It's 11pm, June 29, 2015. At this time, one year ago, I was laying in your bedroom on a twin mattress on the floor attempting to make you believe, and probably even myself, that I was actually going to get some sleep. We both knew the truth though, didn't we? We both knew that I would lie there in that familiar bedroom, on that makeshift, but comfy, twin mattress on the floor; that I would close my eyes in the warm stillness, trying not to think too much about the cancerous tumor that continued growing inside you despite your valiant efforts to stop it, and hear only the sound of you breathing.
That's all I wanted to hear.
It wasn't normal. It varied between labored to shallow to silence. When the silence came, a couple of things would happen in synchronicity every time.
The adrenaline would rush through me forcing my eyelids instantly upward. I would stare blankly at the Lavender wall of your bedroom...
(remember how I hated that color when you insisted on painting your bedroom "purple?"
"It's lavender, honey. And I think it's pretty." You would say to me in your always so patient voice. I really love that color, mom. I thought it was pretty way before you died.. I hope I remembered to tell you that.)
heart pounding, I would count in my head, 1..2..3..4..5..6..7.. 8.. and then, finally, I would hear you gasp for air.
Your gulp of oxygen was immediately followed by a huge sigh from me. My body relaxed a little bit and my heart would start to slow. I'd feel the slightly cool breeze through the window begin to evaporate the tiny sweat beads that had begun to form on my forehead. I'd hesitantly remember that as wonderful as that gulp of air I heard you draw into your tired lungs sounded, and as happy and relieved as I felt at that moment that it wasn't your last, it wasn't a gulp at all. It was only a whiff. You were suffocating. And there wasn't anything anyone could do to stop it.
Sadness. Guilt. Anger.
I know. Those are huge emotions, but as I think back on that night, I don't know how else to describe it. All those emotions came and went... maybe they didn't go, really. Maybe they just all came to the party like a bunch of uninvited guests and stuck around. Each of them with their own abrasive personalities demanding attention while the others lurked in the background waiting their turn.
Sadness because I was losing my mother. The one person in the world I could tell anything to.
Mom, you know I don't trust easily. I can easily count on one hand the people in this world whom I call true friends. But I could tell you anything because I knew you would love me no matter what. You're my mom and you're my friend; you were the best of both worlds. You were the one person in the world... in the universe, my universe, who loved me unconditionally; whom I could really talk to. You understood me and you knew what to say to make me feel better. I knew this. More importantly, I felt this. When you left this earth, I lost that.
I knew it was coming and I hated the thought of how that was going to feel... even though, at the time, I really had no clue. It hurt so much more than I anticipated. Hurt isn't a strong enough word, but I can't talk about that right now, another time. I simply couldn't stand the thought of losing you, it just wasn't fair.
Anger, because it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to anybody. Not to me, not to you, not to Grandpa. Grandpa Basso. Your dad who had found a ride to your house, walked his 85 year old legs up the stairs to your lavender bedroom every morning just after sunrise for the past two days, pulled up a metal folding chair and sat next to your bedside until well after the sun went down. Holding your hand when he could, I watched him trying to be brave as all of us. Making stupid jokes occasionally. (Why did we do that? ) Staring at you, sometimes wiping aways tears as he watched us do the same. For some reason, it always seems as though watching someone else cry makes us even more sad... or maybe it's then that we feel as if we finally have permission to cry too. Maybe it's a combination of many things. I don't know, I just know it wasn't fair and I was angry. And sad. Sad and angry because my little sister, Deshell, was way too young at 29 to lose her mother; at least I was older. My brother... my brother was going to have such a hard time, too. There were just too many people who needed you here, Mom. You were the rock of the family. You always were.
And then I felt guilty.
The guilt would set in for a couple different reasons. I felt guilty because I knew you weren't comfortable. You were dying and you couldn't breathe. Hospice had been there and had given us all the medication you needed to keep you as comfortable as possible. Aunt Tammy, your sister and nurse was there from Arizona to be with you and she helped us with your dosing....
(Sweet Aunt Tammy. She hurts so much and keeps it so hidden. I heard her talking with you a few days before you died. She was crying with you, talking about how she thought you and she and Aunt Shella would all be cute little old ladies together and how much she had been looking forward to that; devastated now in the realization that it wasn't going to happen.)
Unfortunately, keeping you comfortable meant keeping you heavily medicated; which meant you were asleep... or something like it. You knew this too and you fought us at first. You wouldn't take the medicine.
"Just a little bit for right now." You would say in your sweet voice, lifting your arm and bringing your forefinger and thumb together until they were nearly touching.
You were so strong, mom. You wanted to be able to talk with us and be as coherent as you could until you simply couldn't take the pain any longer. We had spoken just a little bit that morning. We cried and we told each other how much we loved each other. Eventually, the pain got worse and you succumbed to our wishes to take the medication to ease your (or was it our) suffering, and then you closed your beautiful brown eyes.
And the breathing, or lack of, began. So we waited and we listened. I wanted to keep you here, but I knew you needed to go. Your body was no longer your home.
I felt guilty because I couldn't stand it anymore, mom. The breathing, the emotions, the guilt, the anger, the fear... the purple wall! I wanted you to go so I could leave too because I couldn't take it anymore. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to be alone and cry myself into a stupor. I'm sorry I was so weak and afraid. I'm so sorry.
The sun rose the next morning as it will again today and as it has for the past 364 days.
It is now officially June 30th, 2015.
You left this earth one year ago today at 4:59pm.
I've never missed anyone or anything more in my entire life, mom. But you know that.
I still feel you with me most of the time and I believe in my heart and soul that you have your subtle ways of letting me know you're here.
It's not the same, but I'll take it.
Nothing is the same. A metamorphosis of the utmost capacity took place the moment you died. Everyone's lives changed.
It's not good and it's not all bad. It just is.
I look forward to those ethereal moments when I know you're around and I'll talk to you even though I can't hear you talk back to me.
And I know you'll be laughing with me when people wonder why I'm talking to myself. You always taught me to be unique, right?
I love you, mom.
I miss you more than words can convey.
Until next time,