10 Years Ago Today

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10 years ago today I woke up to one of those summer mornings where you almost think you’ve slept the whole day away because the sun is assaulting your eyes and the birds are chirping in a megaphone… but it’s really only 8 in the morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue skies. That’s what I remember. My sister opens the door to my room and plops down in my desk chair and we begin chatting about our plans for the day as I lay in bed still.

Our plans that day? A big pool party at my friend’s parents house! Things had been pretty tense the past week or so because our mom’s health took a steep decline in her fight against brain cancer. It wasn’t looking good. We knew that. But we were also scared kids trying to forget. Scared kids trying to find some ounce of normalcy in a world of home health care and hospital beds and a dying mother. So we talked about our pool party because it’s a topic that wouldn’t end in tears.

There’s a knock at the door. It’s my stepdad. He comes in and sits at the end of my bed. “I need to talk to you guys,” he says. I knew the look on his face. It’s the face he has when we are going to talk about something emotional — something that has happened more in the past 2 years than ever happened in our whole lives. “Your mom isn’t doing well.” And then he explains things in his clinical way because that’s the language he speaks having been in the medical field all his life — that her breathing is sounding really bad and basically end of life hospice was coming in today. “She will likely only be here with us for a few more days.”

We cry.

We sit, stunned.

We tell him that we won’t go to the pool party but he insists that we still go…that it will be good for us to get out for a little while. He tells us he loves us and leaves to go back down to be with my mom.

We don’t talk about it. We shower and get dressed and put our makeup on and act like it’s a normal Saturday and we weren’t just told our mom has days left to live. It doesn’t feel like a concept that can be grasped. Like trying to pin jelly to the ceiling. After all, she was told she only had 6 months left to live and it’s been 2+ years. We were told the days would run out but we could not understand it.

Finally ready to make our way to the pool party, we go downstairs and tell our stepdad what the plan is and say hello to our grandmother, my mom’s mom, who has been up from Florida for the past couple weeks to be with my mom. We went over and said goodbye to my mom. It was hard to tell if she was aware of us or just how much she was taking in at this point. Previously up to this point we had normally just told her goodbye and that we loved her when we left but this day we lingered. We lingered and talked to her and my grandma and my stepdad and laughed as stilted it felt coming out about what I can’t remember. But I remember we laughed — probably about a shared memory or something. Before we left we decided to put Jimmy Buffett on for her, her all time favorite, because it was a staple in our soundtrack to our childhood summer days. A constant. If there were blue skies and sunny days my mom always had Jimmy on. So we put it on for her. Told her goodbye, that we loved her. Then we left.

We drove 10 minutes to where my sister’s best friend worked — at a candy store — and started to fill a bag up with candy to take to the party ( for free — god that poor owner probably lost so much money because of us). We didn’t talk about what my stepdad had told us. We were there all but 5 minutes before my stepdad called.

“You need to come home. Now.”

His voice felt foreign yet familiar all at the same time. My stomach dropped.

“Your mom. You need to come home now. Please get home.” And then:

“This might be it.”

My sister and I dropped the candy on the counter and left.

I had always heard people talking about “feeling like time had stopped” and I never really understood what that meant until that 10 minute car ride home. The drive stretched on for what felt like hours — as if we weren’t really going anywhere. Like we were just on an endless road. We felt like we hit every red light. Every single one. Every car was in our way. How could these people be just going about their day when someone was dying? Why would that car cut us off? Didn’t they know? DIDN’T THEY KNOW WE NEEDED TO GET HOME?

We didn’t cry. We didn’t speak except to yell at cars on the road who were in our way. I could hear us breathing. One labored, scared breath after another. If fear could make a sound that car would have been a cacophony of desperate screams and shattered hopes. But instead it was silent enough to hear the trembling in our breath.

And one of those moments in the ten that we drove home, my mom took her last breath.

My sister put the car in park and we flew into my house. My stepdad was crying. My grandmother was crying and holding my mom in her arms. My mom. The woman who I had the most complicated relationship with. The woman who birthed and raised me. The woman who I admired even though sometimes I felt like, in all my teen rage, that I wanted to be nothing like. The woman I wasn’t ready to let go of. My mother was gone. Just like that.

10 years ago today my mom took her last breath. She was surrounded by her mom, in her arms even, and the love of her life, my stepdad, and in some strange way I think that morning she knew she could let go and that she wanted to let go when we didn’t have to be there to see her last labored gasps and breaths of life. Instead, our last moment altogether was a good one — a really happy memory in a string of really hard ones of the past few years. A moment that would make me smile.

10 years ago today was the last memory I ever got to make with my mom. You don’t get to choose which memory will be the last one you make with the people you love but I’m so thankful my last memory was a good one. Probably the most thankful I have ever been in my entire life.

10 years ago today undoubtedly became a marker — a before and an after in which everything in my life would be measured. It hasn’t been easy. I miss her every day. But somehow, even though 10 years ago I never thought I would survive everything that came next, I am still standing here 10 years later.

 

I would love it, if in memory of my mom, you would make a good memory with the people you love — an “I love you” call or text, a random “I MISS YOU” or breakfast in bed or a hug. Anything. 

 

PS. Last year on this day I talked about memories & fear of forgetting

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful way to honor your mom. I’m so glad your last memory is a good one, of your mom.I’m sending your virtual hugs! Thank you for sharing something so private, with us. It’s a powerful reminder to cherish each moment & to never forget to say I love you to those whom the mean most to us. xo

    • Such a deeply moving post and so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing with us and for the reminder to cherish the ones we love and hold dear as well as cherish our own lives. What a beautiful way to remember and honor your Mother. Thank you!

  2. This was/is such a beautiful to honor your mum! So deeply moving :'( *hugs*
    (you are such a good writer)

    xoxo

  3. I’m not good with words, but 11 years ago my dearest friend lost his mom in a car accident, so I can imagine how painfulful it was and it is for you. ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡ I send you a hug across the ocean.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Jamie. My mother-in-law died unexpectedly of cancer a few weeks ago so my partner is going through a lot of what you describe. It’s inspirational to know that though he’ll always be affected, he’ll still be here in 10 years, looking back and loving his mum as much as ever.

  5. As long as you take today & do something she’d love to do with you or go somewhere thinking of her, she’s watching over you and that’s what counts. You have beautiful memories of her and harder time memories to cherish 💞 Hoping today is a good day for you xoxo

  6. *HUGS*

  7. Peggy M. says:

    Though I haven’t been in the book blogging community for a few years, I always appreciate when you write your posts in honor of your mom. It’s been 15 1/2 (dang, it doesn’t seem like that long ago) years since my mom passed of brain aneurysm. Your posts always resonate so deeply with me and put the emotions in words that are still hard for me to articulate. I want to say thank you for writing them. I still find that at times people seem to think we shouldn’t talk about it and that we should be “over it”… well you truly never get over it, you just learn to live with it. Hugs to you on this difficult day.

  8. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to write and re-live these memories, but what a special way to honor you mom and her memory. Hoping that today you can spend some beautiful time with Will and get a few extra cuddles from Finn. *hugs*

  9. Wow. This was so beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing get such a personal and emotional moment. It gives someone like me, someone who has also suffered the loss of a parent due to cancer, the reminder that there are people who understand. I am so happy to hear that your last memory of your mom was a happy one. Treasure it. The last memory I had of my dad was not so happy, and it haunts me.

    This a beautiful tribute to your mom. And it shows such strength from you, because I know this is not easy to write. And I know the sinking feeling of entering the double digits. Sending you all kinds of hugs and love today. I hope that today is spent with good memories of her and doing things that she would have loved.

    Thank you for writing this Jamie. I hope that you have as good a day as you can and a wonderful weekend.

  10. Oh Jamie. This was so beautiful. I have tears in my eyes. Having not gone through something like this, I don’t have any words to express how I feel. I don’t think my words will ever be enough. I’ve only known you for a short while via Twitter, but you are an incredibly lovely person and I’m sure your mother is proud of you wherever she is now. This post is a beautiful way to honor her memory. She sounds like she was a wonderful mother, wife, daughter and person.
    Sending you lots of love and positive thoughts. Take care. <3

  11. This was a beautiful, heartbreaking and inspirational tribute to your mom and your family. Thank you for sharing and even though we move on, we never forget. Our lost ones will always be with us and I am so glad your last memory was a good one. It’ll be a treasure with you always. Hugs.

  12. My mom died 5 years ago and it still feels like yesterday. She called me the night before and said she wasn’t feeling well but she didn’t want to worry my dad so she waited until the morning then went to the hospital. She sent my dad away to go get some groceries and that’s when she stopped breathing for the first time. In a way I think she knew and she didn’t want my dad to see her go through that so she sent him away. I got the call soon after and my boyfriend now husband picked my sister up and drive us to the hospital where we were told my mom had permanent brain damage and she was having continuous seizures. We stayed for awhile and just talked to her and held her hand until my dad sent us home with my sister. He gave his consent after she stopped breathing again not to keep her on life support since this is what she always told us she wanted. She never wanted us to have to make that decision so she told us her wishes if it ever came to that what to do. I appreciate my dad sparing us from that, especially my younger sister. I am sorry for your loss. The big events your mom misses makes it so hard and Mother’s Day is the day I want to lay in bed and cry all day. I giving you a huge virtual hug. Thank you for writing this. It’s hard to open up like that and share but it helps people know they are not alone.

  13. I think your mama would be proud.

  14. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s sometimes hard for me to remember how temporary life is (being a teenager and human and such), but any moment could be anyone’s last. Thank you for the great reminder, and I’m glad your last memory was a good one. One of my greatest fears is that I will be in a fight with someone and something will happen to where it will never be resolved and I… I don’t think I would know what to do with myself. Lately, I have been making an effort to resolve all conflicts nearly immediately, and to make the most of every moment I have.

  15. Jessie H. says:

    *hugs*

    This was beautiful, Jamie. Thank you. This post really hits home for me. I still have Mom, but I l lost my Dad two years ago to a stroke. We didn’t see it coming. I live clear across the country so despite getting on the first flight I could I didn’t make it in time to say goodbye. You’re right that there is that single moment divides things into before and after. Nothing has been the same since. I talked to him on the phone every other day and I miss it so much. I try to call my immediate family a couple times a week to catch up and just talk. It’s my way of dealing with the fear that something will happen to one of them without them knowing how much I love them. Good memories are what helps when things like that happen so I’m going to go make some with those I love. Thank you so much for this post and I hope that you make some more great memories today yourself.

  16. Thank you for sharing, Jamie. This is moving and beautiful. I agree with Nina – your mom would undoubtedly be proud.

    I happen to be at my parents’ house today for the weekend. I don’t get to see them all that often since we moved to another state, but your post is just what I needed today to remind me that every moment, every visit, every conversation is precious. I’ll hug my mom extra today in honor of you and your mother.

  17. Much love today. I’ve hit that 10 year milestone and it ripped me to pieces. It never gets easier, but it doesn’t have to. We’re allowed to grieve and honor the life that meant so much to us. Those memories you shared will always be with you.

    It’s coming up on 19 years at the end of this month since I lost my mom and I don’t think I’ve ever shared my memory of that day with anyone. Maybe a brief version, but not all the emotions of that moment that are still so alive whenever I’m sucked back there. You’re a beautiful writer and an inspiration.

    Hope you blast some Jimmy Buffet today, wear her favorite color, and eat her favorite dessert!

  18. What an amazingly beautiful post! I’ve always lived my life knowing that you never know what could happen, and that you need to always let the people in your life know what they mean to you. We all have the ability to impact another person’s life, and I love how much you are spreading messages of love and hope and kindness.

  19. I have no words. Just <333 for you.

  20. This is such a wonderful way to pay tribute to your mom and keep her memory alive.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m feeling pretty speechless right now. It reminds me of five years ago when my Grandma passed. She was a large part of my childhood and I miss her everyday. I have a son now and daily I wish she could meet him, that he could know her face and feel her love.
    Thank you for sharing and reminding us to reach out.

  22. This is a beautiful memorial to your mom. Amazing, isn’t it, how clear the little details are after a loss, even years later.

  23. What a beautiful post. It actually left me speechless.. I’m just really happy and grateful for you that you get to remember your last moment with your mom in such a way. It is a good memory.

    Things like this remind me why I never leave when I am in a fight with someone.

  24. thank you for such a beautiful and poignant post. Even in such sadness, you created a beautiful moment and it shows in how you recall it. I do believe that no matter the condition, when we pass, it’s a combination of body and soul letting go. Your mom heard in your voice, your laughter, and your music that it was ok to let go. She would soo proud of you now and you honor her beautifully!

  25. I know that we’ve talked about this in the past on Twitter, but I’m continually inspired by your strength and courage to write about your Mom and your personal experience with loss. This year will mark the 15th anniversary of my mother’s own passing. I hope that your day is filled with Jimmy Buffett singalongs and lots of happy moments to honor the woman who raised such an independent, caring, and resilient individual such as yourself…you deserve every happiness today and every day ❤️

  26. My mother died three years ago when I was just about to turn 40. It was still early for me to have lost both parents (my father died when I was in high school), but I imagine it would have been so much worse had I been as young as you were. She also had an illness so we knew what was coming. In a way that’s worse, but it also gives you those opportunities to make memories. I live a couple of states away, so I’m glad I knew how limited her time was so I made a point of taking time off and visiting her often. Of course we don’t always have warning, so your advice to make memories with those you love is wise.

  27. I don’t have the words to describe the way I’m feeling right now. Your story, the story of your mom, was so deeply moving that it brought me to tears. It reminded me so much of what happened in February when my grandma, who I was very close to, passed away.

    I know that nothing is quite able to fill in that hole that was left when your mother passed, but I’m so grateful that your able to take that pain and sadness and turn it into an opportunity of remembrance and positivity.

    I’m sending so many positive vibes your way on this hard day. I’m sure your mother would be immensely proud of you. 💜

  28. I’m so sorry it took me so long to get to this post. This is easily the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written, Jamie. I don’t know how this feels, but I’m so glad you’re still standing here, still sharing with us, still affecting us with your words. Thank you for sharing. I think your mother would be absolutely amazed at the beautiful person you are – I know I am.

    Sending you all the love and hugs. ❤️

  29. Thank you for sharing such an emotional and personal moment with all of us. This was so beautifully written. It will be 10 years in October since I lost my dad. It was sudden, unexpected and I was away at school. One thing I’ve learned is to make every moment count and always tell people how much I love them. It actually helps that I was so close to my dad and that I can’t think of a bad memory between us. No regrets, right?

    Sending lots of hugs and happiness to you!

  30. Beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s such a brave thing to share something so personal. I hope that your day is filled with happy memories of your mother.
    Also, just had to say that this is one of my favourite quotes from AEITA, I just love it when a book quote fits so perfectly with real life.
    Sending hugs x

  31. Thank you for sharing this moment with us. It is such a touching and beautiful story, yet heartbreaking. I hope that you spend today surrounded by loved ones <3

  32. Oh Jamie, I’m so sorry you had to go through this! <3 I can't even imagine how awful it must have been and I really admire your and your family's strength. Thank you for sharing this post with us and reminding us that we're not invincible and our lives can change in an instant as I think it's something we often forget! <3

  33. This is really beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I am so glad you have a happy last memory with her, even though it was far far too soon. Sending you so many hugs <3

  34. This post made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss, but your mom is probably so proud of you right now, wherever she may be. I can relate because earlier this year (in March) I also had the day where 10 years previously my mom had passed away (Breast Cancer), I wish I had gotten to make more memories with her (I was 6 at the time) but I do treasure the memories I have with her, and this post helped me to realize that I still have many people in my life that I love and that love me and to always hold on to those people <3 You are so strong and brave for sharing this moment in your life, you and your family will be in my thoughts <3

  35. <3

  36. I missed this post when you wrote it. Thank you for sharing with us. I just bawled. My eyes out reading it. I’m so sorry to read about your loss. I’m so happy that your last memory with your mom was a good one.