It’s been just about 4 months since my mom has left this world. There are times it feels like yesterday, and there are times it feels like it happened 4 years ago.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the cruel, cold winter that we all pulled out from here in the Northeast. My situation aside, it was pretty horrendous, right? I felt the need to validate this with my friend Michelle, recently, because I couldn’t tell if I was feeling the winter more extremely, given my life situation, or if it really just was extraordinarily brutal and tundra-like.
The weather was such a telling backdrop for everything that went on with my mom’s illness and ultimate death. She died in the “winter of her life” during her birth month of February, and in bone-chillingly cold temperatures. What sticks out most in my mind are the height of those snow heaps and the drabness of the colors – everything was gray, white. Everything. The outside of the hospital, the inside of hospital corridors and rooms. Even my poor mother was gray.
I remember longing for color. And longing so desperately for Spring. I remember knowing that the only guarantee I did have throughout my family’s ordeal was that Spring would eventually come. It helped to pull me through a bit. But what was tough to handle was that my mom would not flourish along with the buds on the tips of those tall trees outside her hospital window.
I have a very vivid recollection of the Friday before her passing. It’s when she was starting to transition into a semi-conscious state in late February. As I paced the corridor outside of the Intensive Care Unit, where she was being cared for, I remember looking outside the panoramic hospital windows to see the air a deep, dark gray — thick and foggy. It was the frame story to what was happening inside the gray hospital room. Knowing all too well that this was symbolic, I didn’t want to cooperate with what this symbol ultimately meant, yet I couldn’t deny its power and presence.
Grayness, uncertainty, transition seemed to consume us. And all I wanted was color.
I wanted to be sent a rainbow – as cheesy as it sounds, in some of the most trying times in my life, God has sent me a rainbow to assure me that “everything was going to be alright.” And it always was. But there were no rainbows to be found in late February.
The morning of my mom’s passing was in stark contrast to the preceding days — a vivid blue sky with gleaming sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky. And I remember feeling a sense of peace. And so darn relieved to see color and the sun again. And to feel the warmth of its glow on my face.
Fast-forward a bit.
Mother’s Day came and went. Many of you sent compassionate messages and support via my social media channels. My close friends and families, former colleagues (and even folks I don’t know so well) kept me close in thought.
“I know how tough a day today will be for you – hang in there” – was the general sentiment bestowed upon me. And I appreciated it immensely and was surprised as to just how many people in my universe felt compelled to reach out or at the very least, share that they were thinking of me on that day.
But to be completely honest with you, Mother’s Day for me was no different than last Tuesday. Or four Wednesdays ago. Or next Friday.
Because whether it’s Mother’s Day, Christmas Day, Tuesday or Friday, my mom is still gone. And frankly, it sucks, no matter if there is a Hallmark holiday attached to it or not.
It’s. Just. Really. F-ing. Hard.
I’m not all that interested in reading books on managing my grief or attending any sort of programs, etc. I have many “healers” in my life who are helping me through. And I much rather cozy up to Rob Lowe’s latest memoir before bed than Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ advice for me.
And I’m told that that’s “ok.”
There are things that ease the hurt and mend the holes via the signs my mom seems to send: a random $10 bill in the pocket of my jeans. A photo of the two of us prominently sticking out from a stack. A grocery clerk’s offer to help me in the self-check out line when my son was going completely bonkers. And many, many more.
Others may see these as isolated incidents or as “coincidences” but I see them as “guideposts” that she’s ok and that she’s still looking after me, specifically. She comes to my dad in other ways and my brother is so preoccupied with his delicious newborn son that I haven’t stopped to ask him how mom comes to him. But I’m certain she does.
And so here we are. It’s almost Summer. The Spring came – as expected – but even the Spring took its sweet time this season. I’ve been drinking in the colorful hues of blooming rhododendrons; delicate dogwood leaves gracing branches, magnificent azaleas. Just taking them all in. So happy to have my painted toes in my punch-colored Havaianas and have even whipped out the self-tanner to give myself a little color.
Living colorfully for my mom, for my family, for myself.
Good grief…what else can one POSSIBLY do after such a horrendous winter?