Each day I expected to grieve a little less, be a little more used to my mom not being here. Not being a phone call or hug away. But as I continue my grieving journey I’ve realized that it’s just always going to be here because as life continues new moments will inflict their own feelings.
My mom’s health began to significantly decline when my life was beginning to grow. This was hard for my twenty-four year old self to be okay with. How do I find out who I am without leaving her behind? She passed away two weeks after I started my first full-time job in a new state. I’ll never forget her face and our tears as I hugged her good-bye at my aunts wedding reception. She was reclined in her chair, so frail and sad…so unlike her. I remember walking out in tears because I knew that the mom I grew up with was really never going to be that way again. And looking back, I can still see her eyes and thinking this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Why didn’t we get the normal life of weekend visits to my apartment and seeing me live a grown up life? Watching me marry the love of my life, talking me through pregnancy concerns, reminding me to think before I speak and to take care of my self. But we don’t get to pick and this was the hand we were dealt. I know she was angry at the end. She was an extremely positive person but she was angry. She didn’t deserve that ending to her story.
And I think that is why I’m so committed to carrying on her memory every day. Because she deserves that. She deserves Grandkids who understand why we love Bald Eagles, and a memory garden filled with her favorite flowers. She more than deserves to feel our love all the way to heaven.
This rambling post is really because each new memory in life brings up those new feelings. We are expecting our third child and I’m met with a whole new set of emotions wishing she was here. Wanting to ask her how she handled three kids, if she had anxiety or depression during and after pregnancy…and how she did it all?
So ask your mom, or dad or whoever is super special to you these questions because you just never know. I’m left with this sweet card my dad found when he was cleaning out their house. We can’t remember why or when she wrote it, but I love that it’s so simple that a quick look can bring both tears and love.
Friday I had the privilege of giving Father Keith an early Father’s Day gift – spending most of his day with me. It’s actually the other way around. It was so nice to get to hang out with him without distractions. We spent the day at a conference learning all the ins and outs of the health condition he battles.
Pulling into the parking lot and seeing the sign “Hope starts here” really resonated with me. As I fought back tears realizing I’d soon be face to face with fears of the unknown, I took that sign as not only a sign from God but from my mom. I couldn’t help but think back to her interview with a local news outlet discussing the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition-IA Chapter’s annual Break the Silence Run/Walk. Her message of hope just made me feel like in that moment, on Friday, my dad and I were where we should have been. Together, educating ourselves (and smuggling suckers from the vendor tables). Because all you can do is educate yourself and #sweets4life.
I actually listen to her interview often. I selfishly need to hear her voice and a verbal reminder of hope. And, ironically a couple weekends ago, we attended the Break the Silence run/walk in her honor. It was incredible to see all the people supporting their loved ones. It’s bittersweet attending without her but having her Grandkids and sister participate were a close second best.
How do you handle fears of the unknown? Do you like to be educated or are you stronger when you’re unsure?
“Your mom just has cancer. Not you.” I’ll never forget those words. When my mom was diagnosed someone told me this after I explained how my life had changed, my values and priorities had shifted and I’d grown. The comment stopped in me in my tracks.
And while I can’t remember how I responded, I catch myself thinking back to that moment every once in a while. “Your mom has cancer, not you.”
True, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, the kind that is past the point of easily being cured – I was by all accounts healthy. But anyone who has lost or seen someone suffer a loss knows that while the patient does carry the heaviest burden – family and loved ones have their own struggles. How do you keep it together when your world is falling apart? You just do the best you can. And some days you have it together and others you don’t, but both are ok.
Some days will be fighting through the fears of the unknown, the questions of whether or not your recent phone call will be the last. Will they feel up to talking with you or having you visit that day? Who is going to talk to your siblings guidance counselors and make sure they don’t miss athletic events they simply cannot miss? How will you give the play-by-play of athletic games you don’t understand? Smiling when you can because you know that’s how they want to see you. Making the hospital or chemo/doctor visits your new place to visit and going for that hour run when you’re way out of shape because they just killed their chemo treatment and want to run.
And that is “just cancer.” It’s your dad sitting at your wedding by himself in a pew that he should be sharing with his fourth grade sweetheart. That is grief, that is loss and that is heartbreak – a different kind of heartbreak. It’s having your world flipped upside down. It’s bittersweet memories…always. It’s being afraid but smiling. It’s crying harder than you’ve ever cried and it’s realizing that you don’t have to keep it together. Things can fall and you can change. There will be good days and there will be hard days. And that is ok.
How do you cope with a the loss or fear of losing a loved one?
Thank you so much for all the love, thoughts and messages regarding our last post. While our hearts are broken we know it’s not the end of our journey to grow our family and will just see where God takes us.
It’s officially been five years since the last day I got to talk, hug and love my mom in person. And it’s been really hard. It’s been harder than normal and I find myself tearing up really easy, just wishing I could call her. As I do each year, I took the day off to just spend some time with myself and her. I made sure to do things we would have done together or something she would have done in her every day like taking Lou for a run and baking her cut-out cookie recipe. Joel even helped me frost and decorate. Oh and I wore her turtleneck cropped wool sweater which I received compliments on (my sisters won’t believe it). My sister Catie and her manfriend Arlin came over and we ordered “terrible” Chinese. It was great. Continue reading →
Anyone who knows me knows I love Bald Eagles. Growing up my parents shared their love of this bird, due in part to their hometown, Decorah, IA. It’s a popular area for Bald Eagles and when we would road trip to visit family we would always keep an eye out for one. Dad said we’d get $5 for everyone we saw (still waiting to collect).
I never knew how this bird would become my saving grace in coping with my mother’s cancer. When her hair started to fall out from chemo, mom got together with her sisters to shave her head. She looked amazing. I wish I would have done it with her but my head has a dent in it. Regardless she looked beautiful. One day she was probably asking me to do something and I got sassy with her and called her “Bald Eagle.” She gave me a look but I quickly recovered and let her know it was a symbol of strength and grace. She liked it and the name stuck. Continue reading →
When my mom was diagnosed, it brought on so many emotions. I was in the middle of a quarter-life crisis (it’s a real thing), graduating college, ending a relationship, moving out for the first time, applying for jobs and THEN my best-friend mom was diagnosed with cancer. I needed advice. I wanted someone to tell me it was ok, that she would be alright, I would be alright, my family would be alright and life wouldn’t end.
To cope with the fear of the unknown, I found myself gravitating towards quotes and poems. Whether it was on strength, love, grief or friendship I started saving these in a homemade journal I received from my cousin. I still have it and will write down new quotes whenever I find them. You can find a lot of them on my Pinterest board. Continue reading →
On Saturday, September 12, Hayden Keith, my sister Catie and I attended the annual HOM Teal Strides for ovarian cancer run. The run benefits MOCA, an amazing local non-profit that is a crusader for ovarian cancer awareness. The last time I participated in this event, I was 6 weeks pregnant with Hayden Keith so it was neat to experience the run with him. I try to participate in one ovarian cancer event every year as a way to connect with mom and do my part to raise awareness for such an awful disease. It’s bittersweet to be around so many others who understand the nastiness of ovarian cancer and seeing the teal makes me smile. I wish mom was here to still run with me. Organizers handed out stickers to wear that said whether you were running in honor or memory of someone. I grabbed one for Hayden Keith and me. As I was running, I tried to read who others were running for and it was sad to see so many people my age running for their mom, kids Hayden Keith’s age running for grandma and husbands like my dad running for the wives. This disease is much more treatable in the early stages, there needs to be a better screening process for early detection. Continue reading →
Some days are hard and some days are even harder. Last night was a really hard one. Over the last month I’ve been trying to cope with loss and understand how and why some experience more loss than others. I know everyone has their own battle(s), but some just seem more obvious than others but regardless loss hurts. It doesn’t make one loss any less than the other. But to some holding onto that loss and grief can be a sign of weakness. As if there is a time frame for grief and “getting over” someone or something. To those people I would say, “it is really easy to say that when you aren’t the one experiencing those emotions.” You don’t have to go through your day seeing people live a life you once knew or you wish you could experience. Logging into social media, you see so much joy (which is great) but on a hard day it can make it even harder. People having babies, spending time with their parents and friends, and it’s easy to start to compare and break yourself down because your life doesn’t live up to that picture. That’s my struggle. Continue reading →
As promised I’m sharing how we celebrated Hayden Keith turning 1 and how I made sure my mom was a part of the day!! It was a bittersweet day for me on a couple levels. My firstborn / little baby boy was no longer a baby. He had turned into a walking, laughing, loud BOY. And, I wish my mom was there to celebrate.
Growing up with two sisters and no brothers we had to find something that was our own and it was birthdays. Basically your birthday was a national holiday. I blame this solely on my mom. She went above and beyond to make sure our birthday was our day and that didn’t change, as we got older. I was fortunate enough to live at home for all my birthdays with my mom, and every year I came down to a present on the table, her signature eggcake breakfast, a homemade cake (if she hadn’t ordered DQ) or flowers, something that showed me it was my day. I will cherish this forever. Continue reading →
I love Motown. Growing up we always had music playing in the house. It didn’t matter if we were dancing around, baking or cleaning, my parents loved music. It’s funny how some things stick with you because I also LOVE music. Any kind, I really can’t discriminate, maybe heavy metal but I’d probably end up finding some song I could dance to.
Smokey Robinson and The Temptations were two artists my mom played a lot and she sang the song “My Girl” to us when we were little. I still tear up when I hear it and find myself signing it to Hayden Keith too. (Fun fact: my last b-day gift from my mom was tickets to see Smokey live. She was too sick to go but a friend went with me, it was awesome.) Continue reading →