Tuesday, April 26th
“Amy, this is dad.”
From the sound of his voice, I knew something was wrong.
“What’s going on?”
“Well, they had to admit your mom into the hospital. They didn’t like what they saw in her blood work. They also called in the oncologist.”
My heart sank. My body began to shake.
Once we hung up, I immediately opened Google. (Yeah, yeah… I know it’s the endless hole of doom when searching symptoms, but I had to do it.)
I googled all her symptoms: headaches, nose bleeds, bruising for no apparent reason (her bruises were large and all over), fatigue, and weakness.
I didn’t like what I read… APML (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia) was the first five results that popped up.
My stomach churned. I felt sick.
My brother’s phone number… not good.
“Amy, they had to put mom in the ICU.”
“Oh, no! Okay… okay… I’ll start packing now.”
I frantically began throwing stuff in a suitcase.
“Amy, your mom has leukemia. She also has bleeding on the brain and they’ll have to do surgery once they get her platelets up.”
“Okay. Okay. Um… ” My brain is spinning.
“It’s a type of leukemia that has a 90% survival rate if caught soon enough, so they’re starting treatment ASAP.”
My heart raced and I thought it would pump right out of my chest. I wanted to jump in the car and start driving at that very moment, but since it was such a long drive and it was already 7pm, we all decided getting on the road early the next morning would be best.
Early Wednesday morning, I got on the road, and it was a blur of a drive.
The progression of phone calls went like this (of course paraphrased):
“Mom’s head doesn’t hurt as bad and she’s a bit more coherent. They may not even have to do surgery.”
“Mom’s having a hard time breathing and panics with the oxygen mask on. They’re going to sedate her and put her on a respirator.”
This is the point where I got an even more sickening feeling.
“This is bad. Really bad.” I talked to myself and began to cry. There was a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t deny.
“Amy, they can’t regulate mom’s blood pressure and there are some other major things going on and they need to put her on life support. They’re hoping this will stabilize her.”
“What? No way!”
“I know. Just dive safely and come straight to the hospital instead of going to Dad’s first.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. My whole body shook uncontrollably. Tears streamed down my face. I had to take short, quick breaths to get any air into my lungs. I wanted to drive faster, but couldn’t.
I screamed, “Mama! Please, hang on. Please!”
When I was just outside of Charlotte, it began pouring rain, lightning, and thundering. I had to slow down, yet again. (I forgot to mention, I had gone through four traffic jams, which had already added two hours to my drive.)
Once I got through the storm, about ten minutes later, Chris called.
“Amy,” long pause…
I knew what he was going to say.
“Amy, do you want to pull over?”
“No. Just tell me. Just tell me.”
“Amy, your mom has passed away.”
“NO!! NO!! NO!! HOW? HOW? HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED? SHE WENT TOO FAST.”
I didn’t make it. I didn’t get there in time. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t get to kiss her cheek and hold her hand. I didn’t get to say, “I love you, mom” just one more time.
Mom passed away at 9:03pm– during that bad storm I drove through.
How can it be?
How could it be that the next few days we’d be picking out the outfit she’d wear, the casket she’d rest in, and the kind of service she’d have. How could it be that I’d have to find strength to drive to the funeral home to see her one last time? Once we got there, I couldn’t do it. I tried, but I got about ten feet from the casket and fell apart. There was no way I could see mom that way. No way at all.
I cried, “I can’t do it. I can’t. I just can’t.”
Chris put his arms around me, and whispered, “Amy, it’s okay. You don’t have to.”
I tried again when we got to the church for the memorial. Again, I couldn’t do it. I got, maybe, one step closer than I had earlier, but fell apart again. I couldn’t even put the letter I wrote her in the casket. Chris had to do it for me.
I hugged into Chris’ arms. “I’m not strong enough.”
“This isn’t about being strong,” he whispered.
Those words… so perfect and true.
The memorial and funeral were beautiful… if such a service can be beautiful. Lots of flowers. Lots of memories flashing on big screens. One minute, I was numb. The next, I was laughing at a memory someone talked about as they hugged me. Then, there were a lot of moments of pure excruciating pain and tears. It felt like I was walking through a horrible, horrible nightmare.
Seeing my dad lose his best friend and soulmate is horrible (they were together a total of 50 years). Seeing my brother and sister-in-law having to comfort their three boys while they cry their little hearts out because they’ve lost Grammy is horrible. Seeing friends and family mourn the loss of such a beautiful, caring, loving, genuine, kindhearted woman is horrible.
It doesn’t seem fair. She deserved more time. She had more life to live.
To be honest, I really don’t want to hear, “Everything happens for a reason” or “It was her time to go.”
Sorry. My head and heart can’t go there.
I want her back. Period. PERIOD!
Losing her so unexpectedly, so quickly, so abruptly weighs heavy on my heart and soul. She was the constant, always there, string of thread in my life. She couldn’t wait to hear any good news I may have– big or small. If I had something upsetting, unsettling, or hurtful to share with her, she’d always pass a ray of sunshine my way or a piece of practical, usable motherly advice. She deeply felt my happiness or sadness, even from a thousand miles away. Her motherly intuition was always set on high. There were many times she’d message or call before I had a chance to let her know something was on my mind and heart, which never ceased to amaze me.
This is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. In the matter of a nanosecond, it makes me sick to my stomach when I think about how I can’t call her and have four hour long conversations anymore. Heck, I’d take a thirty second call. I can’t reach out to her, my best friend, when I need words of love and encouragement. I can’t message her a simple “I love you. I hope you have a good day.”
I could go on and on with all the things I’ll miss. I know there won’t be a day that goes by when I won’t think of her. Yes, it makes me sad, but it also makes me happy. It means we had so much love between us that a day can’t exist without her.
I want to share the one thing that sticks out more than anything about my mom– She was the sweetest, kindest person… to everyone. I heard over and over at the funeral,”I never heard your mom speak a bad, unkind word about anyone.”
And that’s the truth. She was genuinely nice to her core.
The following was sent to my dad via private message and I asked for permission to use it in my post and she said it would be okay. This is the epitome of who my mom was:
“I wanted to tell you about a kindness Judi showed me in high school. I wasn’t at all popular and was getting married right after high school and a lot of people bullied me for that and other reasons. One day when that was going on, your precious Judi stepped up out of nowhere and told those people to leave her friend alone. She saved my sanity, Allen. I was begging my parents to let me get my GED but thanks to your lovely saint of a wife, I didn’t have to. I went on to finish my education at Spartanburg Tech with no problem at night after work but I wanted you to know this. Please remember the good times; that’s what got me through.”
Yep… that’s my mama.
I’m so proud to be her daughter and I’m so thankful I had such a loving relationship with her. I will miss her so very much. Actually, much more than that. There’s not a word in the dictionary to fully express how much I will ache in her absence from this world. I will have to depend on all the wonderful, fun, happy, loving memories. There’s enough of those to have one (or two or three) each and every day.
I have a feeling there’s much more to say, much more to write, but it’ll have to wait. For now, I just need to feel and write as I go. I’m still in the phase of, “This isn’t really happening, right?”
Living my life without my mama just doesn’t seem real…
Mama, thank you for being more than a mom. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for all the tears you let me cry. Thank you for all the laughter we had. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for always supporting me. Thank you for being you. I love you.