4 years ago on this day, I was lying to myself.
I’ve always been a believer in my gut, because that deep, gnawing awareness of things has never steered me wrong. My heart has always been my gut’s most worthy adversary, and God knows, I’ve let “the heart have what the heart wants” too many times when my gut was fairly screaming inside my head, warning me that my heart is selfish and narcissistic. 4 years ago, my heart was not ready to admit what it had known at the same time as my gut: that 2 days prior, when my brother came upstairs and said, “Mom needs help” and my daughter had flown down the stairs while I threw on some clothes, the 911 call I would make that day was going to be the last of its kind. We’d made so many throughout the years and indeed, my whole life had been framed by 911 calls. As a child, the frantic calls for the ambulance were made for my grandmother, and then as my mother’s health declined decades later, they were for her. With every single one before September 22, 2012, my gut had reassured me that things might have been a little sketchy occasionally, but “pull through” was what my mother always did. This time, my gut was pretty quiet. As I pulled on a pair of jeans and tripped over my own feet while trying to pull my hair into a ponytail, my gut whispered, and that whisper was louder than any scream. This time is different, it said. You know this time is different.
Throughout three days of reassurances and care plans and then alternative efforts to make Mom’s slow southward descent turn around, I kept telling my gut to SHUT the FUCK UP. My heart was not letting go of the promise of the past few months. We’d been working our way back to a healthy mother-daughter relationship, which was something we’d lost back around the time my brother was born when I was 8 and THAT shitstorm had commenced. 37 years I’d been hanging in the wind while she blamed me for all her bad choices. 37 years of my own bad choices made out of loneliness and fear and not belonging anywhere or to anyone. We were working it out. She was feeling better. She was my mom again. Really my mom. Obviously, my gut was a fucking liar, right? Because I had waited all those years to finally have her in my life in a positive way, and my heart wanted that. Needed that.
In the early hours of September 24, 4 years ago, I couldn’t sleep. My gut was whispering again and I needed to silence it. At 4:30am, I called the MICU and had a quiet conversation with the kindest nurse I’ve ever known. I wish that I could remember her name. She was the charge nurse and supervised all the RNs assigned to each individual patient. My mom’s nurse was busy, so this nurse talked to me. I began to realize that she sounded a lot like my gut, and that I needed to let her talk directly to my heart. In that calm and comforting way she had, she quieted my heart’s cries that I needed my mom. I was able to sleep a bit, and then things happened the way they did. I still remember each and every moment of that day, and that in the end, my gut and my heart locked hands and helped me to make the decision that had to be made. When it was over, and my girls and I had held her hands as she left us and the sunset was so breathtaking over Lake Erie that I just KNEW she had gone peacefully, that charge nurse was coming on shift. She asked me, “Can I just hug you? I wanted to so bad when we talked and I would like to if you would let me now.” Of course. Of course.
The last 4 years have been challenging. I have fallen apart in many ways. I have been at war inside, still wondering if she ever truly loved me. In this process of falling apart and slowly trying to make myself whole again, I have come to accept that yes, she did. She did in the only ways she knew how. Maybe it wasn’t what I deserved, but it was what I was given, which is more than so many lost souls get. It has to be enough, and so my gut is telling me to open my heart and let the sadness I feel in, but to not wallow in it. Let it have the relevance it needs, but to then let it go. Embrace the love that surrounds me, and laughter, and live each day feeling gratitude. Remember that sunset when she left us, and bask in its glow of peacefulness every single day.
I will always miss my mother.