Most people vividly remember September 11, 2001. Of course, I remember hearing that news over my recess break at 9:45 and being glued to that one television in the office for those unbearable fifteen minutes of recess, and then being the first to tell a fellow colleague as we passed in the hallway, and finally breaking the news gently to sixteen second graders in a way that wouldn't frighten them.
But, I also remember September 10, 2001. That was the day that I got a phone call after school from my sister. She had went along with my mom to the oncologist that day and that's when I learned that after a year and a half battle with soft tissue sarcoma (a rare form of cancer) the doctor had finally given Mom just two weeks to two months to live.
Mom lived about four more weeks. As you can imagine, those were hard weeks. Thankfully she was able to be home throughout the whole time. The cancer had finally reached her kidneys and she was actually dying from kidney failure.
I remember sitting on Mom's bed, she not looking that much worse than the chemo had left her the past few months, not fully grasping how I needed to savor those moments. She laid out her jewelry with my sister and I sitting there. She explained that some pieces were meant for her sisters and special friends. Then a few pieces for my sister (not being much for jewelry), and then asking me, "What do YOU want, Michelle?" I didn't WANT any of that stuff--I WANTED to not be having that conversation. My mom was 58 years old. She wasn't supposed to be dividing that stuff up. I remember thinking, "This is stupid. Who CARES where this STUFF goes?"
Then about a week later, a special friend of mom's happened to stop by while I was there. Mom didn't want any visitors, but Dad had the sense to allow her in anyway. That friend and her daughter brought in a keyboard and music and sang some hymns for my mom. One was "Love Lifted Me". Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now. What a blessing that moment was. Thanks for allowing them in, Dad.
Just a couple of weeks after that, I was by her bed once again sometime after midnight, listening as she took her final breaths. One of my brothers, my sister, my dad, and I standing around that hospital bed in her room. Dad leaning over and telling her, "It's okay. You can let go now." One final gasp of air and she was gone.
I am now very grateful that we were blessed with those weeks. Memories fade, but those times I spent with Mom during her last weeks are like yesterday to me. Someday soon, my daughter will be old enough to share some of that small jewelry inheritance and we'll do something with those diamonds that were meant for her. I'm quite certain that will bring a flood of memories back to her--sitting on Grandma's bed as a six year old, eating pancakes after staying overnight, being overloaded with presents from Grandma on any occasion.
During this season, this year specifically, I guess I am most thankful for those memories.
Mom, I miss you.
Photo from Knowhimonline on Flickr