I have dreaded writing this post.
Mom put up an incredible fight. Six months of limited access to words, little awareness, declining mobility, in and out of multiple doctors appointments, and taking an obscene amount of medication around the clock. The emotions, deep sadness and loss were heavy on all of us, but she never stopped fighting. And either did we. Every appointment we went to – and I say we, because we ALL went everywhere together – she always had a smile on her face. She would wave to Sunny, the receptionist when we’d come through the doors. She’d hold her oncologist, Dr. Crossland’s hand when she’d speak to her, even when receiving difficult news. With very few words, she never stopped touching lives.
December and beginning of January were dark months for us. Then in mid January, we had a glimpse of hope after we brought in Hospice and began Avastin treatments. She had access to additional words, more awareness and greater movement on her right side. We knew this was only temporarily, but we were going to hold onto whatever we had, even though there was still so much unknown for the future looked like.
On Friday, March 14th (6 months later), mom began her final transition to end of life, here in her own home. The days were filled with lots of ups and downs, moments when we swore that was it and then she’d fight through it. We had two of the most incredible days. They call it a window. She woke up from an almost comatose state with access to her entire vocabulary and memory before this journey began. We talked about everything from dying, what heaven looked like, who we needed to give extra hugs to and a check list of what needed to be done around the house, which she gave directly to my husband. We recorded her voice telling my sister and I that she loved us and that we loved her right back. At times, we laughed so hard that our belly’s hurt. One of the hardest parts for her and of course all of us what that she wouldn’t be here to meet the new baby. Everyone had tears when we’d talk about this. I asked if she would like to do a finger painting project where she’d put her handprint on one side and then we’d put the kids handprint on the other side. We did two, one for each kiddo. This actually brought smiles and comfort to all of us.
BTW – she was the only one to know the sex of our baby, which we found out the day of her service.
My mom continued caring for her family all the way until the end. She waited until Monday and 10 minutes after our head hospice nurse came for her daily visit. We didn’t have to make one single phone call. It was Monday, March 31st when my sister, dad and I held her hand as she left peacefully. It couldn’t have been more beautiful.
Hospice cleaned her up, put her cashmere sweater on, some lipstick and surrounded the bed with her hearts.
She was beautiful, as always.
She taught my sister and I to be strong, independent women and to be able to take care of ourselves in case anything were to happen. That included knowing how to put air in your tire to being able to get a job if or when we needed to. And by all means, she lead by example. She worked hard every day of her life. She balanced a successful career in the mortgage business before starting her own coaching business at age 59, raised our family – putting dinner on the table every night, and she did this all with perfectly manicured nails, styled hair and her designer high heels.
She was someone who didn’t gossip, judge, and hardly brought an ounce of negativity into a room. When she would ask, “how are you doing?”, she really wanted to know. Then she would listened to every word you’d say and before giving any piece of advice or pushing further, she’d ask if it were okay. I wouldn’t be surprised if she changed someone’s life that met on an airplane. That would be my mom.
Mom’s Celebration of Life was held April 17th at Newcastle Golf Course, the same place my husband and I got married. It was a special place for all of us. The photo (above) with her and Mason was taken at their restaurant shortly after we had moved in with them about a year ago.
The celebration was above and beyond. In the ballroom, 400 people gathered for the service. The speeches were raw, inspiring and didn’t leave a dry eye. When the service ended, everyone exited the ballroom and proceeded to the tent, where they were greeted with popcorn and a glass of mom’s favorite champagne (Veuve Clicquot) or white wine (Rombauer). Of course there were tears, but there were also lots of smiles and laughter. The moment you entered the tent, you could feel it – it was a celebration.
Someone in their speech said, not quoted exactly, but generally speaking, “If each of you could take a piece of Linda with you, the impact in this world will be significant.” It’s true.
My sister and I planned this in two weeks, but not without the help of our family friends, the golf course event coordinator, florist and a those from the funeral home. It was absolutely picture perfect and had mom’s name written all over it.
Every spring and summer, my mom would buy tulips every week for the house. They’ve always been one of her favorites. Two weeks after her passing, my dad, sister and I brought tulips and cards to her doctors, nurses and several others who played a huge part in this journey. The love and attention that we received from them was more than we ever expected. They provided comfort during the ups and the downs. Between them, hospice and our caregivers (yes, it took a village), we will forever be grateful.
I don’t know when it’s all going to feel real. There are moments when I think or even speak of her and I actually feel okay. But then there are also the moments, usually when I least expect it that I am filled with emotion and so much sadness.
It doesn’t feel fair for someone who made such an impact and brought so much beauty to this world could be taken away. I wish life lessons didn’t always require such pain and grief. I know I can’t stay in bed all day, quit my job, and just throw my hands in the air and say fuck it. Our hospice nurse told us, “Whatever you do down the road, make sure your mom can still recognize you.” And I will. I want to make her proud. I want that piece of her that’s inside of me to shine through brighter than ever. I am forever grateful for the moments that we spent together, which thankfully was a lot.
I know I mentioned this before, but in the process of going through old photos, I wish there were more photos of her and I growing up. This has been such a good reminder for me to stay in the photo with my kids. I hope this experience also resonates with others and has them stay in the photo too.
Life is so precious, the least I can do is get out of my own way to be in the photo with my kids. They’ll appreciate it one day.
Thank you to all those who’ve supported my family and I through this journey. It means so much to us and we’re truly grateful for all you’ve given us.
April 27 2014