I have often thought of writing this post, and I have often thought of not writing on this subject. It is a conflict within me and after doing battle in my mind I lost and here I go.
46 years ago today there was a very simple moment in my life. It was 7:28 a.m.. A Tuesday. I was in the sixth grade. My sister sleeping beside me was in the fourth grade. At 7:28 a.m. my alarm went off. I reached over to turn off the alarm on my pink acrylic alarm clock. I opened my eyes to a somewhat darkened room and heard voices downstairs in the kitchen. The voices were familiar ones, but the activity of several voices and movement on a Tuesday morning was unusual.
As I turned off my alarm my older sister calmly said, “Dad, they’re awake.” I looked at my sister and she said, “Stay in bed, you won’t be going to school today.” The next moment, my Dad was sitting on our bed. He looked at my sister and me and said in a tone I will never forget, “Mom died last night.”
My younger sister immediately started crying. Honestly, I can’t remember if I did or if it was delayed by a couple of seconds. What I do remember is a combination of thoughts crossing my young mind, one being, “That’s a cruel joke to play on us…” the other, “Of course she died, I knew she was going to for the past couple weeks.”
I was home sick the day six months before when my Mom had come home from a doctor’s appointment and told my Dad that she would have to have surgery. The surgery was a new and scary thing as only really old or really sick people had surgery back then. That began a six month season of our family that would forever change the dynamic of who we were.
During the surgery, my Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was given six months to live. That was in March of 1966. 46 years ago today, her six months ended. My parents told my older sister about the diagnosis. A tough thing to handle for a 15-year-old. A heavy burden to carry for six months. Her childhood ended abruptly, she had no time to be a teenager, as she was immediately given a role no child should have to handle. The decision to keep my younger sister and myself free from the reality of what was going on was made at some point and so we had six months of watching our Mother become a mere shadow of her former self, never truly knowing what was going on. Thus, the moment that changed my life.
The next few days following this date 46 years ago were a blur and actually some of my fondest memories. I remember being able to look closely at my cousins’ rooms while they were at college/and/or in the military. That was a treat. It was like entering the inner sanctum of areas normally forbidden to curious young people. Those days also remind me of making chocolate chip cookies at another aunt’s home. She allowed my sisters and me into her immaculate kitchen to make cookies. I remember my older sister did not think salt belonged in a cookie recipe and left it out. My aunt picked up on it immediately. (Each time I add salt to cookies now, I remember her with a smile). I think of another aunt who convinced the older women in the millinery shop that the hats she was buying for her nieces for her sister’s funeral should not cost as much as they were marked. She got a deal on three hats for my sisters and I. Being of Irish and Scottish descent, we had a wake. I remember my sisters and cousins each scamming different uncles for money during the wake so we all could hit the local grocery store for candies and ice cream. I am certain that little store had one of it’s best business days in months from my family. I mostly remember the outpouring of love from family, friends and neighbors. That made the biggest impression on my young mind.
Loss of a parent is a unique and hard experience. To me, loosing a parent at such a young age was something that just happened. It did not physically scar me, but it did define me. That definition still continues. I do not have the physical example of what or what not to be. When my daughters turned eleven, I told them that I had no experience of what a mother was supposed to do after that time. I told them that I would wing it and hopefully they would survive to adulthood. With the help of the Lord, they did survive and flourish. Now, I just imagine what my Mother would have been like, and wonder what kind of relationship we would have had as I grew.
Moments can change you at any time. Moments can rob us, or bless us. Moments can make us forever victims or we can grow from moments. I am grateful for my Dad and especially my older sister who refused to let my sister and me become forever victims. Life it much too precious to stay in the past reliving hard miserable times. Life is now. It is a crisp apple begging to be picked and eaten. It is a bright autumn day inviting you to walk around and breathe in fresh air. Life is now.
Today I remember. Today I miss. Today I will get hold of my sisters and we will reaffirm our love for one another. But, most of all today I will live my life. I will walk the dog, I will do the dishes, make the bed and live. I will praise my Creator for my family, for my daughters, for my son-in-law and most of all for my precious grandson. I will thank our Lord for allowing me to see all of this and be here. He is an awesome God who has looked out for me and kept me able to live a full life, remembering, but never a victim.
One day, I hope, we will see a cure for this horrible disease. A cure so that sometime in the future a moment in time won’t forever change another young life.
Thanks for stopping by, DAF