My Angel Mother
by Chloe Lombard
When I was five years old, I can vividly remember driving down the road with my mama when Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton came on the radio. I began to cry, and startled, my mom asked me what was wrong. I looked up at her and asked, “If you die, how will I know who you are when I get to heaven?” She smiled, and said, “You will just know.”
Even at that young of age, the idea of losing my mom was strangely tangible and the most horrifying thing I could imagine. She was my best friend, my everything; she called me her “Velcro” because I was always by her side. When I was 11 years old, my parents separated and my mother had to go back to school so she could get a degree and be able to support us financially. She flourished in her field of study, social work. She specialized in family, child, and addiction counseling. She wanted, more than anything in the world, to help others and make a positive impact on the lives of others. She was an incredibly loving woman and even in the two years she was able to work, she helped countless people.
My mother’s dream of becoming a councilor was finally here, she finally felt relatively secure financially, and she seemed happy. However, after about a year of working she noticed something off about her body, she was not feeling well and she discovered symptoms that should have driven her strait to a doctor. Unfortunately, she had just switched to a new job and her health insurance had not kicked in yet, so she decided to wait. A year later, after losing over 30 lbs in one month, she went to see a doctor. She had Stage IV colorectal cancer, and it had progressed far enough that she was only offered palliative care. She lived two years after her initial diagnosis. She died on 9/24/12, I was 21 years old and she was 45. I watched and did my best to help her as she endured the betrayal of her body. Some days were good, and I cherished those minute. Other days, I wished for her suffering to end, as I simultaneously begged for more time.
Even as she suffered, she spent every ounce of energy she had into making sure I would be prepared for her death. She wrote journal after journal making sure I had something to read when I wanted to feel like she was here. She also wrote me beautiful cards for every major life event that she will not be able to attend in person. Along with the cards she wanted to give me a charm for a charm bracelet she had given me for each of these events. At the time, though, she did not have any expendable income and she grew discouraged, as she really wanted to give me this gift. She started making payments on the charms, and one day she went to make another payment. When she went to make a payment, the sales associate told her that someone had anonymously paid for all the charms. She was so incredibly happy to be able to give me this gift, and we will never be able to thank this amazing individual who made this possible. So far I have received many charms, each marking a major holiday the first year after her death. When I get these charms and her cards, I am reminded of how special I was to her, and how much love she has for me.
The days when I get these small gifts both magnify and alleviate the pain I feel everyday over her loss. They remind me that our lives are short, and love, any love, must come to an end. Love is always bittersweet. I would not be the person I am today without my mama and her love, but she will never get to see the gifts she has given me, or how her love will continue to guide me and shape my life. This realization, that I have only been able to verbalize just now, is what allows me to get up in the morning and strive to be the best me I can be. I know that despite how I may feel about God or death from day to day, one thing remains constant: the love we share with other human beings immortalizes us. One day we will all die, but the impact our love has on those we leave behind will ensure that we live on, and we will continue to be a vital part of this world. We will all be there, guiding those that come after us, not just through the knowledge or discoveries we bring to the world, but simply by giving the most simple gift of all, love.
I know I will continue to be sad, likely for a very long time. Some nights I cannot sleep, some days I cannot eat, other days I cannot stop eating. There are times when I would do nearly anything to escape the pain of my loss. There are days when I feel like I wish it could all end. I often get angry at everything and anything. I feel like throwing things for almost no reason at all. I burst into tears at the drop of a hat, often at inappropriate times. One of the hardest things about all of this, is that I know I am not healing fast enough for everyone else. I know I let people down because I am overwhelmed and cannot snap back to the "old me" as fast as they want me to. I also know that the old me is never coming back. I know that I am forever changed, and any healing I do will not be to return to my previous state of being, but rather to shape whatever person I chose to be.
For the first time in my entire life, I am choosing to ignore what everyone else thinks about how I am dealing with my mama's death, because this is my process, and I am going to take as much time as I please to heal myself. I know I may let people down, I may not live up to their expectations, but I know I will be living up to mine. No one can tell you how to grieve, so don't let them. They may have empathy, they may have gone through something similar and can help guide you through this process, but no one will truly understand the pain any of us feel individually, and thus cannot tell us how or how fast we should heal. I do not know if reading this will help other people with their grief, but reading many of the stories on this site has given me comfort this evening, as has writing this post.