August 2010


Another day, another dozen emails by people whose loved one are dying. And again, I write and reply, wishing I could help, but knowing I can’t. But in the hopes that I can somehow help those of you who don’t email me and don’t comment, here’s what I wrote earlier today.

I have gone through every single thing you can imagine as well. Gone through the anger and sadness and guilt. Every last one. I know completely, 100% how you feel. I really wish I had wise words to say, but I don’t.

Except you can’t regret something you can’t change. I’m sure your mom still loved you as a rogue teenager, and what matters is that you grew up to be a wonderful adult.

I also felt my mom was taken from me long before she died. I still feel that now. The day my mom couldn’t remember our names was even more devastating than her death. Seeing her look at me and try to remember my name (she still knew who I was) is one of the worst memories I have.

Just before my mom got real bad and we had to put her in the hospice, she called me. I was in a dance class and I got so mad because she wouldn’t stop calling me and asking me for things. And then literally the next day she couldn’t talk anymore. And I have 2 options. One is to feel guilty about this for the rest of my life. And the other is to forgive myself. #1 is infinitely easier than #2. And sometimes I have to struggle with this decision several times in one day.

The only way for me to go on living is to not dwell on those times. Not think about the times where I just wished for everything to be over. Because those were thoughts of desperation. Thoughts of “I don’t know how to make it through the next hour or day or week.”

I have to believe that my mom knew that I didn’t mean it. Just like many teenagers yell at their parents that they hate them, even though it’s not true. They know you love them, and it may hurt, but they let it slide.

I also feel that I still need her almost every day. And every time a day ends, I’m in shock that I made it through it without her.

Focus on the good. I know it’s hard. It’s all I can do.

Focus on what you did have. She raised you completely. She made you this wonderful person that you are. She knows your husband. She was at your wedding. I know right now all you can focus on is that she won’t be here for the rest. My mom never even knew The Boy. And that is potentially a huge regret for me, seeing as he and I had worked together and known each other for 3 years before we started dating, and had I just agreed to go out with him 3 years earlier, then he would have known her and she would have known him and he would have known what my family had been like B.C. Before Cancer.

But I just can’t think about that. That’s not living. That’s just going through the motions. And while I’m currently going through some kind of an existential crisis (between my mom and my dying uncle), I have to believe that somehow her 56 years here had a purpose, even if I don’t know yet what it is, otherwise there’s no point to anything.

We all felt like terrible people when we put my mom in the hospice, and we each felt bad when we “went on” with our lives as she lay there dying. When we had someone sit with her so we could work, or the mornings that I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed to go visit her and I would go straight to work, I always felt bad.

I break down all the time. I don’t mean that I have break downs thrice weekly, but they do come unannounced. And all I want to do is talk to my mom, even if it’s not about “it,” except the irony is that I need my mom because I don’t have my mom. Otherwise I’d be OK.

I know it’s hard, and everything just looks black, and you can’t see anything except black ahead of you. When I was in your shoes, just 18 months ago, and people would say that time would make things better, I couldn’t believe them. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t see how time would make things better.

But it did. Unfortunately, you still have quite a road left until you get to the end, and I’m sure the feelings are mixed for you like they were for me. You want it to be over, but you cling to a tiny piece of hope that something will suddenly change and she’ll be OK. You just want to move on with your life, but you feel guilty. You want to see her all the time, but it only makes you feel worse. And since she isn’t communicating with you anymore, when you sit with her all you have are your thoughts, and they are so much worse than reality.

Time hasn’t made me need her less or miss her less, it’s only made me realize I have no choice but to move on. When I was in your shoes, I didn’t even have that.

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My father sold my parents’ apartment and moved out 2 weeks ago. This key is/was the key to my parents’s home. And it officially symbolized the last real connection to the past that includes my mom.

You see, I keep thinking her death hasn’t really hit me yet because I haven’t had those major life events yet – I haven’t gotten married yet, and I haven’t had children yet.

But you know? Major life events don’t really matter – those are usually events that last a day or two and then you settle into your new life.

For all intents and purposes, this is a new life. I am living with a man that my mother never met, in an apartment she’s never seen, in a city she never thought I’d live in (ditto, by the way), working at a company she never heard of, and driving a car she’s never been in.

And now – visiting my father will be in a new place, completely void of memories related to my mom.

There are few things in my life now that are consistent with what my life was like the last time my mom was aware of my existence. In essence, just my family. And this is what it’s going to be from now on.

Because I will continue living with a man she’ll never meet, in apartments she’ll never see, in cities she won’t visit, working at companies she will not hear of, and driving cars she’ll never be in.

Except I’ll also be marrying  a man she’ll never meet, having kids she’ll never see, who will miss out on the amazing mother and grandmother that she was.

So really, later is now.