The day before had been terrifying. Our mom underwent a dangerous procedure in hopes of breaking up the clots that filled her lungs, she made it through, but time would tell whether or not TPA was successful. They basically told us it would work, or she would bleed out and wouldn't make it.
More on that day, another time.
Wednesday afternoon the four of us kids crossed the busy street to get lunch. Our mom was heavily sedated to prevent bleeding, and we sort of wandered through the ICU helplessly, so we decided to get some fresh air. After lunch we ended up here, in this little corner near our Healing Tree.
Our hearts were so heavy.
I didn't think that in the end, my mom would be okay. And I felt so urgently that we should talk about it. I just needed to talk about it. Our conversation went places that will forever stay within the walls of our memories. Pieces of that afternoon still haunt me to this day, harsh realities, honest truths, and spoken words we'd never before dare speak aloud.
At one point my brother turned to Abby and then me saying, "If things don't get better..." he paused. "If things don't get better, what happens to Abby?". You see, she still lived at home. This was the first time I stepped out of my own misery to think about my youngest sister. Oh my word, she wouldn't have anywhere to go.
Circumstances with our dad wouldn't allow them to stay at the house, and he wouldn't be able to support her, so as all eyes turned to me I said the first thing that immediately came to mind.
"Well she will move in with us, of course."
We would later refer to that afternoon as our Pow Wow. Little did we know that in five short days we wouldn't have to wonder about what could maybe, possibly, perhaps, happen. Because it happened. Our mom died.
A few weeks later, some amazing friends of ours showed up at my mom's house. Without question, with amazing generosity in their hearts, they packed up that house to bring their belongings here - to my house. That's the day Abby moved in.
I can't begin to understand how that felt for her. She was 19 and planned to move out of course, but not so suddenly. There was no easy transition for her like there had been for the rest of us. Without a doubt, we wanted her to feel at home here and comfortable as she navigated her way into adulthood. But a house bustling with the noise of three young children and a puppy is quite an exchange for being the last kid at home with two parents who worked most of the time.
I can't speak for her, but the grief of a daughter who is 31 and married with a family, isn't the same grief as a daughter who has just begun to leave the teenage years with hopes of finding a deep connecting friendship with her mom. We both grieved of course, we both missed her tremendously, yes. But we entered into grief from two completely different worlds. And so, our journey through grief is going to be so different as well.
Many days we wouldn't see each other, only to connect randomly in the kitchen and sob over our mom's favorite frying pan. Other times we would take turns smelling the red comb she used, in hopes of getting a glimpse of the mom taken too soon from us. Most of the time we went about life, her working two jobs and me struggling through my own.
For five months I did my best to do and say the things I know mom would have done and said. But in the end I'm not our mom. I'm a vessel, and I can only hope it's helped her some. Next week she moves out on her own. I will miss her tremendously! Yet, I'm so incredibly proud of her. She has taken the worst possible hand life dealt her this year, and is stronger for it. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that our mom would be absolutely bursting with pride.
Looking back to that day, October 23, I think we all knew. We sat in those cold, hard chairs outside Kaiser and talked about the what-ifs. Discussed what would happen and how we would survive. It was an awful meeting of the sibling minds, but I'm so thankful we had it. So thankful for my brother and sisters. So thankful we had one another during those awful weeks.
I think Hope Edelman said it best,
"A mother's death also means the loss of the consistent, supportive family system that once supplied her with a secure home base, she then has to develop her self-confidence and self-esteem through alternate means. Without a mother or mother-figure to guide her, a daughter also has to piece together a female self-image of her own.”