In November 2009, I was leading a weekend retreat at my college, on which I would give a talk about relationships. Throughout this weekend I would bond with my fellow retreat leaders, who I had grown to love and admire throughout the past four months of planning. I would also meet and get to know my small group of retreat members on a deeper level. While these relationships are among many that I still cherish today, what stayed with me most is a letter that I received from my Mom while on retreat.
The letter was written on white printer paper and faxed to the university from my Dad’s work. The letter written in my Mom’s cursive handwriting, still has the date imprinted on the bottom: 11/13/2009. On this afternoon, my Mom was in a rehabilitation facility a few weeks after falling in our kitchen hallway and breaking her femur. She wrote this letter to me as I was heading to the retreat center with my team. Little did she know that this letter would soon become one of my most cherished possessions.
Just over a month later, on 12/16/2009, my mom would once again fall in our kitchen, this time from two unexpected seizures. Doctors say these were unforeseen complications from her femur surgery. A blood clot traveled to her heart and sent her into these convulsions.
That Wednesday morning, I remember being woken up at my college townhouse by my Uncle Willy, which was an immediate sign that something was wrong. That week I had been stressing over finals and excited that I finally had a day to sleep in. Without thinking I turned off my cell phone and went to bed the night before. The shock to find him at my door, with my aunt Ellen on the phone calming me down as I was instructed to pack a bag and head home was not how I expected my day to begin. As I got into his truck, my uncle Patrick traveled six hours round trip to pick up my brother from college. My nineteen-year old brother was in the midst of taking a final exam as campus police pulled him out, telling him he had a family emergency.
As I traveled home with Willy so many thoughts passed through my mind. I was mad at myself for not being at home when my sisters witnessed my Mom’s fall. They were only fifteen and thirteen years old at the time. They were expecting Mom to make their lunches as she did every morning. They weren’t expecting her to be taken out of the house on a stretcher.
As thoughts of what they were going through clouded my mind I also couldn’t stop thinking about all the time I had missed with my Mom in the past couple months. I was so focused on being at school that I didn’t spend a lot of time with her as she was recovering from surgery. All the thoughts of things I could have done better, were on the top of my mind. I should have called more. I should have traveled home more. I should have hugged her more.
These thoughts, and those of the unknown, were on my families mind for three days as we were in and out of the hospital. Our immediate family on both sides, visited her bedside, spent numerous hours in the waiting room and tried to hope for the best in what was turning out to be a very hopeless situation. It was finally on the third day, Saturday, 12/19/2009, that our family decided to take her off the ventilator and say goodbye to the best thing that had ever happened to us.
Now, as the anniversary of her passing comes for the fifth time this December, I will let my mind run through the course of events from 12/16- 12/19 but then I will move forward. Having regrets are far from helpful. Instead I will honor her memory with my family, as we continue to do every year. We will celebrate the beautiful life she lived and all that she taught us. When I wish I could talk to her and ask her what she’s thinking, I will return back to her letter. This letter that has given me so much hope and comfort through the past five years:
Her timeless script is something that I will have for the rest of my life. Although she writes that she was truly blessed to have me as a daughter, I was even more honored to have her as my mother. My mother’s spirit lives in me everyday and I can’t wait to continue to make her proud with each and every accomplishment.