Posted by: Kathy | November 17, 2018

10 Years Later

Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s death. It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I last heard my mom’s voice, saw her smile, tasted her cooking, or spent time with her. I still miss her, and I always will.

I took the day off from work, as I always do, to honor my mom. I didn’t have any set plans. I ended up watching the movie “The Bucket List.” It was playing when I dropped my truck off for service, so I rented the movie when I got home. My mom didn’t have a bucket list. She lived 349 days from her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer until her death. My bucket list was to make the most of our time left together. We had hope that she could beat this horrible disease, but as a medical writer I knew the statistics associated with inoperable pancreatic cancer. My mom’s odds of survival were not good.

Even after 10 years, the pain of loss is still there, especially on days like this one – the day pancreatic cancer stole my mom from me. I talked about my mom with a good friend, and there were a few times I just let the tears flow as the feelings of loss washed over me and I told my mom how much I missed her. But then it was time to pick my daughter up from school, and although my heart was still hurting, on the outside my life went back to my new normal. I never let my kids see me cry 10 years ago. I wanted to be strong for them. I still try not to let them see my cry now.

The last time my mom was hospitalized before her death, she told me her biggest regret was not being able to see her grandkids grow up. At the time, my son was 9 and my daughter was 2. For 11 months, my mom held on to the dream of dancing at my son’s wedding. That was my mom’s hope.

A lot has happened in the last 10 years. My son is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. My daughter is in middle school and is an amazing young woman who enjoys dancing and acting. Many holidays, birthdays, and achievements have passed without my mom’s physical presence, but I believe she was there for all of them. My daughter saw my mom when she was younger, and at her first dance recital at age 8, she told me that Grandmom was sitting on the steps of the stage.

I know my mom watches over her family. I have sensed her presence, and at times felt the overwhelming warmth of unconditional love that fills my chest and I know it’s my mom’s love for me. I work to connect to my mom through meditation – it’s not easy (I’ve been working for years to be able to do this). Once I said “I miss you mom” and I heard in my mind “why, I am always with you.” On Thursday night, the night before the anniversary of my mom’s death, my mom left a dime on my bed for me. I know it was from her. This night 10 years ago was the last night I spent with my mom, and a night that I will never forget.

Yesterday, I released 10 heart-shaped balloons in the park in memory of my mom. I chose purple for pancreatic cancer and blue because it was my mom’s favorite color. It was a cold windy day, very similar to the day my mom died and the day we buried her.

For those of you who have recently lost a loved one, know that it does get easier. The heartache does lessen. The pain dulls with time. There are days that are harder than others, even years later, but overall life does get brighter. However, the loss of a loved one is something you never get over. You learn to live without that person in your everyday life. I call it a new normal. You don’t forget. You don’t stop loving that person. You don’t stop missing that person. The hole in your life that was left by the loss is not filled. You keep moving forward with life and get used to that hole being there. I stopped living for a bit after my mom died, I just existed. But I know that is not what my mom would have wanted for me. I’ve learned to live my life without my mom in it, and I hold her memories in my mind and her love in my heart.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”– Thomas Campbell

Posted by: Kathy | June 17, 2016

Five One-Word Prompts, One Post

Each day I look at the one-word prompts from WordPress, and every day this week I thought about a post on that one word. Every word this week fit with the theme of my blog. Words swirled in my mind, posts started to form, but I didn’t find the time to write. Yesterday I thought about writing a post using a combination of the one-word daily prompts: Monday – rebuild, Tuesday – struggle, Wednesday – natural, and Thursday – open. But my busy day slipped by quickly and last night, as I was lying in bed, I hoped today’s word would also easily fit into the theme of my blog. City – a challenge, but a word I can work with. 

Moving Forward from Cancer and Loss

My mom grew up in Philadelphia, and it was a city we visited on a regular basis for family fun days. The Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute, and Please Touch Museum were places we visited often. On Saturday, December 1, 2007, we all went into the city to see the beautiful Christmas displays. It was our last family outing before the words pancreatic cancer invaded our lives. After that each and every day was a struggle. My mom fought against her disease, and if hope were a cure, she would still be with us today. Sadly, pancreatic cancer took my mom from her family on November 16, 2008.

My world fell apart after my mom died. I was bombarded with so many different feelings and emotions. Grief. Guilt. Anger. Sadness. Emptiness. I had never felt so lost and the pain of my mom’s battle with pancreatic cancer and then her death echoed within the complete emptiness that seemed to fill every inch of me. Months passed by and I continued to struggle with this barrage of emotions. I went about my every day routine of work and taking care of my kids, but on the inside I was a complete mess.

I started writing to try to make sense of all that I was feeling. Words laced with pain and tears poured out of me into a blog my husband had started for me on his server. In May 2009, I moved my blog to WordPress to connect with more people. It was then I began to realize that all that I had been feeling was natural. I wasn’t a freak. There were other people who had experienced the jumble of emotions I felt as I tried to move forward from my mom’s death. About 3 months after my mom died, a friend asked me why I hadn’t gotten over my mom’s death yet. I was shocked. I had been riding a rollercoaster of emotions hoping for it to stop, or at least slow down so I could catch my breath. But the rollercoaster continued and I realized that those who hadn’t lost a parent couldn’t understand what I was feeling, especially if they didn’t want to even try. I simply told her that I missed my mom. I missed my mom then, and I still miss her today – 7 years, 7 months, and 1 day after her death.

Through my writing and talking with friends who actually understood what I was feeling, I began to heal. Slowly, I started to rebuild my life. A life without my mom. My new normal. I didn’t like life without my mom, as she added so much to it, and this was something I didn’t realize until after my mom had died. I never knew how entwined my mom was within my adult life until she was gone. Her death left an emptiness that cannot be filled by anyone or anything. So I did the only thing I could do and worked to rebuild my life without my mom’s physical presence. Minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, I struggled to put the pieces of my life back together. Now, I can think of my mom with happiness and love, instead of heartache and tears. Now, I can remember the good times we spent together, instead of just the last days of my mom’s life. I can remember my mom without pancreatic cancer.

I will never get over losing my mom. I will always love her and miss her. I will always wish that the words pancreatic cancer hadn’t become normal in our lives. I will never get over how this disease slowly stole my mom from me and from her family. But I have healed, and one the steps to healing was to be open to life without my mom – my new normal. A lot has changed since my mom died, and my heart and mind fought against these changes. It took some time, but I learned that the only way to peace and true healing was to be open to change, especially the changes I had no control over. Pushing back against these changes, even if it was only an internal struggle, left me feeling angry and sad. By finally allowing myself to be open to all that had changed since my died, I was able to find inner peace and with that true healing.

I love you, Mom. I know that it is natural for me to miss you, even now. I wish we could make new memories together, but I hope you know that the memories of the times we spent together in the city of Philadelphia always bring me happiness. I hoped and prayed that you would beat pancreatic cancer. We fought against your disease together and gave each other strength through that unimaginable struggle. I know you are with me in spirit and were there helping me to rebuild my life and become open to all that has changed since I lost you.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die” – Thomas Campbell

Daily Prompt: Rebuild
Daily Prompt: Struggle
Daily Prompt: Natural
Daily Prompt: Open
Daily Prompt: City

 

 

 

Posted by: Kathy | May 8, 2016

My Two Stars

This is the eighth Mother’s Day I celebrate without my mom. I still miss her as much as I did that first Mother’s Day without her, although the raw pain has turned into bittersweet memories. Holidays and other celebrations haven’t meant as much to me since my mom died. There is a feeling of emptiness without her. It’s the place that she once filled. A place no one else can fill. 

Today I look at Mother’s Day as a celebration of my two kids. On Friday, each of them came home with a piece of paper proclaiming them to be a star. I am so proud, since they were seen as stars by someone else other than me or their family. My daughter was picked as Star Student of the week for this coming week. She told me that the teacher gave it to her because she could see how hard Nicole has worked for it. Later that evening, my son texted me from his yearly band banquet. He was given the President’s Shining Star Award for outstanding achievement. My daughter was thrilled. My son was shocked. I am proud of both of them. 

My kids are so different in their personalities. My son has always been quiet and shy, while I say my daughter has a “shot out of a cannon personality,” always talking. But deep inside they share the same traits. They are both respectful and caring of others. They both try their best and do well in school. Every day and night they both still tell me that they love me. We spend time together as a family and we laugh. 

At almost 17, my son is a very dependable person. I call him my rock. When my husband had triple bypass surgery in March and I left my kids home alone for hours, I didn’t worry about them because I knew my son would take care of his sister. In a little over a year, Matt will leave for Marine boot camp and from there I have no idea where he will end up. My heart aches at the thought of not seeing him every day, but I am proud of the choices he is making in life. 

At nearly 10, I’ve watched my daughter mature, especially over the past year. She’s not my little girl anymore. But she is still warm and outgoing, and because of this, I call her my sunshine. Her head is full of ideas and her heart is filled with love. These next few years should be interesting as she continues to mature and begins making more and more important decisions about her life and the direction it takes. 

Being a mom isn’t easy. I’m sure most moms will say that. There is no book for how to raise your own kid, and they aren’t born with an instruction manual for when things go wrong. I do my best, and no matter what happens, both my kids know that I love them unconditionally. I can’t tell you how many times in the past seven and a half years I’ve longed to talk to my mom about something one of my kids either did or didn’t do. If she were here, I would have asked for her advice, but I might not have taken it, as our parenting styles are different. But even though I may not have followed my mom’s advice, I wish I had the ability or option to ask for it. It’s not easy being a motherless mom. 

On this Mother’s Day, I say I miss you, Mom, and I love you. You are always in my heart and never far from my thoughts. To my kids, I am very proud of you, my two stars. You fill my heart with happiness and love, and both mean the world to me. To all the moms who read my blog, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. 

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