Community *Sparks: Eight Years
I love getting the opportunity through Community *Sparks to introduce our Storycatchers community to the different people and voices that I have had the opportunity to meet either personally, or via Storycatchers. Kate, the author of the breathtaking piece below (be sure to read her bio at the end of the post) is someone that I know both personally and through Storycatchers, our kids being friends and contemporaries but it is through our connection of writing and loving words that we've gotten to know each other a little more. She just posted this piece on her blog: A Terminal Case of Hope and I very quickly and nicely asked to steal it. :) I'm a polite pirate of stories at least.
Please, please, please go and read more of Kate's work on her blog.
Kate beautifully takes on the topic of missing your mom. Grief takes no days off, and in many cases is often flared by these holidays meant for celebration. It is only fitting that we honor those that are both celebrating and mourning their mothers this Mother's Day.
This year is eight years. How can it be eight years since I have heard my mom’s voice, seen her smile, shared a laugh with her. How can it be eight years since I have giddily gobbled her homemade pierogis or sat at her table being comforted by my imperfectly perfect mom? How can it be eight years since I have shared a full-on “Lorac laugh attack”? Or been involved in a highly competitive, wine fueled game of scrabble? How can it be eight years since I’ve seen her hug and love my babies while plying them with sweets or anything butter filled?
Eight years, it feels like eternity and yesterday all at once.
Those “babies” of mine, well they are now tweens and teens and their true memories of my mom are pretty fuzzy at this point. This brings tears to my eyes and absolute sorrow to my heart. To know that my babies will never really, truly remember their “Grandma-ma” as she lovingly referred to herself. They don’t remember her hugs, her kisses, her snuggles, her version of “Round and Round the Garden goes the Teddy Bear” or her loud giddy filled “Peek-A-Boos” which quite frankly, bordered on obnoxious. They don’t remember her coffee breath singing a totally off key version of “Country Roads” for an early nap time. They don’t remember her dryer blankies engulfing them after an afternoon splashing in the lake outside her home. They don’t remember the absolute peace that poured over them when they laid in Grandma-ma’s arms.
Why, there’s a whole part of me that they simply don’t know without knowing the woman that made me who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I am tirelessly keeping her memory alive. Some days this is easier than others. There have been times when these stories bring me to tears right in front of my kids. At first, the tears frightened them and so I tried to hide them. Then I noticed in trying to hide my sadness, I wasn’t sharing stories of my ma with them. Her memory was fading and I realized that was no way to honor the woman that made me who I am. And so, tears or no tears, I have decided to continue to share these stories with the caveat that I miss my ma and sometimes I cry and that is okay. As the years continue to climb, I find myself more consistent in sharing stories of my “ma” with my kids. Oh and the stories, let’s just say I won’t run out of material anytime soon.
Oh ma, how I wish you were here to see your grand babies grow up. I wish you were here to help me be the kind of ma you were. I wish you were here to help me be the kind of wife you were. I wish you were here to soften me, you always had that ability to soften my edges. Even me out.
It’s taken me a long time to realize a piece of you, or many pieces of you are right here with me. Why I see you in all of my kids. I see you in my middle kid, her soft personality, her big love, her sharp wit – her utter inability to get song lyrics right! I see you in my son, when he competitively eats the homemade pierogis I make, and yes he keeps count just like his Grandma-ma and whines of a belly ache promptly after, again just like Grandma-ma! He also exhibits classic Grandma-ma traits when he can’t hold back a laugh attack in a church pew or some other wildly inappropriate place. And I see you in my Little E – when she laughs, she smiles or when she shouts some obscure Jeopardy answer across the room – some little known fact about Billie Jean King or Arthur Ashe! Ha.
Eight years is an eternity to be without your best friend, to be without your ma. And as another Mother’s Day approaches, I feel conflicted as a mother, but also as a motherless daughter. Eight years is a really long time to be flying solo out here as a mom. It’s been eight years of birthdays, science fairs, first days of school, field trips, illnesses, awards, holidays and summers at the lake she so loved.
Eight years since I have had my best friend here with me. Eight years since I have felt the comfort and love of the one woman who never once faltered in her love for me. And let’s be clear -there were times throughout my turbulent teen years that I couldn’t stand myself and my mom was always there to scoop me up, dust me off and tell me how absolutely fabulous I was! There were times early in my professional career when I doubted my capabilities and there she was to boost my ego. There were times in my early years of motherhood where I didn’t think I could do it and there she was to pick me up and put me back together again. Even as she lay dying, she was more concerned about how all of “us” were going to deal with her death than her own death.
It was my ma who taught me what a “Hub” really is, yep, that awesome soft spot to land, that absolute love and acceptance. My ma was the ultimate “Hub”. She was always there and she always had our backs. You could trust my ma with anything. And over the years it wasn’t just my siblings and I that placed all our secrets and fears squarely in her arms but just about every single friend I ever had trusted my mom and had a night with “Lorac”. When they felt they had nowhere else to go, they trusted my ma, she was an absolute quilt of warmth. Man, I miss that quilt.
And now, I’m the mom, it is my job to scoop them up, dust them off and make sure they know how absolutely fabulous they are – but without her behind me, mothering is awfully lonely. And Mother’s Day is another day of the year that I miss my ma so much it physically hurts. Mother’s Day is another day that I am reminded how alone I am without her. It’s another day that I imagine eight years worth of boat rides, campfires, birthdays, holidays, first days of school that we should have had together. It’s a reminder that I am missing the yard stick in which I measure my mothering skills against. And in an ironic twist, when I’ve realized I simply cannot possibly compare to my ma, I don’t have her to pick me up, dust me off and reassure me that I am a good mom, that I am doing it well or even just acceptably!
Ma. Grandma-ma, Lorac, Aunt Honeybuns, Carol, Carolyne, Mrs. Hackett, Mrs. H, Babe – no matter what we knew you as, I hope you know that all that love you spread while here, it mattered. And it is greatly missed every. single. day. But, especially on the day that was custom made for you Ma – Happy Mother’s Day.
My name is Kate, I am a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter and I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer on Nov. 1st, 2010. Balancing a terminal diagnosis with life has been an interesting experience. Ups, downs and all-arounds have happened over the last ALMOST five years! While I have been lucky to manage my diagnosis with the help of an incredible medical team as well as an incredible support system all around me, many of my family members haven’t been as lucky.
A year before my diagnosis at the age of 32, my world was rocked when my beautiful mom died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. That year of firsts was difficult, that grief so incredibly overwhelming, all-consuming. Managing the grief with a full time job and my family (my husband and three kids ages 4,5,6) proved challenging. So almost one year after my mom’s death in 2010, when I had an infection in my right arm pit that just wouldn’t go away, an ultrasound and wait, oh crap, wait 4 biopsies I knew things weren’t looking great. A battery of tests later and I found myself diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with mets to the bones. I remember my oncologist asking me, “Weren’t you tired at all”? I remember thinking I’m always tired, isn’t that the life of a mom? I don’t know what I should feel like?
A whirlwind of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation followed. And at every turn, there was good news. It was working, my body was handling it, I was young and strong, etc..My medical team was stellar and my family and friends even more incredible. A long story short, we kicked the cancer into what my oncologist would only very cautiously call a “partial remission”. I was able to take daily oral meds along with monthly infusions. Soon, the monthly infusions turned into every 8 weeks. Things were looking up. Every scan that I endured, whether it was a PET, a CT, an MRI, a mammogram, I was growing a bit more confident. Maybe I would see that illusive 5-year-mark, I just might live to see it.
Moving on from the spring of 2011, I learned not to take ANYTHING for granted. Take the vacations, read the magazine and leave the sink full of dishes, play with the kids in the lake, ride bikes for ice cream. Make time for the important things and let the little things stay little. Pick your feet up in that lazy river and well, just let it sweep you up. Be thankful for this time because in many ways it feels very borrowed!
The time never felt more borrowed than in the summer of 2013 when more cancer swept in to claim more victims so close to me and my family. My dad, just 69 was diagnosed with bile duct cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) on Aug. 10th, 2013, by Sept. 6 he was gone. Helplessly watching my dad die so rapidly knocked me off my feet. But – when my 31-year-old little brother and best friend died just 52 days later from pancreatic cancer I found myself completely devastated. Cancer had ravaged my family. But somehow here I was? Still living, still thriving?