GRIEF – is a hard word. It’s a word we know exists, but a word we don’t talk nearly enough about. When we lose a loved one, we cope with the emotions of grief in thousands of ways. Some days we focus on the negative, other days we focus on the positive. I know, I know…What can possibly be positive about losing someone we love? Well, it’s all in how we apply ourselves. Do we want to have years of endless heartache and sadness? Or do we want to find a way to honor this person in our daily lives forever? Of course, there will always be times of heartache and tears. For me, it’s especially hard around Mother’s Day. The tears come easy and my moods shift quickly.
When I was 21, my mother ended her long battle with breast cancer. In my eyes, she was a survivor even though cancer had taken over her body. She was strong and she fought for as long as she could. I’ll never forget the day when she sat my sister and me down and told us she didn’t want to fight any more. I knew I had to respect her decision and that she had done everything she could to keep going, but I didn’t understand because I had never had a close person to me die. I didn’t even realize that I would be permanently saying goodbye to her a few months later. Most importantly, I didn’t realize the POSITIVE effect her passing would have on me for the rest of my life.
My mother learned so much about cancer after she was diagnosed. I think she wanted to beat it the natural way, but resources for that were slim back then. When she was first diagnosed, I remember everything in our house getting an overhaul. She taught me about eating an organic diet, the dangers of aluminum in deodorant, why we should drink distilled water, and so much more.
It was nearing holiday season when we found out the cancer had spread from her breast to her lungs, bones, and brain. We threw a big Christmas party and our entire family (my mother had 14 brothers & sisters) showed up to see her. It was a full house! My mom came downstairs with a smile on her face. That was the strongest I’d ever seen her. I don’t think I would be able to walk into a room full of people and put on a brave face so that everyone could take their last photo with me. But she did and she did it with strength and bravery.
Immediately after that her health started to decline quickly. On February 1st, hospice came and put her on a morphine drip. I never got to say goodbye to her while she was fully conscious. I was at work, and I couldn’t get to her fast enough. By the time I arrived, she was already in her morphine sleep. Hospice said she could hear us, but she couldn’t respond. I spent the next 4 days at her bedside. That’s when it finally hit me… This was it. I was never going to hear her voice again.
I completely lost it. I was laying my head on her stomach, with my arms gripped around her bawling and wailing like I never had before. She hadn’t moved for days, but she heard me crying for her. She fought through the morphine and the pain and she lifted her hand and rubbed my head three times. I will never ever forget that. She was trying to comfort me in her last days just like she always had. Trying to give her daughter a dose of motherly love one last time.
The next night it was her turn to say goodbye. She couldn’t speak and couldn’t move. But that didn’t stop her from crying. She cried so loudly for what felt like hours. My sister and I had to be our bravest. We had to be our strongest ever. We held our mother and repeatedly told her how much we loved her, that we were going to be okay, and that it was okay for her to let go. We stayed by her bedside holding her until morning. By then she had stopped crying and looked calm. My sister kissed mom on the forehead and told her she would be right back while she ran her kids down the street to school. When my sister pulled back into the driveway, I told mom she was back. Her breathing started to change and I told my sister to come over to mom & I quick. Mom waited for my sister to come home and she took her last breath and grew her wings. The room was silent, serene, and completely peaceful. We held each other with water-filled eyes and sat peacefully in what felt like the most perfect morning light.
Our mother was finally at peace.
That experience shaped me into who I am today. Because of my mother, I learned to honor & nourish my body. Her struggle taught me so much. I knew that I never wanted to go through the same struggle as her and that I didn’t want my future kids to see me struggle the same way either.
When I walked down the aisle on my wedding day and saw the beautiful photo of my mother on the front row seat, I vowed to myself that if I can do anything about it, my future kids won’t have to go through this moment. I will be there.
I’m not perfect, no one is. I’m not saying I only eat organic and don’t ever eat, drink, or do anything harmful to my body. I am human and we are all beautifully flawed. Because of my mother, I am conscious of what I put inside my body and on my skin. I am conscious of the lifestyle I live. I do my very best to stay physically active, to do things to clear my head, and to surround myself with positive & hilarious people.
This blog is my way of honoring my mother and all that I have learned from her life. This is my outlet for grief. This is how I turned the biggest negative in my life into a positive.
“Mom, thank you for your struggle. Because of you I have learned how to honor & nourish my mind, body and soul. Thank you for giving me a pathway to share it with others.”