I was six when my mother died. Too young to fully comprehend the meaning of death. It became a concept that, even now that I'm older, I still don't understand. Why do some people go when you least expect it? I certainly didn't expect having to attend my mother's funeral at that age. Why did I have to tell her goodbye when I was just beginning to know her? I had so many questions, yet nobody had any of the answers.
It was a Tuesday, my sister tells me now. We three kids were at my grandparents house; Dad was at the hospital with mom. After being diagnosed with Leukemia, mom was constantly in and out of the hospital and that was tough on her. But she was a remarkable woman. I can always remember her smiling even on the toughest days of her life.
I could see the fear in my dad's eyes that day at Grandma's when he walked in, but I never expected him to say what he did. "God thought it was time your mom came and lived with him." Shocked, all I could think about was that I was never going to see her again. As a child, that was the scariest thing to handle. What would I do without my mom?
She was 34 years old at the time and will stay that age forever in my heart. I can no longer remember the sound of her voice but I can still picture the way she would move about so gracefully. I am reminded of her beauty each day as I look at her picture that hangs on my bedroom wall. In a light mustard yellow shirt, she looks so young and innocent. Her complexion is fair, her skin natural and soft.
Sometimes death happens so abruptly. Her death taught me how valuable family is and how much you should cherish the time you have with them. After she died, my family became very important to me. And it was their love that saw me through the healing process. I never took them for granted and I made the time I spent with them count. Even now that I'm older, I make a point to visit with my dad and step-mom once a week.
My mother's death ultimately led me to a new beginning; however, the transition without her wasn't easy. Life kept going and we, as kids, grew up with my dad and step-mom who did the best they could with us. I made it through school and married a man my mom would have been proud of.
I believe she had a new beginning as well. In Heaven, she began a life where she felt no more pain. That was my greatest comfort. No more hospitals, no more false hope, no more agonizing chemotherapy sessions. And in this remarkable place, she is also able to watch and look over everyone she loves. I can picture her there, smiling in my happiness and crying in my defeats.
I have grown spiritually from the experience and my beliefs are much stronger than they were before. I can feel her loving me each day of my life and that is a constant reminder to me that love does not end in death; it just continues from a different place.
My grandparents passed away two years ago (Grandma in August, Grandpa on Christmas Eve), and although it was hard to say goodbye and watch them leave me, the lessons my mother's death had taught me made it easier to let go. They had lived a long life together, married more than 60 years. We would talk about mom often and being with them always made me think of her.
I was there when my grandmother took her final breath. My grandparents' tiny apartment was overfilling with people. To see them all come to say goodbye was overwhelming and something I'll never forget. That alone brought tears to my eyes. It was also the first time I was present to see someone die. It was scary, yet it gave me a sense of closure as well. I was able to say goodbye to her in the last minutes of her life. She knew I was there. That was enough. And although I couldn't stop from crying, my heart told me that she was going to a better place.
Four months later, when my grandfather followed her to Heaven, he said that "his daughter and wife were waiting for him" and I had no doubt in my mind that they were. Easy to let go? No, it's never easy. But knowing that my mother was up there, waiting to show grandma and grandpa the way, made the pain a little less. I found myself at peace when my husband said to me on Christmas Eve, the night my grandfather passed away, "It'll be a good Christmas present for your mom and grandma." He was right. I felt a smile on my face even on one of the saddest days of my life.
The lessons my mother's death taught me all those years ago finally came full circle. I had many years to cherish with my grandparents. I have no regrets, no unsettled thoughts. They are together once again and I know I'll see them all one day. With smiles on their faces just like I recall, they will show ME the way.