My mom’s 80th birthday is this week.
At least, it would have been. She died on Mother’s Day. She was 79 years, 10 months, and 23 days old. Leukemia took her or rather the malfunction of the body that leukemia causes. Near the end, I took an armpit temperature of 103 degrees because she was unconscious and her jaw was clenched. You can add 1-2 degrees to that for her actual temperature. Children’s cherry liquid Tylenol was no match for it. Systemic infection probably ended her life.
And it was a fast, peaceful death in her own bed, with her family. We were able to have a COVID-19 social distance visitation at the funeral home. There were so many beautiful flowers and quite a few people came to pay their respects. Her funeral was a private, gravesite service, followed by a family luncheon afterward. We even had a cake and candles for my nephew whose 35th birthday was the same day as the visitation.
Life must go on.
I posted my last blog entry on May 9th. 12 hours later, mom was gone. The week following her death was consumed with funeral and travel arrangements. The week following her burial was consumed with going through papers to prepare to close her estate. I am her executor and I felt it was the one way I could help my sister. She owns the house my mother lived in and has to take care of the personal effects she left behind.
My mom was a big Michael Connelly fan. His novels about Detective Harry Bosch were turned into the Amazon Prime series ‘Bosch’. In the weeks before her death, she and I binge watched seasons 2-6 in the evenings (because she had already watched season 1). I would help her in the mornings and as I left to work remote for my job in the afternoons, she would always ask, “Are you coming back for Bosch?” I spent the week after she died sorting her papers and binge watched season 1 with her empty recliner.
I made it home Memorial Day weekend, 9 weeks to the day that I left for Peoria. Minneapolis burned the following week…
It’s now been a month since mom died and I still haven’t grieved in any real way. It’s stuck. But I also know grief waits for as long as it takes so that will all hit me at some point in the future. This birthday week won’t be easy and neither will Christmas, her favorite holiday. I have not been ready to write either and this blog post is the first real piece about life after. What I still can’t shake is the impulse to call mom and see how she’s doing.
As much as I dislike social media, my FB memories remind me that Mom and I traveled together in June 2018 to Thunder Bay, Ontario right after her MDS diagnosis and right before her chemo started. And that we traveled together again in June 2019 for that one last crazy great cross-country road trip to Pensacola, Florida. We celebrated her 79th birthday on the road. We travelled surprisingly well together. In my mind, it was ‘now or never’ and I was right. I spent much of that trip serving as her caregiver. By the holidays, she was no longer responding to chemo and infections were taking hold.
This summer, it’s too late.
Mom lived longer than average then those diagnosed with MDS. And when it finally turned into leukemia, she was given “weeks to live” by her oncologist. 11 weeks to be precise. She was trying to make it to her 80th birthday. Even though she didn’t, I am going to celebrate it anyway.
Mary & Christine’s Big 2019 Adventure (3,781 miles in 16 days across 11 states) stopped in Savannah, Georgia. We found a wine tasting room, Le Chai galerie du vin, on one of the many squares in the city just before an afternoon rainstorm. We rode it out sipping wine and bought a couple of bottles to take home with us. Mom enjoyed her wine at Thanksgiving with the family last year.
I still have mine.
Mittelbach Zweigelt Rose’ 2018, an Austrian pink wine to match the pink roses we bought for her 75th birthday. I’m going to open it and raise a glass in her honor for her 80th birthday. And it was an honor to help her at the end of her life, to help her die at home in her bed. It was a great gift to me to be able to drive her home.
Safe travels, mom.
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, June 2020