I feel like we’re friends and I can talk honestly with you. I want to warn though, this post is unlike the others. Set aside. Unique. I am about to share with you my unique experience being in the room while my Mom passed.
I feel like I’m ready to share this story and share how since her passing the healing and compassion that has happened since.
So yeah. Trigger Warning, I guess.
So…where to start? Well, I guess today.
Today I woke up thinking about my Mom. Today is the five year anniversary of her passing and it still feels like yesterday. I vividly remember the feeling of her hospital room, the sound of her ventilator and the sight of her hands curled. The feeling of “Holy SHIT! What’s happening? What will happen next?”
Losing a person is hard. Losing a person you’ve been really pissed at for a long time is really hard. Losing a person that you’ve been pissed at and reconnected with is the fucking worst. Losing your Mom after reconnecting with her after years of hurt, revenge, disconnection and confusion is something past “fucking worst” but somewhere close to “divine timing”.
For reference I remember pacing in a strangers living room, while I was taking care of the sleeping children upstairs, talking to my Mom on the phone one evening. I said to her
“What is going on? Why don’t you love me like you love the others?”
I was 22 and finally hit a breaking point in our dynamic. I had spent so many years taking care of other people’s children. I worked very closely with many different families. In their homes and in the classroom- I witnessed the unconditional love and affection that was shared. It was a hard mirror to what I wanted with my mother and a reminder of what I did NOT have with her. I finally got the courage to ask “WHY!” I remember her sharing “I don’t know what to tell you, MegAnne.” And I said “Well, I think I need to take some time away. I spend so much time rebuilding myself and I need some space.” I remember a strong sense of freedom hanging up the phone, veiled with a shadow of slight loss.
I spent the next 8 years doing my own thing. I spent holidays with friends, or alone. Learned how to solve my own epic problems and grew quite comfortable setting and holding my boundaries. I built a family of choice to surround and support me, it was feeling really good. I am sure to the rest of my family it was confusing. When they invited me to events I would subtly find out if my parents were going to be there and strategically plan if I would choose to avoid the situations all together or devise a plan on how to attend safely. When my husband met my parents for the first time they were sitting right behind us at my nieces talent show.
Jason: “Hey, MegAnne- are your parents going to be here?”
Me: “Oh, yeah…they’re right behind us.”
After the talent show we passed pleasantries and when we got in the car Jason shared how uncomfortable that was for him. I remember saying
“Yes, me too, but somehow you just get used to it.”
That was bullshit, I was hurt and trying to protect and compartmentalize, it was serving it’s role. What I didn't know it was allowing me to avoid healing through it. At least until I was ready.
That day came December 25, 2012. My parents had a timeshare in Williamsburg that they would go to twice a year. Labor Day and Christmas. We had been going there since 1992. But Christmas of 2012 was different, I got a call from my Mom inviting us to join them. My sisters and their families were going to be there and we were invited. I put up some reluctance, but thankfully Jason nudged me to go. We came up with our plan of escape. Only staying until dinner, not staying the night. And I knew where I could go if things started to feel overwhelming for me. I felt safe. So we went.
When we arrived, I could instantly tell that my Mom was not well. She had always been, as long as I could remember, overweight. But when we walked in, I learned that she had put on a mysterious 100 pounds of fluid in her body and no one could tell her why. She shared that it started after getting on an airplane, after many tests she didn’t have any answers to share. Maybe she really knew what was going on, but choose not to share. Who knows.
In the course of the day we opened gifts, watched the Sci-Fi channel, and shared stories. I took a couple breaks during the day, but things stayed comfortable and manageable. When it become close to departure time Jason and I decided that we were going to change plans and stay. Obviously my Mom was not doing well and it and it hadn’t been as terrible as I had predicted and prepared for.
That night, my Mom asked Jason a life changing question.
My sister Katrina, Jason, my Mom and myself were in the living room watching TV when awkwardly my Mom asked Katrina and myself to leave the room, she had a question to ask Jason. And Jason only.
Katrina and I both went into the next room and she asked if I knew what that was about? I shared I figure it’s something to do with us getting married since we’d been together for almost 3 years and I was the only one of her children unwed.
Katrina: “Yeah, I think it’s bothered her that you both aren’t married yet living together.”
Me: “Ha! Unless she has a ring, I don’t think this will be happening any time soon, so she’ll just need to get comfortable with that!”
While we were driving home, I asked Jason what the secret conversation was about and he shared with me: “She asked me if I wanted to marry you. She then went on to tell me that she had your Grandmother’s original engagement ring that she wanted to offer us to use.”
I was floored. He then went on to share how he responded. It has been one of my favorite memories to replay over and over again.
“I told her ‘I want to see it first before agreeing to use it, make sure MegAnne would like it. But I want you to know that of all your children, MegAnne will understand and appreciate the weight of this gift.’”
Just knowing that this happened filled me with love that had been missing. I decided that it was time to drop the grudge and start working on reconnecting to my Mom. Obviously, her time was limited and I didn’t want to have her pass without resolving some of the hurt.
Over the next couple months, I took several trips up to see my Mom and Dad. Shortly after Christmas, she had gone to the hospital and then was moved to a rehab center. From what I remember from that time, her liver and kidney’s were shutting down. That was the cause for the fluid. The medicine that would save her would also kill her due to it’s aggressive nature on her organs, due to her weight. It was an impossible situation for the whole family.
On March 21, 2013, in our bedroom Jason proposed. Using my Grandmother’s ring. I had absolutely no idea. My younger sister had mailed it to him for my Mom. I learned that Jason and my Mom had planned to meet in February but when she got sick and went into the hospital the plans changed. And my younger sister stepped in to help transfer the ring to Jason.
It is a sweet, 1920’s art deco ring with an illusion diamond. It is tiny, petite and perfect.
When I called my Mom to tell her, she didn’t pick up the phone. When I called my Dad, he didn’t pick up the phone. I just figured that they were busy and brushed it off with no mind. It wasn’t until the day after when I finally got in touch with my Dad and he shared that my Mom was back in the hospital and this time it wasn’t looking so good. They weren’t able to pick up my phone calls earlier because they were handling the events that were happening there.
The next week was a blur of phone calls, texts and tears. On Friday March 29, 2013 I was walking into a room at work when my sister Sarah called me.
“You need to come, it’s the end.”
Words shared with me, on Friday March 29, 2013, that I am eternally thankful for:
“Being there for the passing of someone’s life if one of the most sacred moments.”- My boss Donna. She was passing out paychecks in the hallway when I told her I needed to leave and why. She shared that she was there for both of her parents passing and gave me words I needed to hear.
“Do you need a car?”- Many of my co-workers. Knowing I did not drive a car myself, I had cars being offered to me left and right. I am grateful for people reaching out offering something that I didn’t know I would need to think of. Thankfully my sister Abigayle came and picked me up at just the right time.
“Apologize to your Mother and accept her apology before she passes.”- My chosen Mother, Dyanne. She has played such an important role in my life. Sharing exactly how I could go there and allow my Mom to pass with grace and love.
“We are managing her pain and anxiety”- The nurse in her room when I asked about the notes on the wall. She explained to me that even if a patient is unresponsive they are still able to process what is happening. To my eyes my Mom was asleep, hooked up to a ventilator, not talking- I assumed she was not able to understand. This nurse shared that my Mom can hear us and knows exactly what’s happening.
“I love you Pamela, you were the love of my life”- My Dad. In the final moments, we were all just stunned. I am thankful that Sarah got through to my Dad that it was important to share his feelings with her before it was too late.
And then just like that, it was the end.
So in the past five years, lots of therapy, healing, and continual work of showing my Mom compassion; I can openly share the story of my experience through my Mom’s passing. Most days I cope using humor. Especially when someone tries to pull a “Your Momma” joke. But today, I cope through writing and sharing my experience.
I am grateful for all the events that surround my Mom and myself. It’s taken me a LONG time to get to this point in our relationship where I can offer her compassion and gratitude. Without her I would not be where I am today. Being her daughter had been a very important part of my journey.
So on the fifth anniversary of her passing I can say
“Thank you Mom, for being my Mom. I love you. And miss you terribly."
Encouragement and inspiration right to your mailbox