This is me and my mother when I was probably around 18 months old. Of course, I do not remember this moment, but I can tell I have had a love of corn on the cob from the time I could eat. I wouldn’t say my mother and I were close growing up, we fought a lot and I never had that deep connection with her. The few memories I do have of her as a kid were of her tucking me in at night and saying our prayers and days when my brother and I would purposely miss the school bus so she would have to take us in. I think the latter was a way for my brother and I to spend time with her, even though she would get really furious. Could you imagine walking in from working all night, ready to go to bed to see your two kids sitting there with shit- eating grins on their faces, she always worked 2nd shift so we literally never saw her. This was our way of seeing mom.
This is me and my mother shortly after I joined the Navy. I went home to surprise my family and had my best friend Theresa pick me up from the airport. The next day I donned my freshly ironed uniform and proceeded with said friend to the flower store. Now, I am from a very small town, according to the US census, as of 2010, there were just under 2,oo0 people. So, when I walked into this flower shop the owner stopped in her tracks as if she had never seen such splendor and swooned over me as someone would do to a baby. I felt my face turn red immediately as she praised me for my sacrifice and thanked me for serving our country. I have never seen this outpour of affection from a complete stranger. It was a proud moment in my career and I truly felt the appreciation that all service members deserve, she should be the welcoming committee for military homecomings. From there we took the 5 minute trip to the hair salon where my mom worked. Here is the one and only video I have of my mother and the moment I surprised her, it still makes me cry when I watch it.
These nine seconds are the most precious to me as I press my ear against my computer speaker in an attempt to hear her voice just one more time. To lose my mom at the age of 21 has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. This was 2 years before she died. I lived in San Diego, as I still do, and saw my family maybe once a year. Never take for granted the time you have with your loved ones.
On a side note I would like to mention one thing I think I get from her: my ambition. In her mid- thirties she was able to stop working all her factory jobs and take continuing education courses to get her cosmetology license. It had always been her dream to do hair and I remember the days as a 4th grader walking into school feeling spunky with my new perm, yes I said it, PERM! I have naturally curly hair and my mother would subject me to those rollers whenever she was inspired. I have always been so proud of her for following her dreams and doing something that made her happy, no matter how far into life she was. It encourages me to do the same.
This last photo, IS the last photo. It is the last picture I have with my mom. In October 2010 I received a Red Cross message that my mom had 10 days to live. This following image is my visit home and I am in my mom’s hospice room. It was horrible seeing this very active woman that I knew, confined to a bed and walker. She couldn’t move without pain and it only caused her to moan at all hours of the day, not even the fast dripping fentanyl coursing through her veins could fend off the aching. I remember the last day I saw her like this, I stayed the night with her and was frustrated because she kept moaning all night. I couldn’t sleep and I was getting annoyed. It is hard to say this now, because it’s horrible to look back and know I gave my mom the cold shoulder when she probably felt afraid and lonely.
The next morning my Aunt came and we left after a short visit. Driving away from the hospice with my Aunt following behind, I looked into my rear view mirror only to find her crying. This memory still vividly consumes my mind to this day as I caught shimmering streaks of tears staining her mournful face. I felt she knew this would be the last time I would see my mom and it broke her heart knowing that this was her sister dying in her prime. I have never actually asked her what she was thinking on that drive home. After my 20 days in Michigan I had to go back to work, only to turn around early December and fly back.
December 1st I got the call, my mom was showing the signs of passing and I should get home as soon as possible. The very next day I was on a flight, it was a Wednesday, I got into Michigan late that evening and the next morning my little brother and I went to her house to visit. The putrid smell in her room is one I’ll never forget, it literally smelled of death. A nurse was there tending to her, she would carry her to the bath to wash and would empty her bathroom bag, which I am guessing was the cause of the stench. My mom couldn’t move, couldn’t speak and probably didn’t even know I was there. It was hard leaving her that day. But I kissed her greasy forehead as I left her for, what would be, the last time.
At 4 am Friday, December 4th my step- father called me to tell me that my mom had passed away. I remember walking into my brothers room at my dad’s house. I got up from the sofa with the daunting task of having to deliver this heartbreaking news. “Pj” I wait for a reply, “Mom passed away”. That was it, that was all I could conjure up as my brother lie there in the darkness of his room. I walked out closing the door behind me and sat outside his door listening to him sob into what I am guessing was his pillow. I don’t know why I didn’t go in and comfort him, I think I was in shock, I never cried. But I like to think she waited to pass so that I was there to be with my brother and I had to be strong to support him.
Even 7 years later this is a hard place for me to go and it is impossible for me to grieve the loss of my mom. I need her, I need her for advice with my daughter, I need her to be the grandmother she always wanted to be. I need her in my life in general, I always talked to her after I joined the Navy. She was my go to when I was confused and stressed about life as a young, adult woman. I miss her entirely and that will never change. So please take it from me when I say, spend the time you can with those you love. From the time I found out about my Mother’s breast cancer in September of 2010, it was only four months before she left this world. And this is where my health- anxiety and depression began.