four years ago at this time...

i'm writing those words, typing them...
and even as the characters appear on the screen, my heart rate increases,
i can feel it pounding in my chest.

how has it been four years?
that thought is what woke me from a deep, sound sleep last week.
how can it possibly have been only four years?
it already feels like it's been forever.
and just as that thought raced through my hazy mind, buried in the dark of night, i just as quickly realized that while four years of not-here-ness seems an eternity, in reality, many more years than that stretch before me.
that moment, that second of realization, that must be what despair feels like.

i miss her so much.
and most days, that missing just seems like background noise.
like a low, dull, thrumming's there, but i'm used to it.
but in october, that noise seems to escalate...
always crescendoing during the final week of the month.
and yet, every year, i'm convinced anew that this is the year it will become easier.  this is the year it won't hurt quite so bad.
and then, every year in late october, the noise threatens to drown out all but itself...
it mutes the laughter, the music...and its pain feels sharp, stabbing, rough, jagged.
mom went home to be with Jesus on friday, october 29, 2010.

so, while this coming wednesday is the actual date of her home-going, 
this week--the last week of october--feels like the anniversary.
you'd have to know how mom's passing came about. 

the short-short, though, is this.
she had friends in from out of town for a couple days of crafting the prior thursday and friday...
they left to go home on saturday morning.
she went in to the hospital on monday the 25th.
she went to heaven on friday the 29th.
it was that fast.
really, really fast.
a nineteen-year battle with cancer...
ended in less than seven days.

we were blessed.
we were truly, immeasurably blessed that it happened so fast.
she had very little suffering in her last days.

but imagine a book with 6,764 pages.
that's how many days are in nineteen years--the length of her cancer-battle...
now imagine that the final chapter of that book is fewer than seven pages long.
there's a bit of relief that the book is done...
that you actually know how it ends...
but you really thought the ending was going to be a little longer...
you didn't think it was going to come so sudden...
especially given the fact that the book was so long.

and the fact that mom's final chapter literally happened entirely in a seven-day period of time,
has etched the details of those days into my memory forever.
four years ago today--on that monday--my dad and i took my mom into the hospital.
she was weak, unable to stand or walk...
drowsy, tired, not herself.
once the hospital staff got her all settled in, hooked up to oxygen, her color returned and so did her appetite.
she was sitting up in her hospital bed eating, cracking jokes, talking about whether she'd even have to spend the night there.

i remember the pulmonologist beckoning me out into the hallway...
he was talking oxygen levels and lung functions and all sorts of things that were generally latin to me.
i must have been giving him a dazed, confused look, because he suddenly cut to the chase...
"this could be what kills her."

i still remember how that felt.
a shocking, startling slap in the face...
that sudden jolt to a reality that just didn't seem possible.
she was talking.  eating.  my word, she was even joking with the nurses about how bossy my dad was!

she spent monday night in the hospital.
by tuesday, she was antsy to go home, but her oxygen levels still weren't anywhere near what they needed to be.
one of her best friends--one who had just been here the week before for crafting--came back into town and camped out at the hospital with us.
my mom's room had the general atmosphere of a party...
visitors coming and going...and more coming than going.
at one point, mom insisted on buying lunch or dinner for everyone there...close to twenty people!

much to mom's frustration, tuesday night was also spent in the hospital.
she was due for some important lung tests early wednesday afternoon.
those early wednesday hours seemed to crawl...
and then, dad called...
the tests came back with less-than-desirable results.
i needed to come to the hospital.  now.
suddenly, everything seemed to blur by.
that night, my two younger brothers flew in from california and met my dad, 
my youngest brother (I have three), and me at the hospital.

that wednesday night, all five of us gathered around her bed to say good-bye.

that wednesday night, i spoke to mom for the last time...
the last time she ever acknowledged me.

i held her hand...
both her hands...
her arms...
any part of her I could grasp on to...
i told her she was my best friend...
(she was...and to this day IS the best friend I've ever had)
and she nodded...and patted me as i hugged her.
and when I started sobbing on her chest,
she shook her head...
as if to tell me not to cry...
not to be sad.

that night, we sat in a family room on that floor of the hospital,
calling hospice...
talking with the hospice nurse until the wee hours of the morning...
making sure we could get mom home.
that's what she wanted.
she had told us so.
she wanted to go Home from home.

on thursday afternoon, we brought her home.
hospice nurses met us here...all preparations had been made...accommodations were set.
the closest of family friends trickled in throughout thursday afternoon and hold her pray with just be near her.

i still remember crashing exhaustedly into bed thursday night, setting my alarm to wake three hours later to take my part of the night shift with mom.
during my shift, i rubbed a dampened sponge on her lips, just to get a bit of moisture into her mouth...a little lip balm occasionally...
rubbing her feet, growing ever colder...
tucking the covers in snugly around her, trying to preserve those last fleeting bits of body heat...
and holding her hands...
holding and rubbing and stroking and making circles and memorizing every line and indentation and fingerprint.

soon, the friday morning sun streamed through the sunroom windows where mom's bed was.
it was her favorite room in the house {the house i now live in}...
we knew that's where she wanted to be...she had told us so.
my brothers trickled into the room, rubbing backs sore from random couch sleeps.
dad was there.  sister-friend becky.  a few others, i'm sure, but my mind blurs beyond that.
and was over.
just like that.
i'm still a bit envious of becky.  she was there as our friend, but being that she's also a nurse, she had her stethoscope with her.
becky heard mom's final heartbeats.  for long moments after her last breath, her strong heart continued to beat.  and then, at last, she was gone.  completely gone.

i've never written this out quite as exhaustively before...
and why i'm doing so now is beyond me.
loss, and the grief and pain that accompanies it, is a strange thing.
it's something we are all destined to go through, but generally, those who have not been through it have no desire to hear about it.
pregnant mothers, baby-swollen bellies, soak up birth stories from other women.
adventurers of all sorts revel in collecting stories and experiences from more seasoned thrill-seekers.
parents of toddlers question parents of teens.
novice cooks glean wisdom from kitchen experts.
amateur artists look to the masters of paint and brush and canvas.

we will not all be mothers.
we will not all climb mountains nor dive unsearchable depths.
we will not all be parents.
we will not all cook or bake or sautee or fry.
we will not all paint or sculpt.
we will all experience loss.
and yet, for the most part, loss is a hush-hush topic for those who've never been through it.

and i'm finding, the longer i live on "this side" of my great loss, 
that those who have been through it long to share a bit of their story.
i can't paint with an all-encompassing brush here...
there are still those who hold their stories of loss close to their hearts, carefully guarded, opened to few.  
and that's fine.  and understandable.
but i'm not one of those.
ask me about my mom.
ask me about my loss.
ask me how it felt then...and how it feels now, four years later.
chances are you may feel uncomfortable bringing it up.
chances are you may feel uncomfortable when i start crying...which i inevitably will.
but the certainty is that i'll remember you forever as one of those who listened.  one of those who cared.
i guess that's why i'm sharing this today. 
i'm sharing this for me...
and i'm sharing this for all my friends who have lost loved ones...
and and for all those who haven't yet, but one day will.
for those who have lost know the relief of getting this off my chest...
of talking about it...about death...
of not having to mince words, of not feeling taboo.
and those who haven't lost yet will only benefit from empathy gained and experience gathered.
i'm sharing this simply because i want to.
because it feels so good, even if only once a year, to walk over this sacred-to-me-ground...
stepping tentatively at first, then more assuredly...
covering the holy, the hallowed, the suffering, the grief.

thank you.
thank you for listening.
for letting me share.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I haven't lost my mom yet but I have loss my dad. The pain never really goes away and it still overwhelming 18 years later. Praying for you today.

  2. What a beautiful testimony of your Mothers life. Friends and Family. Praying for you this week.

  3. Beautiful post. My brother passed away from complications of CF on the exact same day. Peacefully with family by his side. Your words bring back memories of that night 4 yrs ago.. They were both welcomed into heaven that day. Peace to you and your family.

  4. My heart hears you. I have gone through many times of loss to. I wrote here a comment but it seem to have been lost. So I will make this short. Praying for you, Gods peace and rest in your time of the raw hurt. Keep talking about it, it does help. ��

  5. I'm in a good way. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Beautifully written........thank you for sharing your experience. I lost my papa six years ago from cancer and was with him during the dying process. Our family also took turns staying with him so he was never alone. I remember one day he took my hand and held it near his heart.....and that said more to me than any words he could say. I miss him everyday. Praying for you.

  7. So much love to you as you remember your mom at this time...and always. <3

  8. I know this is an old post, but I'm just reading it for the first time. (I usually just follow you on IG.) What a beautiful post and a reminder that, even if it's awkward, oftentimes people do want to be asked about their lost loved one.
    I've really enjoyed reading through your blog.


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