Most people, rightly, associate September 11, 2001 with the major events in New York and Washington DC and in a field in rural Pennsylvania. But, on a personal level, that was also the day when my mother, who had been feeling poorly all summer, found out the results of her tests and the “C” word entered our family. An operation was scheduled to remove part of her lung and then see where we stood. Mom lived alone in Florida. My parents had divorced two decades earlier.
I was going to head south to be there but Mom, because of 9/11, was adamant that I not fly. I agreed and drove down by myself (a journey worth a blog in itself). The operation went well. Mom did several weeks of chemo. The doctors sounded hopeful. Things looked promising. She started rehab to get her strength back. We spent Easter with her and made plans to have her up near us for the summer so she could have daily family contact.
But the cancer didn’t stay away and in early May the doctors told us there was no hope. My sister moved Mom up to her home in Minnesota. We gathered. We shared. We took care of her. We said our goodbyes. She got to see the ultra-sound of nephew Chris’ coming child who would be Mom’s first great-grandchild.
Mom and I had so many opportunities to have that “last conversation” – which we took advantage of -- that when it came time for our actual last talk, we just laughed because we had already said everything important we had to say. I recall that we just spoke of how much we loved each other, how much we were proud to be mother and son, respectively. Mom and I had spoken much of what she wanted done with her stuff and I promised to take care of everything. No worries.
I had to fly home. I knew I would not see her again. We got the call two days later that she was gone.
Losing a parent is not something you “get over”. You just learn to live with it. You never “get over” missing them. The hardest part was the first couple of months when I found yourself reaching for the phone to call and tell her something that had just happened. One time, I even had the phone in my hand and started dialing her number before I remembered and put it back in its cradle.
There are days when you feel sad and you don’t really know why. You just know you don’t feel like doing anything. You vacantly sit not thinking about much and then realize more time has passed than you thought. I realized that must be what everyone calls “grief”. And as time goes on, those days happen less and less. Eventually, they happen hardly at all. But the feelings are there.
And life will give us closure if we look for it. Mom’s first great-grandchild was born on September 12, 2002. She would have been proud of him. Of all of us.
Godspeed, Mom. You are still missed.
You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker
Because it was one of Mom's favorite songs. Because it is true of all of us.