One year ago today we lost you. I will never forget every detail of that day, every furrow of your brow when you would hear us. You seemed to have a harder time catching your breath when you’d hear us crying. Like you were trying with every ounce of your strength to open your eyes again and comfort us. The way the sound of your breathing and beat of your heart grew so faint and subtle. I remember the feeling of panic every time I lay my hand on your chest and struggled to find your heartbeat. I’ll never forget sitting beside you, begging God to give you the strength to lift your arm and brush my cheek with your hand; a strength that never came. We surrounded you with love. We sang your favorite songs, from My Girl, to Stand By Me. We told the same stories, ones told and retold over years of holiday gatherings and birthdays; we laughed hard and cried harder… and we prayed. Your big bothers held your face and kissed your forehead; told you it was okay to let go, these moments with them are what seemed to give you the courage to stop fighting, and go home. The nurse came in, she tried to find your heartbeat one last time. She looked in my eyes, hers welled with tears and she shook her head, and without words said everything. I looked to the room full of people, your kids, your siblings and our Dad, and said- “she’s gone”. The pain was palpable. The sounds of all of our hearts collectively breaking, was deafening. You were gone.
After sobbing and holding each other for what felt like an eternity and only seconds, all at once, we all sort of scattered. All filled with emotions ranging from disbelief to panic. I walked out to Dad’s car, carrying some of your personal belongings, pictures of us and your grandkids, and I found myself confronted with strangers going about their day; blissfully ignorant to the fact that life, as I knew it, just ended. I couldn’t handle the forced polite glances and didn’t have the strength to drive, so I went back into the hospital to hide. I stood alone in an empty emergency stairwell and I screamed. Just screamed. I could hear my own echo, and the pain in those wails bouncing off the walls didn’t sound like me, it didn’t feel like me, but it was me.
While I grieved you in that empty stairwell, silently begging you for a sign, you sent one to everyone outside. A gust of wind, on a windless day, rose up from the parking lot, a gust of wind filled with flowers. The pair created a funnel, a tiny tornado of flowers that whipped around the family outside, up past your second story hospital room, and then, it was gone… and I missed it. A tornado of flowers could not have described you better. Fierce, stubborn, unpredictable but tame and beautiful. I was devastated that I missed it but comforted that others got to feel you one last time that day.
Since then you have shown up in so many ways to say: I’m here babe, I’m here… I know you are, Mom. I can feel you. I talk to you everyday, and hope somedays you can hear me. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my Mommy you’ll be.
Below is my portion of the Eulogy I shared at your funeral. My earth-side goodbye to you.
Mom, your favorite name. Your greatest work. Your constant source of pride… and boy, did you ever earn the title. No one Mommed like you. You were a Mom to us, our babies, our friends, your students and even the nurses who cared for you while you were sick. Some of whom came to hug you goodbye with tears in their eyes, even though they’d only known you for weeks. That’s because, Mom, you had an uncanny ability to let people know they were seen. They were heard, to let them feel that they were cared for, and know that they mattered… you always found the good.
Us six kids are so lucky because this love you gave to everyone you gave to us, only amplified by a million. We didn’t even have to do anything, just the sheer potential we had, to do or be something great, was enough for you to sing our praises to anyone that would listen. You were so proud at the simple act of us being, that the doing was irrelevant. We were perfect in your eyes. No matter what.
Being a Mom myself now, I see you so differently. I now know that when your little ones go to school, it’s a break. A moment in the day that you can be more then “just a Mom”. To have time to take a shower, a walk, call a friend or just… exhale. So knowing you gave that up so often for me is a constant reminder of the way you loved. I had separation anxiety and because of it you made sure you were my room Mom every year. You were at every class party on every field trip, waiting outside every day at pick up ten minutes early so I would never feel alone. You were an honorary teachers aide all 7 years of my elementary education because you were on campus so often. Instead of giving me tough love and making me learn to brave it alone, you gave up your own precious, kid free school days, to me, just so I didn’t have to feel afraid. The thing that makes that even more amazing is that I know you did these same sort of selfless things for all six of your kids; and I have tried to do the math. I have tried to find the time in the day that you could have possibly spent on just you… and it doesn’t add up. Every moment was for us, every breath. Although knowing you, and the way you loved us, there was no regret in that, no resentment; it was the way you wanted it to be. It was the way you loved.
In fact I know this for sure because even after we had grown, moved on, moved out, moved away or started families of our own you were still there. For me personally you were there during a time that I was struggling with panic attacks, and when Matt was held on shift or stuck on a fire I had trouble sleeping; so I’d call you. And without fail whether it was 10pm, 1am or 4 in the morning you would answer and calm me down. Sometimes we would talk and others we would just fall asleep together on the phone. Hearing your voice was all it took to make me feel safe. Even in my thirties I still just needed my Mom… and you were there. You were always there.
I don’t know how to do this without you Mom, and the truth is, I don’t know if I will ever know how. But what I do know, because of you, is that you are home with the Lord. What I do believe, because of you, is that I will see you again one day in Heaven; and what I did learn, because of you, is how to love unconditionally. How to be a Mom, so thank you. Thank you for being so good to us. For loving us so well. For being an amazing Mother in law to my husband and for loving our babies like they were your own. Thank you for how hard you loved our Finn and for being his biggest fan. Thank you for never giving up on us having Tallula and never giving in when I said I didn’t want a second child. For saying that Tallula would make us whole; she did Mom, you were right. Im so happy you got to meet her. I know she is just a baby and may not remember you, but I promise, she will know you. Our kids will never stop hearing about you, you will be in their lives, everyday. I promise. Thank you most for giving us all a lifetime of love in your short 64 years. While selfishly none of us want to let you go, and none of us are okay that you are gone, we are also so grateful we got to have you at all. You were ours. You were the steady ground under us, the soft place to fall, you were the glue that held us together. You were the Sun the Moon and all of our stars. I hope you knew everyday that you were alive how much we all loved you; and know how much we will love you, forever.
“…it is the root of the root, and the bud of the bud, and the sky of the sky of the tree called life; that grows higher then the mind can hope or the soul can hide. It is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart. I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart”. As long as my own heart beats Mom, I’ll carry you with me. I miss you so much, I love you.