5 years ago at about this exact time, Michael got a phone call. He walked out to the sidewalk as I unloaded groceries. I saw him bend down to his knees while he walked and I heard him say “no.” I started to shake knowing something was wrong but not knowing who he was talking about. I knew it was either going to be his grandparents or mine. Someone was gone. How would I console him through this loss with a new baby?
As he walked back to the house he asked me to put the groceries down and go inside. So, I knew it was mine. I asked him what it was as I stood in the living room. Just give me the news. Just tell me and let’s get it over with. He wouldn’t do it. He asked me again to please sit down. On the 3rd time, I complied knowing it wasn’t my grandma, whom I had expected the call about for years.
He looked at me with tear-filled eyes and said something I’ll never in my entire life forget “I’m going to tell you something that’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to tell you.” I knew it was her. “Your mom died today.” Lights Out. Everything is different from this moment on in my life. Everything.
I looked down at myself as I threw whatever it was I was nervously playing with in my hands onto the coffee table. I watched myself put my hands over my face and yell into them. Michael sits motionless across from me trying like hell to keep himself together. I remember asking “what? how? what happened?” My mind went to car accident…of course it did. Just 2 weeks before she had been at my house with me while we brought her 3rd granddaughter, Kennedy, into the world. She was perfectly healthy. She was 53. But it wasn’t a car accident, she was at home.
I remember phone calls…the saddest of which were to my two little brothers. I remember wondering how we were going to get 2 1-year-olds and a newborn to Arizona for a funeral when I’m still recovering from my surgery. I can’t do this, I STILL LOOK PREGNANT! I remember snapping right into work mode, though. Efficient as ever. “I can handle this, I’ll figure it all out and fix it. Right now, I need to feed the baby, we should eat our dinner, we need to get the groceries…” My brain was half shut off. True story. I could feel without feeling. I was it complete and total shock. I could feel myself start to cry throughout the night and yet, for some reason I couldn’t get myself to believe it was true. I had to have logical conversations with myself. “Lindsay, no, you can’t call her to tell her what’s going on, she isn’t there, you already know this.” I couldn’t tell which end was up, really. Foggy almost. Just walking around foggy. I retained my ability to do the things that I HAD to do for the family to survive but I wasn’t in my right mind. It wasn’t until her viewing when I walked into a room and saw her laying on a table and I for some strange reason was shocked to see her there. I knew why we were going but I didn’t expect to really see her. I can’t explain that feeling. That’s when it became real, I think. I saw her and she was gone. There was no part of my mom laying on that table save for a few recognizable physical traits I had known all my life…her hands. I had to see her hands.
It turns out my healthy, works-out-everyday, mom had died of a massive heart attack due to the buildup of scar tissue in her heart from a previous unknown heart attack. She didn’t know it, but looking back, I do. I remember it. I remember everything about that day. She was probably my exact age right now, maybe a year or two younger. I can’t put a finger on my exact age but I was in Junior High, I think, when she told me she couldn’t move and was sitting in her bathroom. She asked me to go get her some medicine from the convenience store and I rode my bike down there to get it.
She was under massive amounts of stress at that time, financial, emotional, relationships, her role as a mother, work…massive. She held it all together, though. Efficient and unfeeling as ever…”I can handle this, I’ll figure it all out and fix it.” Sounds familiar. There’s nothing that can convince me that it didn’t kill her.
Five years ago in an instant everything was different. I used to think things might go back but they won’t, I’m realizing. Everything is still different. I cry less each year but there’s a big hole where only a mom can go in my soul and I know now that it just won’t be the same. Victory is just a little less sweet. At holidays, there’s just a little less laughter. During the girls events, theres a little less excitement. They don’t know it, but I do. I think that’s why I’m so afraid to fly right now. I can’t leave this feeling of loss on my kids. For some reason my brain as calculated that a plane crash is the most-likely scenario in which I might not live to see my girls grow up. Totally illogical when you say it out loud, I realize but it boils down to grief, I think. By far the hardest thing I’ve walked through and my childhood wasn’t a cakewalk. I continue to walk though it. Like wading through thick molasses.
I wonder what would I be doing if she were still here and each time I land on the fact that i probably wouldn’t have had the capacity to do what I’m doing today. It’s through and because of the broken parts of me that I believe almost anything is possible. Not because she didn’t tell me with her example, but because I didn’t know I could do it until she wasn’t there to catch me if I didn’t.
I don’t know if there’s one moment in your life where everything changes. Where you just know you’re going to want something you’ll never be able to have for the rest of your life but it’s a pretty bleak place to live at times. I don’t want to paint you an all black and white picture, here. My life is still in full color. I love my family and I’m so blessed by them. I try to live a life out loud. But every October 21st I think of what could have been and if I’m honest, the way I think it should have been. I can’t say I understand why she’s gone. I hope to know it one day when I get to see her again in Heaven. Until then I’m doing my best. I try to make myself believe that she can see what’s up down here and that she’s excitedly following us though our lives and celebrating with us as good things happen. I just don’t know if I can make myself truly believe that.
Today I remember the woman, mom, grandma (Ninny), entrepreneur, friend, musician and damn good golfer my mom was. Today I remember that grief is the price I pay for knowing great love and being loved fiercely.
I hope you’ll give your mama a call and tell her you love her for no good reason except to have her hear you say it and for you to hear those words back. It’s a sweet, sweet sound.