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Dear Mom

by Deana Taylor about a year ago in grief

A Letter To The Strongest Woman I Know

Springtime was her favorite time.

Dear Mom,

I miss you so much every day. I wasn't ready for you to leave me, and I know that you were not ready to leave. You fought SO hard. Just like everything else in your life, you refused to back down and refused to quit.

One of my earliest memories was of you spanking me. My sister had flushed the top to her bathing suit down the toilet, but I got in trouble because I was older, and I should not have let her do it. That happened a lot. I used to hate you for it, but I know that it wasn't your fault. You didn't know how to be a mom, really.

You were the baby of the family, and there were some terrible things that happened to you as a child. You lived with, and were adopted by, your grandparents because your parents didn't know how to love one another without hurting each other. They had a fierce passion, but a severe lack of trust, and that is what you learned. Hit first and ask questions later. Protect yourself first and then worry about others.

I remember grandma and grandpa. They doted on me and my sister, but only after my father died. They didn't like him at all, and if he hadn't gotten you pregnant, they wouldn't have let you marry him. He was never going to be good enough. He was mean to you. He liked to hit you and call you names, but he tried not to do it in front of me or my sister. There were some happy memories, but there were also some dark and twisted ones as well.

It wasn't until I was much older and had children, and demons, of my own that I realized your strength. You only left us once, and that was because you were unwell. You left us in the care of your brother just one house over, and as soon as you saw what was happening in that environment, you insisted that he give us back. He did, and the way your treated us changed for a long time after that. I learned a lot from you during that time: do what you need to do to take care of your family, help others when you can, and always keep your ailments to yourself.

I truly wish that you had not taught yourself to keep things hidden from us. If you had not, you might still be here today. I remember taking you to the emergency room because you were in so much pain that you couldn't see straight. I remember waiting for them to tell me what was wrong and needing to smoke a cigarette. I remember coming back and being told that you were going to have emergency surgery. I remember calling dad and telling him.

I should have stayed with you. I should never have left the emergency room, because while I was gone, you learned that you had an aggressive cancer. They could ease the pain by doing surgery, and it might buy you some time, so you agreed. You should have told them to bugger off. You should have told them one hundred and one things, but you told them yes. When all was said and done, they put you through the ringer. You had IV treatments and radiation and chemotherapy. You lost your hair and all your body fat, but you thumbed your nose at them. Six weeks came and went and you were still with us.

You were diagnosed and had your surgery in May 2003. For Independence Day, family came from all over and we had blew up a ton of fireworks thanks to the stand we had frequented for so many seasons. They knew you by name, and when we told them it would be your last time there, they went out of their way to throw in some of the big show stoppers that we could never have afforded before. You didn't realize until you got home because they carried everything to the car for you. You cried and said that it was going to be a good day, and it was. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were also bigger holidays than they had ever been before. You wore makeup again for the first time in years, and you had to buy new clothes because none of your old ones fit any longer. You made us make promises, and you insisted on cooking meals and finding joy in the strangest of places.

In the first part of April 2004, the doctor's told you it was time to go on hospice. You refused. You told them they had no idea what they were saying because they had told you that you only had 6 weeks, and you had beat that hands down. You came by my work and told me that you were going to apply for a clinical trial and that things were looking good. There was hope. That night, you collapsed. I called the emergency number for the doctor, and he told me that there was nothing to be done. He told me that you had refused hospice, and he told me what you had not told me. There was no hope. Just pain and decline. He asked me if I would agree to hospice. I told him yes.

Spring planting season came about a week later. You couldn't walk, so you were forced to be in a wheelchair. Dad had been out mowing and found a miracle. There was a huge dump pile over the hill, and someone had thrown out a potted tulip the year before. Store potted tulips almost never come back because the bulbs are forced, you used to always tell me that you can't force something to grow if the conditions aren't ideal, but sitting proudly on the top of that garbage pile was a single red tulip - no grass, no weeds, just one single precious flower.

Dad took you in your wheelchair and rolled you to where you could see it. When we got there, there was this halo of golden light around it, and there was dew sparkling on the leaves and petals. You cried and told dad that you were sorry that you wouldn't have the strength to plant the spring flowers this year. You told him that you would do it next year, though. You still refused to give up. The gals at the greenhouse where you bought your plants filled a bunch of hanging baskets with all of your favorites and brought them to the house. Dad hung them from the top of the roof and moved all of the furniture in the bedroom so that you could look out the window and see them every day.

April 21st, the hospice nurse let us know that it wouldn't be much longer. We called everyone, and they came. In groups of ones and twos and more. They came to the house and they thanked you for everything that you had always done for them and how you had always been there for them. If they couldn't come they called, and I held the phone to your ear so they could tell you how much they loved you. My daughter was almost done with kindergarten, and she would sit on the bed with you and tell you all about her days and what she had learned.

April 22nd, the hospice nurse let us know that it would be days or less. We called more people. They told you that they were on their way. You seemed to revive, and you had me sit and sing songs to you and told me what you wanted for your funeral. You made me promise not to put you in the ground alone. You made me promise to wait until dad could join you, and you asked me to keep you safe until then. That was the last time that I slept until the end.

April 23rd, the hospice nurse let us know that it would be today. Oh, but what that nurse did not know! You knew that there were people that still needed to see you one more time. You knew that they were on their way, so you held on a little bit longer and a little bit longer still. She showed me how to suction your mouth and how to give your morphine.

April 24th, the hospice nurse called and said that she would not come until we called her. She said that we needed the time to tell you that it was okay to leave. I sat and waited. More and more family came to say their goodbyes. I started hallucinating. I saw my grandma and my grandpa. I heard music when none was playing. My dad made me go next door to my trailer and promise to get some sleep. I kissed your forehead and told you that I loved you and that I would be back. You nodded your head in your sleep, and I walked away. You waited until I was gone to leave me.

You were then, and are now, the strongest woman I have ever known. You loved, and you were fierce, and I thought you were unstoppable. I am the person that I am today because of you. Through everything - the good, the bad, the dark, and the joyous - you taught me what it means to stand strong and never give up. Because of you, I am able to love unconditionally and fight like a mama bear. I hope that I have made you proud of the woman that I have become, and I hope that I will get to see you again one day.

Love Always, Me

grief

About the author

Deana Taylor

If you can't decide what to be when you grow up, you have two choices - never grow up or do EVERYTHING! The arthritis and grey hairs prove that I never found my Never Land, but it hasn't stopped me from wondering, discovering, or dreaming.

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