Beauty in Death

Mom passed away last week.

For a long time, I’ve been so very angry with God over Mom’s 13 month long battle with cancer.  I would have full on conversations with him, asking why someone who was so amazing and selfless would have to go.  When Mom was in her final hours, I began to pray. I prayed harder than I ever have. I asked God to take Mom peacefully.  We didn’t want her to suffer at all. I wanted to spare our family from a dramatic ending — it’s so upsetting and we had already been through a dramatic ending with Gram just last May.

He listened.

Mom’s passing was peaceful. My oldest sister had left to get a few hours sleep, but my younger sister had a feeling we should call her back, because Mom was going downhill fast.  Thank God she did make that call. Within a few hours, Mom’s breathing had really slowed and eventually stopped. She was surrounded by all of us, and we all hugged each other, and cried, and kissed her goodbye.  She left this world so soon, but so loved.  Those moments we got with her were precious, and we were all so grateful to be there together for her, and for each other.

I’m no longer angry with God. I can say that now. He answered the one prayer that he could.

This isn’t the mother who gave birth to me.  This is the Mom who loved me through what was the hardest time of my life. This is the Mom who showed me I belonged, when I had nowhere to belong before.  At a time when ‘people didn’t mess with other people’s children,‘ she was fearless. In those days, when no one stepped in to look after an abused kid, she did.

I tried to speak at her funeral. I wanted to tell the story of how she taught me to give a real hug. You would think a kid wouldn’t have to be taught how to hug, but she saw that simple need and fulfilled it.  And that broken punk kid went on to hug, really hug, a whole big bunch of other people. It was a beautiful gift that she naturally gave, and it needed to be honoured.

I tried to speak at her funeral. Instead, my sister held me up as I listened to the minister read my words.  I audibly sobbed on her shoulder, and stared at Mom’s casket, covered in yellow roses. I heard sobbing in the pews and was immediately sorry for making people cry even more. But the way she saved my life, and as I later learned, other women’s lives — it needed to be told.  As I sobbed on my sisters shoulder, I silently thanked her and my other sister and brother for sharing their Mom with me. Every time I tried to say that out loud to them, it got stuck in my throat.  Even typing it now, there’s so much beauty in what they selflessly shared with me, that my eyes are welling up.

As Mom wished, my sister-in-law sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” to us kids. I sat in the pew, feeling small and scared and so very sad, and thought, that song works both ways.

You were beautiful, Mom. Thank you for loving me.

Mom would have loved the ceremony.  My brother lead us through all the planning and details, fearlessly. The 4 of us tag-teamed taking care of Dad through the week, and as horrible as the circumstances were, it was so amazing to spend this time together.  I can’t tell you what it means to truly belong somewhere.  I feel the same way when I’m with my Granny and Papa, cousins and uncles too. As my friend Amber said last night, “Love makes a family.”

After the funeral and reception, we went back to Dad’s, broke out a bottle of Bailey’s and toasted to Mom. Everyone said something really touching.  We ended up in laughter more than once.  That’s how we deal. We make inappropriate jokes, we laugh…and I’m learning that many families do things this way, and it’s okay to laugh during times like these.  We’re not weird or crass, we’re human. We even joked that Mom kept opening her eyes near the end and probably thought to herself, “Shit! I’m still here!? Where’s my friggin’ white light?” That’s exactly how she would have said it, too. She was a no bullshit, hilarious, fun-loving woman.

My sister-in-law called once she got home safely, as we all had been doing, all week. “Have I got a story for you,” she started. “I was flipping through the radio channels, as I always do, and you’ll never guess what came on…I haven’t heard this song on the radio for ten years! Wind Beneath My Wings! Can you believe it?” I passed the phone to Dad so she could repeat her story. It was as though Mom was thanking her for singing…she had done such a beautiful job.  I’ve never heard singing like that in my life. It was indescribable.

I came home Thursday night, in a fog, picked up my boys from my mother-in-law, and crashed hard.

The night before last, I was at the tail end of a migraine that had lasted 58 hours. I had slept 50 of those 58 hours, probably due to the stresses of the last week crashing down on my weary heart.  I had a dream about Mom.  She looked so bright and happy and I was amazed to see her. She held my shoulders, looked in my eyes and said, “you guys will be okay, together.” It was clear as day. When I woke up, the sun was shining and my migraine was gone.

When my brother and sisters were young, and even after I came along, part of the bedtime routine was to say “See you when the sun shines, love you lots and lots, Mahoo mahoo…” The mahoo mahoo was kisses, blown, but somewhere along the way, those little mahoo’s were born.  They make me smile.

Yesterday I ran out to get Gravol and Gatorade for my flu-ridden boys, and stopped for gas.  It was minus 20 degrees Celsius, but all I could feel as I stood there pumping gas, was the warmth of the sun on my cheeks.

See you when the sun shines, Mom. You are greatly missed. Love you lots and lots…mahoo mahoo.