Just like June for the last 33 years of my life, March has now become a month that sneaks up on me quietly, with a tension that builds as the days pass. My mother lost her battle with lung cancer on March 26th, 4 years ago, the same day Stephen turned 42. Just like last year, I thought there was nothing left to say; at least not in blog format. And yet, it’s March 5th and it’s weighing heavily on my mind.
I let myself “go there” today while the snow fell. I replayed those last days, the last night and the morning after. I thought hard about how well my mother knew me. She knew my limits and was selfless to the bitter end. My mother ordered me to leave the hospital in a brief moment of lucidity in the midst of liver failure, days before she came home to die. Two days later, on the day before she came home, she and I had one of the most intimate moments I had ever spent with my mother. Not understanding the process of “letting go”, I mistook this calm, upbeat surge of energy to mean we had time. We did not, but we had one of the best conversations of my life. There was nothing extraordinary in the dialogue, instead, my mother, the one I knew before cancer, had returned briefly and we spent the day talking about nothing. I had hope. Today, I realized that she may have done that just for me.
I thought about that terrible night when death was imminent and my mother used her last words to tell me to stop. Stop crying. Stop cussing. Stop freaking out. I was being me and my mother was being my mom. She also let me leave before she died, giving me permission to be that scared little girl that I’ve been ever since that June day, 33 years ago.
I thought about the next morning. Apologizing to Stephen for ruining his birthday. Walking back in to see my mother finally at peace. Calling my friends and listening to them cry with me. Letting myself make an ass of myself in public that afternoon when I fell into my friend Steve’s arms in front of a group of strangers. Thank God for my friends. They have done more than they will ever know.
Tonight, my sister told me things I never knew about the morning my mother died. Things I’m so glad I never knew or saw at the time. I had a brief moment of guilt because I missed every single second. Then I remembered my mother. She knew me well enough to never want me to see it. And for that I’m eternally grateful for my mother. I’m thankful that in the end, my mother gave me permission to be me.
Four years later, I can be brought back to those moments like it was yesterday. The feelings come to the surface easily and with no other notice than the month of March.