all of us her blessing to go to dinner- it was my brother’s birthday. She told me she would see me tomorrow and we all left.
A little after 9 pm my mother started experiencing pain and it got worse as the night progressed. She stopped breathing and was placed on a ventilator. She passed away, with her family all around her, on April 30th at 5:36 am. I would like to say her last hours were peaceful, but they were not. I will respectfully keep these details to myself.
She was only 58.
All I have ever wanted was for my parents to finally get to reap the rewards of a lifetime of hard work. As long as I can remember my dad worked long hours and not always doing his favorite things- but he was great at anything he set his mind to. My mom has always been a leader and a hard worker. When I was younger both of my parents did whatever it took to feed us, take care of us- even if that meant cleaning houses or long commutes. All I ever wanted was to give my parents everything I could be it time, dinner here at the house, memories with my kids or gifts I knew they would love.
I have never seen a couple quite like my parents. They were a unit and I think that strength got my mom through and out of an unpleasant upbringing and she decided our lives would be different. They were almost always together. They were best friends and in an age of that not being so popular- I take comfort in the fact that both of them had each other even when it might have felt they didn’t have much else. It was real love.
She could make anything she wanted be it clothes or a cake. Decorating, crafting, singing- you name it, my mom could do it. And she was fierce. You knew where you stood with her. She loved us with all of our faults, quirks and issues. She was an amazing grandmother to my sons- never missing an event, a meet or school activity unless she just couldn’t make it work. I didn’t have to ask her either. And when it came to assisting in my cooking demonstrations over the years- she was always up for the task. I can honestly say that many of the choices I have made were so that my mom would get excited about it.
I am trying to keep all of this in my mind, fresh like it all just happened. The birthdays, the swim meets, the backyard cookouts, the holidays, trips to state parks, long walks and shopping trips. Her support, her texts during commercial breaks when I was on TV. Her enthusiasm for what I did and all that my sons have accomplished. She was our biggest champion. I am trying to keep her voice in my head because I am so afraid I will forget. I am so afraid we all will forget.
Right now I am just in a stuck place. I have more than enough anger to go around. I am angry at the hospital staff- specifically the doctors that should have been caring for her the 2 days she was in the hospital. I am angry at myself for leaving for dinner, that I could not help her. I am angry for my dad, for my brother and sister. I am angry for my sons and for Matt. I am angry my mom will not be here for all of our special moments in life. I am angry at well meaning acquaintances that are trying to say something to make me feel better but it really sounds like madness. I am angry at friends that I haven’t heard from when I really needed to hear just even something. I am angry at “family” that can’t even directly check on my sons or I. I am angry at the questions one of my mom’s family members had the nerve to ask me (Did I make sure everything was done to save my mom?). I am angry at insensitive people who think this is just a speed bump in my life that I will eventually get over (yes, someone really said that).
As if the death of my mother is just something I am going to get over.
I am sure that at some point my I will learn to live in this new way- the way where I figure out that this isn’t a weird dream or that she is not on some obscure trip and coming home at any minute. I wasn’t ready to lose my mom. My kids weren’t ready to lose their Grammy. My dad wasn’t ready to lose his wife. She was loved. People enjoyed being around her both at home, at church and at work. I am heartbroken for all of us.
It is a pain that is palpable.
At some point I will take comfort in the good memories that we were lucky enough to forge with my mom. I know I will.
But right now I am consumed with her death, why and how it happened and the sight of her in the last moments of her life. I am haunted.
Please, if you are a ‘good thought sending’ kind of person, please send a few to my dad, my sister and my brother. We are all dealing (or not dealing in my case) with this in our own ways and needless to say this has pretty much brought our lives to a full stop.
I would like to thank the dozens of you who have reached out to me in the last few months with words of comfort. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that. To say I am ill equipped to deal with this, be there for my kids, be there for my dad- is an understatement. But they are my most important assets right now and all things I do are for them. My sincere thanks to all of you who have donated to The Little Red Door Cancer Agency in my mom’s name. You have done so much good with those donations.
Thank you for reading. I have typed and deleted this post several times in the last few weeks as I didn’t want to sound too angry, too sad or too morose. But this is me at this stage in my life. For better or worse.