Harder in the Happy Times?

This entry is kind of all over the place so please bear with me. These thoughts have been rolling around in my head for a couple weeks now and I just had to put them on paper

It’s been just over 3 months now since Mom passed. My emotions are all over the place on a daily basis, which I assume is normal when dealing with a loss of this magnitude. I’ve definitely realized in the last couple weeks that the happier I get, the deeper it hurts. 

Perhaps it’s because we were so close. I can’t just pick up the phone and call her whenever I have exciting news. I can’t spend my days off shopping with her and getting all excited for the holidays. 

We used to Damsel together, she’s a huge part of why I joined in the first place. I’ve been a Damsel in Defense Independent Pro for 3 years now, but right now, for the 3 months since she left, I’ve been working my business FOR REAL, and it’s been rewarding in more ways than I can express. I seriously think to call her every time something amazing happens, and then I get a little sad. I know she would be proud of my recent accomplishments. She was always my biggest supporter and number one cheerleader. Part of me continues to Damsel because I know it was important to her to see me succeed, and the other part continues to press harder because I believe in the mission with my whole heart! Even though I know how proud she is, or would be, my emotional reactions in these times definitely range from one extreme to the other.

And now the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving happens to fall on Dad’s birthday this year, which is cool, but… we always have Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house (on Mom’s side)… I don’t really know what to expect this year, but I told Dad we’d do whatever he wants. I know Mom’s family will understand if we don’t go to Grandma’s, but at the same time I feel like we would be breaking Grandma & Grandpa’s hearts if we don’t. I guess it 100% depends on Dad, but either way, it’s going to be difficult. 

Then there’s Christmas… My absolute favorite. I’m a self-proclaimed Christmas-aholic and I’m pretty sure most of my love for it came from Mom. Although a couple years ago it became perfectly clear to me why I’m such a sap when it comes to Christmas: 

My brother and I are both adopted, and I noticed a few years ago that on Mom’s calendar there was a day marked for my brother’s family anniversary, (she’s always had every important date on the calendar) but there wasn’t one for me. So, after a few cocktails, I asked her why mine wasn’t on the calendar. Her response? “Well probably because we brought you home on Christmas?” Grinning ear to ear, the little light bulb turned on, and it all made sense! Christmas was the best day of my life! But now I have to learn how to enjoy and celebrate the best times without the person who made them the best times…

Christmas baking was definitely my mom’s niche.When I was a kid we used to make an entire gingerbread village! Stained glass windows in the church and everything! She had a list of recipes that she’d collected and perfected over the years, but her sugar cookies were ALWAYS at the top of the list. Last year, Mom was just starting to not feel well, so she was changing her diet and trying to figure out what was going on with her body. My husband actually teased her that we wouldn’t be making an appearance if there weren’t sugar cookies! Luckily for us, she left an entire binder full of her recipes. I’ll have to do my best to carry on her traditions in the kitchen, even if it takes me a few years to perfect them like she did.

 
There’s also the matter of the spare closet. I already went through all the clothing in it, but the rest is all of her Christmas decorations. Cute little things my brother and I made for her when we were babes. Things she’d been gifted over the years. Keepsake ornaments she’s had for over 30 years. 

For my entire adult life, she has picked out a tree, always a Noble fir, tirelessly harassed my dad until it’s been positioned exactly right, and then called me to come help decorate the tree and the house. We had a select set of tapes and cds we played while performing certain Christmas related tasks. 

It’s unfathomably difficult to remain happy while reminiscing of Christmases passed. I have found myself getting super duper excited for Christmas in the last few weeks, thanks Hallmark Channel, and then I remember that it’s all going to change. I’m almost certain Dad’s not going to want to have it at the house like we always do. (Although I’ve been too chicken to bring it up with him.) 

I’ve been tempted to just run away and cancel Christmas this year. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? 

Then my conscience knocks and delivers an all expenses paid guilt trip. It totally wouldn’t be fair to my grandparents, both in their 90’s and just lost their daughter, for us to abandon 30+ years of tradition just because I’m sad.

There is one HUGE reason, aside from guilt, to be excited about the Christmas season this year, and that’s my brand new baby nephew, who will be just shy of 5 months old come Christmas. He was born 22 days after Mom passed. It breaks my heart that Mom was never able to meet her first grandchild, but it’s our duty to make sure he knows how much his grandma wanted to meet him, and that she loved him very much! I’m trying to cling to the idea of making happy memories for this baby, rather than being melancholy over all the things I miss about Christmas the way it used to be. 
I’m sure everything will all work out, I’m clearly not the only person who has ever been in this situation. I know I’m probably just over-thinking everything and creating unnecessary anxiety for myself. I know it’s going to be emotionally exhausting no matter how it works out, and I guess I’d rather be emotional while surrounded by my family than off somewhere trying to hide my feelings. Maybe it will be a good healing experience. 

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Life after Mom… it must go on!

It’s been an entire month now since I said ‘goodbye’ to my sweet mommy. I never pictured my life without her. Now I find myself stumbling, somewhat gracefully, through my life; a bit scattered, extremely emotional, kind of dazed, super determined to make big changes… I don’t really know what I’m doing, or how I’m doing it, so for now, I’ll just tell you what I do know. 

On April 7th, 2016, Mom was blindsided with a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. By the time the doctors discovered it, made up their minds as to what kind of cancer it actually was, and were prepared to offer a course of treatment, it was too late. We got to spend 3 full months together, crying, laughing, cooking, praying, and saying the things that needed to be said. I only got to have her for 3 months and 1 day after that life altering phone call. 

It’s really easy to be angry with the doctors she saw, especially those before the diagnosis. She was “sick” for about 6 months before, with no discernable illness, and certainly no major indicators of cancer. I’ve definitely lost some faith in the ability of the medical “professionals” in our area. 

It’s difficult to be alone, and hear a song, or see a photograph that reminds me of her. I always smile at first, but then the flood gates open. I got my eclectic taste in music from her!

It’s difficult to not be able to pick up the phone and call her whenever I want. We talked on the phone almost every day. She was the only person I called on a regular basis. When she started texting a few years ago, we wound up “talking” every day. 

It’s painful to think that she didn’t get to meet her first grandchild, who was born a mere twenty-two days after she left us, but comforting to know that she is up there in heaven, and got to see it all from the best seat in the house. 

I’m so grateful that we got to celebrate her 54th birthday with her just a few weeks before things got bad. It makes my heart happy that she and Dad got to go away for a few days for their 32nd wedding anniversary just days before she became confined to her bed.

I am eternally grateful to the hospice staff! They were wonderful at answering all of our questions, even over the holiday weekend. It was incredibly comforting to hear them say that we were doing a great job in keeping Mom medicated, comfortable and clean. The compassion they showed my family through every step of the longest week of our lives was just immeasurable.

It’s comforting to know that there are so many people out there whose lives were touched by my mommy. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who didn’t have something nice to say about her. I love hearing stories from her friends. My heart beats a little faster and a smile spreads across my face when I see pictures of their adventures together. Mom was only 54, but she lived an incredibly full life. 

I have to keep reminding myself that she’s in a better place, free of pain, cancer free, and celebrating with all our loved ones who beat her there. I will forever cherish the time we got to spend together in her last couple months. I’m blessed beyond words to have been able to call her my mommy, she chose me to be her daughter, and it was just an added bonus to call her my best friend.

So yes, it’s difficult to answer the, “How are you doing?” inquiries every day. “I’m doin…” That’s my typical response, but what I mean is, I’m sad. My heart hurts. I miss my mommy. While I appreciate that people care and that they’re taking the time to check on me, honestly, I don’t really know HOW I’m doing. By the grace of God, I’m alive, back to my routine, and still able to laugh and smile, so I guess I’m doing alright.

Keep singing and dancing with the angels, Mommy. I’ll see you again someday!