Dead Mom Syndrome

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I was saying to someone the other day that I wish grief was similar to a broken arm, leg or some other illness. There is a process, almost a plan, when it comes to healing. 

A broken arm for example, you know you’re going to need a cast, maybe pins, depending on the extent of the break, 6-8  weeks of healing and the cast comes off. You might need physio or some other kind of after care. But you know the plan.

A chronic illness has a treatment plan. A recovering alcohol or drug addict has a plan. And besides the plans they have support. There are nurses and doctors and surgeons and specialists. There are  sponsors and groups. There is a plan with people around you. 

Having someone to you close die is a little different. As much as there is a grief process, which includes shock, sadness, anger, guilt, panic as you move into the next phase you establish new friendships, new strengths, new patterns and finally loss adjustment. That’s great in theory. And makes so much sense when you’re a psychologist, therapist or studen of psych 101.

Living that loss is completely different. I haven’t been given a workable plan. I haven’t been told that it’ll hurt for about 6 months, we can then look at one after care and in a year you’ll be completely fine. Down the line there might be an ache or dull throbbing but you will recover. 

I wake up in the mornings with an immediate sense of ‘not thereness’. The day drags, but in a blur, and I forget where I’ve put things, what I’ve done or said. Last week I forgot a whole lot of Emma and Ben’s extra activities. I’ve wanted them to be away from me for a bit, away from an overwhelming sadness that hangs heavy over the house but then I forget to take them to arranged play date.

My moods are erratic, my mood swings extreme. Catch me during a good  moment and you wouldn’t think there’s anything wrong. Get me at a bad time and  it’s tears and ‘bubble-snot’ and more tears. One minute I’m screeching with delight as I chase Emma and Ben around the garden and the next I’m screeching and wailing as I try and run away from myself. 

The stages of grieving includes making new friendships, establishing new relationships. Tell me how I establish a new mom-daughter relationship. Explain to me how I make a new friend with a relationship anywhere close to what my mom and I had. How do I find a ‘new normal’ when my only sense of normality is no longer here. 

Recovering addicts know what triggers to avoid. People with a manageable illness know what foods or activities to avoid. How do I avoid remembering my mom? How do I avoid triggers that are laughter and fun, moments of absolute love? 

No one told me there would be flashbacks. Remembering her smile or a funny saying intertwined with her lying lifeless half covered with a sheet. No one told me I’d quickly grab the phone to call her and just as quickly I remember she’s not here and that ‘not thereness’ feeling takes hold again. No one told me, that unlike when you’re recovering in a hospital ward or at home, there would be very few telephone calls or messages. No one told me hardly anyone will just pop in to see how you’re doing. Even when I was in the lunatic asylum I had visitors. It seems being around someone that’s insane is better than being around someone who’s sad. It’s better being around bad. Even prisoners get visitors.  

The death of a loved one is also the death of relationships. People you considered friends slowly disappear. Their awkwardness around sadness stops them getting in touch. They avoid you in shops and prefer to be in a hurry rather than stop for a minute to ask how you’re doing. New relationships made will never be the same as the old.  Because I’m no longer the old me.

The theoretical healing stages of grief includes isolation and loneliness but it comes after 10 other phases in the graph. It doesn’t. It starts the very moment you hear the words ‘your mom’s dead’ and it stays with you every step of the way. And, to be honest, I don’t think the loneliness ever  goes away. 

A rather crude definition of ‘lonely’ or ‘loneliness’ is:

sadness from being apart from other people: causing sad feelings that come from being apart from other people.

Since my mom left I’ve been sad and I think a part of me always will be, because I’m apart from my mom, my go-to person. 

A part of me has died. I’m no longer whole. I am apart. 

Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend!

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So lesson #3 for me is that when someone you love passes you quickly discover (or rediscover) what’s valuable and what’s not. 

I’ve been searching my mom and dad’s house top to bottom, in every cupboard and drawer. I’ve turned contents in cabinets and chests upside down, knowing that what I desperately need to find is somewhere. I just don’t know where.

It’s not her jewelry. I know where that is. My dad has my mom’s wedding ring, diamond earrings and other valuable bits in a safe. The ‘costume’ jewelry is in various cases and boxes. And the most precious items, for me, have been inexpensive pieces, but priceless for me, now, in terms of sentimentality. There’s a ring with her initial, a ring with my granny’s initial and surprisingly, a ring my mom must have had made for my dad when I was born, because it’s a signet ring with a star sign, Taurus, and I’m the only Taurean in the family. That I know of. 

My mom had one or two death benefits that will pay out but my brother is handling that and I think whatever money there is, goes to my dad. 

But yesterday I found what I’ve been searching for. Something more valuable than all the gold, silver, diamonds and money in the whole wide ‘university’ (as Ben says)! 

I found the box of photos I’ve been desperately looking for. And photo albums. And I sat and went through each and every one. I took a few for me, and left the rest for my dad and brothers, in case there are any they want.

I laughed at our outfits, and ridiculous poses. I wondered at times who the heck had taken the pics, because there were a lot with heads chopped off, and even more of…nothing! Just a blurred square of nothingness. The cameras in those days, unless they were super professional, didn’t have the best zooms, and there were loads of photos that looked like they were of nothing until you really really really got up close and then you’d realise the little speck looking back at the camera was in fact a person. I cried, because there was my mom, right in front me, but not there. And the feeling of ‘not thereness’ was overwhelming. 

But I found some that I will treasure for as long as I’m around. They’ll go up on the wall and I’ll look at them everyday and be reminded that in life, it’s not the things money can buy that bring you the most happiness. It’s the people you love and who love you back! 

No valuables, none, will bring my mom back, but those ‘worthless’ bits of paper are priceless. They give me a little piece of her everyday…

*mp* No resting in peace for my 

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Just a reminder, the*mp* means it’s a mom post, which means it’s about my mom who’s no longer with us. Let me rephrase that, she is with us, just on another frequency. In other words, what I’m saying is, if you don’t want to read about death or dying then you’ll want to stop round about here…

I’ve mentioned previously that my mom died from cardiac and respiratory failure, after an operation to remove what we thought was a goiter. But it turns out it wasn’t that. My mom had one of the most rare, most deadly cancers. She had anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid. Googling it you’ll read things like:

Anaplastic tumors are the least common (only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases) and most deadly of all thyroid cancers. This cancer has a very low cure rate with the very best treatments. Most patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer do not live 1 year from the day they are diagnosed.

The surgeons reckon it was so advanced they wouldn’t have been able to guarantee that my mom would live for more than six months. And as much as I’m angry and sad that she passed on, I’m also glad she didn’t suffer what would have invariably been a painful and slow death, which would have included a tracheostomy. 

Because I believe (as kooky as it may seem to some) in the spirit world I have been in touch with two people, to ‘speak’ to my mom. The most recent one did a channeling, and whether you’re ‘into’ it or not, yesterday’s session brought me a huge amount of healing, to a point where as much as I feel the sadness of my mom not physically being here with me, I also feel some happiness knowing that I have the best guardian angel anyone could ask for (thanks for pointing that out to me Linda!)

I’ve been beating myself up, and have been pissed off with anyone and everyone for not telling me enough to know I should have spent more time with her. That I should have been with my mom when she died, but like Linda (once again wisely) pointed out, my mom was so selfless she wouldn’t have let herself go if we were with her. She would have held on just so she didn’t ‘let us down’ or inconvenience us in any way.  

***As an aside Linda isn’t the psychic but rather a very dear family friend, who, with her two sisters, have been my greatest support.***

What put my mind at ease and lifted my spirits a little was the psychic saying the soul knows when it’s going to leave and so my mom and I had had our ‘goodbye’. It wasn’t necessary for me to have been with her at the end. I was with her when it mattered. 

In amongst the tears, I had to giggle when she relayed that my mom apologizes for the paperwork I’ve had to go through. If you’ve spoken to me in the last few weeks it’s probably one of the things I’ve moaned about the most. My mom had water and light bills from 1994! I kid you not. And it hasn’t been a case of just dumping it all, because in between 1994 bills and statements there have been more current documents. So I’ve had to sit, painstakingly going through each and every one of the folders. And I’m not done yet!

There were some things said that left me a little worried and sad, but with a sense of understanding. And I know that the human spirit can survive the most insurmountable of situations. I feel like I’ve been give a chance to ready myself for what’s still to come. 

Like so many other fortune tellers, psychics and clairvoyants (and kooks if you must) she sees me writing a book, and down the line I’m sitting signing copies. I’m hoping I find out sooner rather than later what my story is so I can eventually tell the bloody thing.

I really feel like I should be letting my mom ‘settle in’ without me bugging her every other day, but for me right now it’s the confirmations I need to bring me some kind of inner peace. And it seems to be working.

Allow me to share this little bit of wisdom with you. As cliched as it is, if you’re lucky enough to have both your mom and dad with you, or just one of them, cherish them. Cherish the time you have with them. Soak up their ‘silly’ stories, let them repeat themselves over and over again if necessary. Pop in just because. Phone them. Whatsapp them. Skype them. Let their treasured memories become yours because before you know it they’re no longer a 20 minute drive or telephone call away. And what was will never be again xxx

*mp* “A eugoogoolizer…one who speaks at funerals…”

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I had to ‘eugoogoolize’ at my mom’s memorial service and the only reason I’m putting this down here is so that I never ever lose it. I’ve already deleted (by accident) the document off my laptop and this morning I hit frantic panic levels when I thought I had lost the hard copy.

So, this is more for me than you, but please feel free to read it…

 

Sally Louise Westraat

17 April 1945 – until the end of time

“Of all the things I imagined I’d be doing today, none included me speaking at my mom’s memorial service. The last few days have been the darkest I have ever known, but also some of the best, because I’ve read and reread tributes to and about my mom, and I realize how very lucky I was to have someone like her in my corner.

I’ve been trying to hang onto every memory, every moment with Sally Louise. You have no idea how she hated me calling her that. I’ve tried to remember instances where her love was especially strong, her loyalty fierce and fearless. And I can’t think of one, because every moment with my mom, unknown to me until now, was exceptional.

Last week my world came crumbling down around me. My heart literally broke into a million pieces and the one person who would have made me feel better wasn’t there. Hearing ‘you mom’s dead’ is different to any other words you’ll ever hear. Those three tiny words are too bug to fit into your ears. No three words, no matter how quietly whispered, will ever be as loud. And the silence after will never be as deafening. In order for you to try and make sense of it all, you allow those three words, ‘your mom’s dead’, words that meant nothing a minute, an hour or day before, to swirl around in your head and as you try and make sense of them you realize they will never fit inside your brain. Those three small words split you down the middle, breaking you and your heart in two, and no amount of words will ever put you back together again.

In amongst the heartache and the absolute longing, I stand in front of you, proud to be called my mother’s daughter. I had no idea of the extent of my mom’s generosity and compassion. I never stood in awe of her love and care for others because she made it look effortless. She made me think the way she was is quite simply the way everyone is.

My mom was love. She protected and cared. My mom’s love never failed. My mom thought it would be nice to be important but more than that, she knew it was important to be nice.

There is a beautiful story, sent to me by a friend, which begins outside a “small snug house” where four children live with their beloved grandmother. Not wanting to scare the young ones, Death, who has come for the old lady, has left his scythe by the door. Immediately, in this small and enormously thoughtful gesture, we are introduced to Death’s unexpected tenderness.

Inside, he sits down at the kitchen table, where only the youngest of the kids, little Leah, dares look straight at him. To stall the inevitable, the children devise a plan — believing that Death only works at night, they decide to keep refilling his coffee cup until dawn comes, at which point he would have to leave without their grandmother. Again we are struck by the ordinariness of Death, for what can be more ordinary — and life-loving, even — than to enjoy a cup of coffee at the kitchen table?

But Death eventually curls his bony hand over the cup to signal that the time has come. Leah reaches her own tiny hand, taking his in hers, and beseeches him not to take their darling grandmother. Why, she insists, does grandma have to die?

Death is once more overcome with kindness and compassion for the children, so he decides to answer Leah’s question with a story, hoping it would help them understand why dying is natural and necessary.

He tells them of two brothers named Sorrow and Grief, who lived in a somber valley and went about their days “slowly and heavily” because they never looked up, because “they never saw through the shadows on the tops of the hills.” Beyond those shadows, Death tells the kids, lived two sisters, Joy and Delight.

Death tells the kids:

It is the same with life and death… What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for the day if there were no night?

Something difficult and beautiful has sunk in. When death finally gets up from the table to head upstairs, the youngest boy is moved to stop him — but his older brother puts a rueful hand on his shoulder and gently discourages him. Moments later, the children heard the upstairs window open. Then, in a voice somewhere between a cry and a whisper, Death said, “Fly, Soul. Fly, fly away.”

The curtains were blowing in the gentle morning breeze. Looking at the children, Death said quietly, “Cry, Heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.”

Then he was gone.

Ever after, whenever the children opened a window, they would think of their grandmother.  And when the breeze caressed their faces, they could feel her touch.

From my mom to us all:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

 

Mom, you always loved Winnie the Pooh and I think he said it best

How lucky I am to have [had] something that makes saying goodbye so hard

xxx

 

*mp* lesson #2

The other day my Facebook status was:

I keep asking myself what I should be learning from this experience. There is no way something as raw and as painful as this doesn’t leave us a little wiser with a new life lesson

What I’ve learnt in the last few days is humility and empathy – not everything is about me and I need to understand that everyone affected is grieving differently. I must let my ego move aside and approach things without a chip on my shoulder. No one (in my family) is out to offend or upset me, we’re all just doing our best to survive and trying to get through this, somehow

With my mom very suddenly dying on me, my world has fallen down around me and my heart lies shattered. There are days, no minutes or hours, where I feel ok. And then out of nowhere I’ll remember her face after she had died. There is no way to describe the colour or the icy touch. 

I can’t explain the wanting to see her and the scary idea of seeing a dead body. And then seeing the body and suddenly knowing that the person is no longer there. The body lying there, half covered with a sheet, is literally a shell. 

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling fine.  I wasn’t too fragile and I sat doing some work. As the day carried on I started feeling worse and worse. By 6pm all I could do to not kill someone or myself, was go for a walk. On my own. No cellphone. Nothing. I just needed to walk. But then I wanted to speak to someone. Anyone. I wanted someone to ask me if I was ok, and be fine with me screaming or whispering “no.no I’m not fine!”

Which brings me to lesson #2. Since my mom left I have been on my own. Alone. Except for three days. The day of her memorial. The day a friend popped by with flowers. Her mom died a few years back and her dad’s very sick at the moment, so she’s been there, done that and almost knew what I needed. And then on Sunday I met up with three sisters, girls I had known from my childhood. Forgive me for not knowing exact ages, but one is 50ish, the other I would say is in her 40s and the youngest, in her 30s. The youngest is my mom’s godchild. Over all these years they’ve stayed in touch with my parents, mostly my mom. 

They’ve lost their mom and dad in a short space of time, and at the service, when people were sitting sipping tea, I sat with them and remembered life in Hammond Road. And we laughed. And laughed. We wept over stories about our parents and the stupid things we had gotten up to. We howled at our moms’ mannerisms and our dads’ standard responses. I even saw my dad laughing, which for that day (or ever) is a very rare sight.

We created a whatsapp group and have met up once since. They’ve kept me sane. You’ll notice a few things when a tragedy happens. I’ve noticed that I’m not close to my sisters in law at all. I’ve also realized I’m not close to my brothers either. Not once have we sat as a family and laughed or cried. My mom was that invisible thread that kept us together and now, well now we’re not held together by anything. 

Back to lesson #2. People are scared of death. Not Death as in the proper noun. That’s a given. But people aren’t comfortable being around someone who has lost a special person. And I say this without judgement. Because I am, was, possibly still am, one of those people. 

As a rule I don’t attend funerals. I’m scared Death (the proper noun) sees me and thinks “oooooooh that one looks good. I think I’ll come for her next!” And I’m uncomfortable around sadness. I don’t know whether I should say something, say nothing, put my arms around them, cry, pretend nothing’s happened and talk about the weather. 

A friend of mine summed it up perfectly in a whatsapp:

Contrary to popular belief, misery does like company. I would love to see a friend, have a coffee and a chat. And have that person be ok with whatever emotions wash over me. To not be awkward with my grief. To not sqirm around in their chair as if their g-string’s caught up their ass. 

I want someone to not take offense when I say I don’t feel like meeting up but at the same time not thinking “oh fukkit! Now what?” when I say I’d like to. My mom died. I haven’t. 

So the lesson I’ve learned is to not hide away from Death or death. To not be scared to spend time with somebody who’s lost someone. Once again it’s about the ego, isn’t it? It’s about putting my feelings, my discomfort, aside for an hour or two and being an ear, a shoulder, a friend, a whatever-they-need-me-to-be. It’s about reaching out at a time I feel like it’s the last thing somebody needs or wants…

*mp* Signs…

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When someone you love goes away, passes on, passes away, dies, kicks the bucket, however you put it, you look for signs. All. The. Time.

You look out for signs to know they’re nearby. That they’re around and looking out for you, or listening to you.

So, this morning, as I was leaving home to pack more of my mom’s things I up, I sat in the car and to myself, said “mom let me know you’re ok with this. Let me know I’m not getting rid of your things too soon.”

And then I thought a good sign would be a song on a radio, like David Essex or Neil Diamond. Or even a song from Dirty Dancin’. That was my mom and my favourite movie, and we dragged my dad off to see it about 10 times, with me declaring to him “that it’ll be a classic one day! Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers!” I remember him rolling his eyes and saying “nothing will ever be like Feed and Ginger!”

As far as the DD soundtrack went, I was hoping to hear an a obvious one like “I’ve had the time of my life”or “hungry eyes”. A song I’d recognize immediately. Driving along I started listening to 947 but thought there’s no way they’d be playing classics this morning, so I switched over to Hot FM. Getting closer and closer to the south of jhb I started losing signal and the station would go all fuzzy and then kind of auto tune into the next channel, which happened to be an ALS (or African Language station) but I could still hear Hot FM, faintly in the fuzziness. 

And guess what I heard? “She’s like the wind”! I shit you not. And as I thought about it, it was the perfect song with the perfect title. 

It may be an absolute coincidence but like I say, when someone you love is no longer with you, you look for signs…

I got to speak to my mom yesterday…

Drag me to the village square, lash the letter ‘W’ for witchcraft on my back, because I spoke to my mom yesterday through a clairvoyant. I think, only once you’ve experienced a loss like this, you’ll understand the desperation, the need, the want, the yearning to know if they’re ok (of course they’re not, they’re dead), that they’re at peace and I suppose, there’s a need to hear them ‘say’ they love you, that you did good in their eyes, right up until the end.

My mom’s passing was sudden and unexpected. Not that it makes it any better, or any worse, than someone else’s loss but we were not prepared for it. She went in to have a ‘goiter’ removed, the doctor’s gave my dad the thumbs up when she came out the theater (I’m assuming it was to say ‘things went well’ and not ‘she’s on her way up to heaven’). I kept getting updates from my brothers, saying mom’s ok, she’s doing well, the nurses are happy. I was told not to come through to the hospital ‘because it’s such a long drive’ but to rather visit when she was home again.

And then on the 28th July my phone rang. And rang. And rang. First my older brother. Then my sister in law. Then Mark. And I knew something wasn’t right. My mom had died. She hadn’t waited for me for one last visit. It wasn’t a Hollywood movie moment where we all around her bed, surrounded by light and love. My mom died alone, in a cold hospital ward, at 09:50. About an hour and 10 minutes before visiting time.

So yes, I spoke to a clairvoyant yesterday. And it wasn’t anything I had expected. I don’t know. I had visions of my mom taking over the clairvoyant’s body, and her talking to me as if we were having a conversation. I thought there would direct references and messages and things I would immediately understand. But I’ve written everything down and as the days go by I’ll reread the notes I took.

For the sake of not having to type out the word ‘clairvoyant’ every time, let’s just call her C.

There was a moment where C had to stop for a second, because she was in tears, and I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but she said it’s never happened to her before. And the tears were brought on by my mom’s face, C said she is smiling, and happy, and her face is absolute ‘love’.  She mentioned three male heads – two younger than her, one older, and she was blowing them kisses, showing her appreciation and love for everything they did. I can only think it’s my two brothers and my dad, because the way they pulled together and got shit done was something I had never seen.

She asked about three younger female energies and asked their ages. My mom has three granddaughters, Kelly, Abby and Emma. C was a little confused because Kelly is the oldest, with Emma and Abby both seven, Emma older by a month or two. The confusion came in because the little girl C was referring to was younger, maybe five or six. And she was performing at a school concert, ‘like a stage’, but she’s taking the lead and wearing ‘like a princess or fairy outfit’. C also referred to the little girl holding a wand, which had come with the costume, but we chose at the last minute not to use it.

Emma, two years ago, sang ‘Let it Go’, at her school concert, in her little princess outfit, and on 8th August 2016 it came up as a memory, which I shared on my mom’s facebook page once again.

After our session had ended and I was going about whatever you go about doing, when you’re missing your heart, and I got a message from C again, saying my mom popped by in quickly and mentioned a recent birthday or celebration and how very proud she was of me. My birthday’s in May, Emma’s as well. Ben is in January. There’s no one’s birthday around this time until I remembered, the day after my mom’s memorial I set up a party for a little one-year-old, and dedicated it to my mom….

“Today’s Winter Onederland is a very special one. It’s the first party I’ve done since my mom passed on. And she was, without a doubt my biggest cheerleader 💔”

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I don’t have diarrhea! I have a dead mom! *mp*

Just so you know *mp* is short for Mom Post. I think you might have to deal with a few of them for a while so the idea is to save you having to read through a blog post about my mom’s death if you don’t want to…

Death you’re a fickle bastard. I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I want to be doing something, to take my mind off the hurt, but I don’t want to be doing anything because it feels disrespectful. I want people near me but I want to be a million miles away. I feel like I should be moving on bravely, as you would want, but I also want to curl up and die, to be with you, because that’s what I want. 

I want someone to ask me how I am or ask me how I’m doing but when they do I smile and softly say “I’m ok” while my inside voice screams “what the dumbfuck kind of a question is that? My mom’s dead! How do you think I’m doing?”

I want to see a psychic or clairvoyant to know my mom is safe and sound and has reached her new home but I also don’t want to hear her ‘from the other side’ because that means she is gone. That she’s really gone and she’s not coming back. 

I want to go through her things, to smell her, to feel her, to maybe hear her but I don’t want to do any of that. I would never go through my mom’s things of she were alive, so to be doing it now, it means once again she’s really gone. 

I’m trying to remember every conversation but my mind isn’t being fair. It’s reminding me of the little arguments we had, the silly disagreements. My mind’s giving me a list of the 101 things I should have said, or done. 

My mom loved me. I know that. I know that because I am a mother and I would die for my children. And I know she knows how much I loved her. But I wonder if she’s thinking I could have done more. I’m wondering if she’s made a mental note of all the times I said I’d pop by and didn’t. Of the times I could have met her for a coffee and a piece of cake. And I didn’t. 

I want to see people and I don’t. I want to slip under my blankets and sleep but I can’t. I wake up feeling ok, for maybe a second and then I remember my mom’s dead. And she’s been dead for 10 days and about three hours. I appreciate the kind words and the messages. So very much. But the ones that mention how proud my mom was of me, those kill me. Because I actually never did very much to make her proud. As much as my world has ended, life carries on and I’m trying to get my head around people saying ‘ok let’s chat in a day or two when you feel better!’ FEEL BETTER? IN A DAY OR TWO? I don’t have diarrhea for fuck’s sake. I have a dead mom. 

We white folk don’t know to deal with death. We don’t know to mourn or celebrate a life. When a person dies we suddenly stop mentioning their name. We avoid any conversations that might include the dead person. And every time we do that we let that person die over and over again. We don’t know what to do or say to the loved ones left behind and so we say nothing. We don’t call. We don’t visit. We ‘give them their space’

I miss my mom. If you want to know how I am send me a message, asking ‘how are you doing today? This minute? Right now?” Ask me if I want to meet up for a cup of coffee. Worst thing I can do is say yes! Don’t whisper my mom’s name. Speak it as you would if she were here with us, in the same room, because she is. 

               

The problem is you think you have time

The truth is you don’t. This morning I found out my mom had passed away from acute cardiac and respiratory failure brought on by advanced anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid gland, the least common tumours (only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases) and the most deadly. I hadn’t heard of this before. but I’ll definitely not forget it.

My mom, for months, had had a rather large goiter on the side of her neck. It was big. It was noticeable. I’m trying to understand how and why it went undiagnosed. Earlier this year my dad was in the ICU and there were specialists and surgeons around all the time. Not one suggested my mom should maybe have it looked it.

Symptoms include:
  • Coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness or changing voice
  • Loud breathing
  • Lower neck lump, which often grows quickly

I don’t think she was coughing up blood at all, but in the last few weeks she had difficulty swallowing, so much so that she hardly ate, but she never said that. She simply said she wasn’t hungry, or that she had just eaten. The first time I saw her in hospital she had lost close to 30 kilograms.

I never ever saw the surgeons or doctors. I would either visit my mom in the morning, before they had done their rounds or at night, when they finished up for the day, so I was getting some second hand information from my dad and brothers and still feisty mom.

In my mind (and I’m not sure if everybody else was thinking the same) she was going to have the goiter removed and she would be home in a day or two. The day of her surgery I stayed with my dad and older brother most of the day at the hospital, hoping to be with her when she was rolled into theatre and wanting to be there when she came out, but by 3pm she still hadn’t gone in and I needed to get home to do ‘momdane’ things. I got a whatsapp from my younger brother at 7:24pm saying he’s leaving the hospital, mom’s still sleeping. Nurses are happy with her, That was Tuesday, 19th July.

The next morning I  got a message, from my brother. It read: Spoke to the hospital this AM. Mom was responding well when she woke up and is doing good. She was moved to the general ward and I kept getting updates from various family members.

I’d like to blame everyone else in this story, from the doctors to my siblings to my dad. Every time I said I would come through to visit they would say ‘oh it’s such a schlep to drive all the way from Fourways’ or ‘rather visit her on the weekend she’s home.’

On Monday, the 25th, I was tired because I had had a big event on the 23rd, so chose to rest. On Tuesday the 26th I had a different excuse for not going. On Wednesday something else came up too. And besides, I was going to to go visit my mom on Saturday.

On Thursday the 28th July, I saw missed calls from both my brothers, from my sister in law and from Mark, all a few minutes apart, and I knew. I just knew. My mom had left me. Us.

I don’t have any answers – I don’t know that if when the surgeons cut her open to remove the goiter they saw the devastation and chose to not say anything to anyone, including my mom, and put her in a general ward to just keep her as comfortable as possible. I don’t know if they thought her time was so limited that it wouldn’t have made any sense to tell any of us the actual truth. I don’t know if they told my brothers and they chose not to tell me. I don’t know.

And today, when I found out what she had, and what ultimately killed her, I was so pissed off. I wanted to blame everyone – for not telling me my mom’s time was limited. I wanted to smash someone’s face in for not giving it to me straight so that I could have spent every second of every day with her, before she left.

But the truth is there is NO ONE to blame BUT myself. I assumed I had time. I assumed my mom would always be here. I made the wrong choices over and over again. And you know what’s slowly killing me, is how many people have told me how much my mom loved me; how she was always bragging about what I was up to; how she always spoke about the amazing woman and mom I had become. She constantly showed people photos from my Facebook pages, as though I was a million miles away. And there I was, a half hour drive from her, and I just never made the time, for the only person who loved me wholly, completely, flaws and all.

The time I thought I always had, has run out. And there’s no go getting it back…

 

Keeping your memory alive mom…

mom

This morning I woke up with that empty feeling, the one I’ve had the last few days. The feeling knowing today will be another one without you.

I was up earlier than everyone else, so I made myself a cup of coffee and sat on my own, with my thoughts, in the dark. Mom it’s so hard to admit this, let alone put it out there for people to read but I need to in order to get to the point of this post.

I used to look at you sometimes and think ‘you’re just a mom’. You were just a ‘stay at home mom’ with no major achievements to call your own. In my eyes you weren’t successful – you weren’t running any companies or winning any accolades. You weren’t famous for doing anything spectacular and you hadn’t made any significant changes in the world.

You were just a mom. But now, with you leaving us, I see the impact you had on people, and even though you might not have added anything to the world, you added a great deal to someone’s life, and that is amazing to see.

I know as a mom now, Emma and Ben still think I’m pretty awesome. But I also know that soon I won’t be cool enough and I’ll probably be an endless source of embarrassment for them. My kooky traits that make them laugh now will have them cringing as teenagers and they’ll be sending their friends emoticons, not even thought of yet, about their uncool mom.

Mom, somewhere along the line I stopped seeing you as a person in your own right. I overlooked your incredible strength and ability to empathize. It irritated me how everywhere we went you had to stop and talk to everyone and I hated that I sometimes had to share you with friends. I didn’t see that that was your gift. Instead, I selfishly believed you didn’t have enough time for me.

Back to my cup of coffee this morning. Ben has been going on and on about how he wants me to build a school. And how he wants me to be the principal. And up until this morning I ‘pfffffted’ the idea. I know nothing about schools, I know nothing about being a principal and I definitely don’t have the money to open one. Needing to catch up with the world I went onto Facebook and the very first post, at the top of my feed, was about crowdfunding. Mom, if I do this the right way I might just be able to raise money to carry on (what you wouldn’t even think is) your legacy.

Mom, if I do this the right way I might just be able to raise money to carry on what you wouldn’t even think is your legacy. I might not raise the money to open a ‘real-life’ school (as Ben says) and there might never be enough money in the whole wide ‘university’ (another Benism) but imagine if I could raise enough money to get a kid through their schooling, for a year OR imagine if I could get in touch with someone already in the world of education and create a fund, benefitting children in some way.

My mind is still so fuzzy and this could be another one of my ‘pie-in-the-sky’ ideas that doesn’t come to fruition, but you’ve made me realize success isn’t what I thought it was. And if I could make a difference in the life of one, three or fifty children, then I will finally be the daughter you always knew I could be.

PS visit here to donate anything you’d like. And feel free to drop me a mail with suggestions of what I could do or how I could help someone.