How Do I Live My Life After Mom's Death?
I remember the day my mother died as if it were yesterday. She was on hospice and I was frantically packing and getting last minute details done because I knew I wouldn’t be home again before the funeral. My husband and daughter were home helping and as I was heading to the door, my hands full with the last load, my husband’s phone rang. Fear flooded over me.
“Ok. I’ll tell her.” It wasn’t the words that caused my heart to sink. It was the tone of his voice.
Mom was gone.
As he hugged me, the tears flowed freely as I sobbed, “I should have been there!”
“You can’t say that!” she screamed as she ran to me crying. I tried to comfort her despite the fact my world had stopped in a heartbeat. We both cried and the next hour remains a blur as my husband went to pick up our other daughter. I probably called my brother but I truly don’t remember that call. I do remember my oldest coming home with her dad. Thankfully I didn’t have to break the news as he had already done that. I spent a short time with my girls trying to comfort them while my husband worried.
“Are you sure you’re ok to drive?”
“I’ll be fine,” I got out between sobs. “Besides, I don’t have any choice. I need a car in Bismarck.”
“Well, I can drive you there and we can rent a car in Bismarck for you.”
“I’ll be ok” I remember telling him but the rest of the conversation remains fuzzy.
All the I should have’s flooded my head.
I should have been there.
I should have had things ready so I could have left sooner.
Somehow I managed to pull myself together to drive 3 hours to be with my grandparents and provide comfort and assistance for them. Although the next few weeks blurred together, I remember going into my mom’s apartment and easily picturing her in the chair she always sat in. I could still hear her words from the last time I saw her. “Remember, I’m always in your heart.” I cried when she said them, I cried that day, and I still cry 9 years later writing them.
I desperately wanted to hold her or at least hold something that reminded me of her. I grabbed the shawl I had made for her and took it to my grandparents where I was staying while taking care of funeral preparations. The heartache didn’t go away but holding something of my mom’s helped me feel she was still with me and that comforted me.
There were so many people asking how I was doing, offering help and condolences. It was overwhelming. A part of me didn’t want to explain to one more person how I was doing, yet the other part wanted to talk about my mom and how much I missed her. I think the hardest part, though, was the weeks and months later when the littlest thing from out of nowhere would trigger tears and people expected me to be “over it” and be back to “normal.”
I remember thinking things would never be normal again. That I would always feel this hole in my heart and a pit in my stomach. It was hard to believe others when they told me I would smile again and the pain would cease to be all-consuming.
It didn’t happen overnight but slowly I learned to smile and laugh again. I will always miss her, but I choose to focus on the saying we printed on her funeral program.
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.