When I first gave birth to a daughter, my life changed forever. I was instantly obsessed with how I was going to raise a girl who loved herself. A girl who was confident. A girl who would change the world.
What words did I need to tell her? How do I go about making sure she ends up being the woman I envision her being? I just started to think about my own mom and how she molded me into the woman I am today.
What I learned was my mom taught me everything by example. I became the confident, independent woman I am from watching my mom. She set the precedent.
My mom taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. She wanted me to succeed in everything I tried. She made it known that things were different when she was a young girl. She didn't have all of the opportunities I had. It was important to her that I took full advantage of all that life had to offer me.
I learned so much from my mom. But the greatest things she ever taught me was to live. To follow my dreams. To be happy. And I am all of these things today because of her.
My mom's most valuable life lessons were taught to me when she was dying. When you're saying good-bye to your mom, it doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, or how much money you have. It just sucks. But even through death, my mom continues to teach me new things.
Having to say good-bye to my mom was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There are no words, yet you have to say something. I don't even remember what I said. And now, it just doesn't matter. Because now I realize that nothing had to be said.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer when she was fifty-three years old. Now that I am thirty-seven, I realize how young fifty-three is. Everyday I think, a little over fifteen years from now and I'll be the age my mom was when she was given a death sentence. It scares the hell out of me.
I am also haunted by the fact of how hard it must have been on my mom. She knew she was going to die. She knew she was leaving the love of her life behind and abandoning her three kids. And I use the word abandoning because now that I am a mom, I know that has to be what it feels like to say good-bye to your kids. No matter how old they are.
I remember going to the hospital and the nurse pulling us aside to tell us our mom was crying all night. I was shocked. I don't know why. I just never stopped to think that my mom was scared. She was always my rock. She took care of all of us, always. She never felt sorry for herself and she was always so strong.
Knowing my mom had cancer was one thing. Knowing my mom was scared was quite another.
My mom lingered on for thirteen months. She was seen by many specialists at many hospitals. For a while there, we had hope. But then a last-ditch-effort trip to another world renown hospital would end all the hope and speculation. Now the goal would be to make her comfortable. To pray for peace.
Hospice came and set up shop in our family room. This was our new reality. We had visitors in and out every single day. Our lives were shattering, yet the outside world kept spinning.
Thankfully my mom didn't suffer long. The end came fast. So fast we couldn't all be there. Her three best friends were coming for their weekly visit that Monday morning. My dad woke me up and said to come upstairs. A nurse was taking my mom's pulse and said it would be soon. Sometime in the next few days, was her guess.
My mom died an hour later. With just my dad and I there. I'm pretty sure I didn't even know what was happening. I sat next to her for a while after she was gone. Staring at her. Willing for her to wake up. She didn't.
A few minutes later, her friends arrived. My dad met them on the front porch as I stayed with my mom. I could hear them wailing. It was unbearable. They came inside and said their good-byes. I knew at that moment how important it is to have amazing friends. Just three weeks before, they took my mom to Disney World for a final friends trip. And now my mom was dead.
My uncle and brothers made it home soon thereafter. My brothers were heartbroken that they were not there when our mom died. I was haunted that I had been there. It turns out our final good-byes did not matter. It was the life we had all shared together that did. And that could never be taken away from us.
Now we had to face the cruel reality that life, does indeed, go on. Without our mom. Like it or not. But we had each other and everything that our mom had instilled in us. And that's how life went on. And continues to go on. Every damn day.
Saying good-bye is never easy. But it's impossible to say good-bye to someone who is always going to be part of you.
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