Friday, December 17, 2010

In the Life...

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I'm not really sure where the hell the last year has gone.... I've been so ridiculously, insanely busy- quite on purpose really- that I haven't really given myself the time to mourn or think about my mom's passing.  I've developed amazing skill at swallowing down the tears and marching on with life- like she taught me to do... today is now Friday the 17th... and while the date of death is the 18th... it was this Friday, one year ago that the calendar stopped for me.  It was one year ago that my cell phone rang while I was standing in line at the post office- mailing out the last couple of little gifts to my folks.

It was my dad. ( he doesn't call unless it's absolutely necessary- partly because he doesn't hear well, and mainly because the old cowboy isn't much for chatting on the phone... never has been.)  He told me that mom had been airlifted to Spokane- and that they thought it was her heart.  The grey commercial carpeting in the post office began to swirl under my feet.  My mind raced- how could I make it there the fastest?  What about work- and the kids and their tourney the next day.... and how do I get to Spokane?  I hadn't been there in at least a decade... I remembered drive to Vantage and hang a left.... but I was on my way.  Making frantic phone calls to Ron and work.  Ron happened to be home- he reeled me back in- made phone calls and printed maps while I frantically packed an overnight bag.

A few minutes later I was in my car- fueling up and away I flew.  My phone was ringing off the hook and my foot was buried in the accelerator.  I was on a mission- on angel's wings.  I passed countless police officers on my way down I5 and out 90 driving 85+ MPH with a cell phone to my ear and tears running down my cheeks..... they didn't even blink. 

The news and conditions worsened the further East I raced..... I couldn't get there fast enough- and it was 34* and freezing fog and snow and ice everywhere.... the fact that I didn't end up wrapped around a Jersey barrier is a true miracle in itself....

The rest as they say is history....  When I arrived- she was just coming out of surgery.  And in my mind- we were going to be fine.  We were always fine- no matter how scary- and how many times she and I were at each other's bed sides for surgeries and emergencies over the years... we were always fine.  We were always fine because we were together.  There was never a doubt in either of our minds- for my entire 38 years on this planet- that we didn't have each other.  We'd been through some pretty scary crap together.... we'd be fine.....

Only it wasn't fine.  The full-up, tubed-up, inti bated state that stared back at me, made me want to throw up.   I watched the monitors blink and beep- knowing full well that the numbers I was seeing- were not good.  The constant flood of people in & out of her CCU room were all business... they didn't have time for warm fuzzies.  I continued to pray and think positively.... it wasn't working.  And after several hours of this painful dance.... the surgeon and doctors came to dad and I and told me what I already knew.....  that the machines had been doing the work for hours and the total lack of bp was killing off the tissues... we had to make the call.  Or rather he had to make the call as her husband.  I'm not sure that I have had- or ever will have had a harder time.  I had to raise my voice so that dad could hear me- and tell him as plainly and clearly as I could that we needed to turn off the machines.  The look of pain and terror in his blue eyes rips my heart out every single time I think about that moment.  Having to explain that she had already gone- it was just the machines moving air and fluids.  At first when we explained that it was time to the family who was there to supports us- no one was sure they wanted to be there when the machines were turned off.  It was like a bad movie that you couldn't escape from.  I kept thinking that if I opened my eyes again- I'd wake up and it would all just go away.  No such luck.

There was no doubt in my mind I would be there to hold her and say good bye.  And soon- our small and fragmented family joined me.  And one by one- we all kissed her good bye.  I sat at the head of the bed near her heart.  I remember thinking how perfect and soft her skin looked.  It felt like silk.  And I remember thinking how lucky I am that I got her lips- she had the most beautiful lips and smile- tho she'd tell you she hated her smile.  I remember wondering 'how the hell did we get here?'  I mean really... she's 56- 56 years old.... that's young now days....how?  why?  why me?  why her?  What will I do without her?  She was my best friend.... how do you live without your best friend?  The person you talk to several times a week and knows everything about you?  How do you live without that?

A few minutes later- there was just silence.  No more breath sounds.  Just peace.  The nurse marked the time and they turned off the monitors.  I just sat there... dumbfounded.  What now?  I had just driven to the edge of the universe at record speeds, knowing that my presence would surely rally her- and that in a few days- she'd be going home- and my life would "fine"....  now what? 

My Aunti asked me to sing Amazing Grace for her.... ugh.... I had to turn my back on the family- I couldn't look at them- and I could 't disappoint them either..... I was able to rally a chorus- first verse.... it was sad and mournful- probably a minor key.... but I made it through..... and the sounds of sobbing from daddy- just about killed me.

The next few days of the endless streams of phone calls and arrangements, more driving, more arrangements.... trying to hold my dad together.  Trying to hold my kids together.....Thank GOD for my husband- who played quietly in the background helping where he could- snuggling with the kids and whatever else needed to be done.  The other blessing in disguise was that it snowed- a lot the night we got back to Grangeville... so that was distraction for them.

In the spirit of keeping busy- the stream of phone calls and visitors was a welcome distraction and painful reminder.  Sometimes it's so hard to tell if folks want to see if you're just a blubbering mess or if you can keep it together... kind of a sick game really. But that's all water under the bridge now.

Her service was standing room only and the charity of her choice received record donations... evidence of a life well lived.  Folks came from amazing distances in the rotten weather to pay their respects.... something she would have never expected.....  My mom was incredibly loyal and giving- you knew you'd been loved and hugged by her.... even if she never thought folks cared or noticed.  They did.  She was loved and appreciated.  And she is missed deeply.

Her graveside was held in the snow- with flowers from my friends and family from over here- {and guitar pick from a fellow musician back home} laid on her urn.  I picked out the prettiest, girliest- blue inlaid urn I could find.... {she would have approved}. And again- my Aunti asked me to sing.... I'm sure not my finest performance - but  a song that we sang together and that she had sung for countless folks over the years....

I have been dreading this day for weeks... and suddenly it has crept up on me.  And while I suppose that it would be nice to curl up in a ball and have a good cry... the world just doesn't stop for me.  More of those life lessons I got from her I guess.  I have worked harder in the last year than ever before to be the kind of person she thought I was- and that I want to be.  I am making an effort daily to make the most of my everyday, to find the beauty in the smallest detail, to laugh out loud, and live in brilliant peacock color!

I miss my mom's voice, her laugh, her hugs- God knows her cinnamon rolls.... But mostly- I just miss her presence.  I miss knowing that she is a phone call or a 6 hour car ride away.  I miss her point of view- her advice- her ability to talk me out of the rafters when my temper got the best of me.  I miss her so much it hurts.  I have some great girlfriends..... but none that knew me as well as she did.

I'm sure that I've rambled for quite long enough.  If those of you reading this take anything away from this post- it should be this.  Count your blessings daily, don't wait to tell someone how you feel, say I love you often- and mean it, sing out loud, shake your butt and do a little dance, help when you can- sometimes all it takes is a smile or to lend and ear. 

Have a wonderful and meaningful holiday season.  ~Didi V.

** photos from various sources.  Music: Glory of Love by Bette Middler from the Beaches Soundtrack**

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