Shoulda, woulda, coulda

by cath
(australia)


My mum passed away March 22nd 2012. I hadnt seen her in twelve years as she lived overseas and when I went to visit her there was an exchange of words and we parted on bad terms.I returned home without a flicker of remorse and remained friends with my sisters who live fairly close by to her. (I am the eldest). On December the ninth last year my sister called to tell me the news that mum had been diagnosed with cancer and although it was early days it didnt look good. I wrestled with myself as to what was the right thing to do. The girls told me not to travel across the globe as I have a young family who need me here. My husband gave me the option of going but left the final decision with me. As I had only just begun a new job which I had rallied hard for I was in a very tricky situation. Do I leave and go over to the UK with the chance the door might be slammed in my face? Do I stay here in Australia and take the chance I would cope fairly well with her illness and demise? Only two options but they may as well be two thousand. My mum was one of the most stubborn difficult women I have ever encountered so the conundrum was difficult. When the news was delivered to me that it was terminal I was quiet, I was shocked, I was a whole barrel full of emotions but I dont remember being devastated. I remember being guilty at not being devastated strangely enough. For a few weeks I maintained my aloofness but then one morning in the early hours I was talking to my sisters on the phone and they had moved in to nurse her at home. The cancer had spread rapidly and my experience as a palliative care nurse was vital to them. I advised them and comforted them especially the youngest. (mums favourite) but after the phone call I quite simply crashed. I think the reality hit that the woman who carried me in her body and gave life to me, who was my best friend for the first fourteen years of my life was about to climb off this mortal coil forever. Oh my gosh I was a mess. I had asked several times of the girls if she had mentioned me at all and the answer was always no so I decided I had to write to her. I wrote what started out as a note which soon became a novel of epic proportions. I brought her up to date on all my kids lives and all the news about my own grandaughter who she had never seen. I told her about my new job and my beautiful new home. I mentioned that I was very well although I suffer from a crippling illness.(not nearly as crippling as cancer)and I included beautiful recent portraits of my kids and grandaughter. I said how the girls had told me all about her situation and how they kept me up to speed with all the news and I wound up telling her I understand if she doesnt want to reply as too much water under the bridge etc. I also said I was terribly sorry for leaving the gap to widen so far over the years. I said I understood if she didnt forgive me but I bore no ill feeling for her not contacting me and the door was wide open should she decide to have a relationship with me. I wished her well i told her I loved her and I quickly posted the letter before I changed my mind. A few days later my sister phoned me and said the letter had been received. Mum opened it read it looked at the phots and then threw the letter at my sister and said "you might want to read this" Sis asked her if she wanted to write to me or talk on the phone but she shrugged. I was undetered and still called every second day. A few days later the cancer grabbed her severely. She was only semi-conscious and there were very few windows of lucidity for her. My sister told me ring and I called immedietly expecting the worse, sis told me mum was barely with it and had mumbled ny name. I asked her to put the phone beside her and I spoke to her on the phone. Her eyes opened and she repeated what I was saying to her albeit in a stupified morphine induced state. After a few minutes I asked if she was tired she said yes and I told her goodbye. She was struggling to speak and could barely breathe. My sis told me later that mum had smiled for the first time in days when I began speaking to her. 48 hours later they called me.She had taken a very bad turn for the worse and was in a coma like state. I called several times throughout the day and text messaged. They would reply right away and keep me posted, I began to panic asking was this the end? was this it? When I finished work that night I was Text messaging before I got in the car. They didnt answer. I rang they didnt pick up!!!! I was cranky because they were my lifeline as to what was going on in what had been our family home for three generations. I drove home in a bad mood and as I stepped out of the car my husband was standing in the driveway. It was very late and very dark and I called out hello to him. He didnt answer. I walked towards him and tears were flooding his eyes. They had just called two minutes before. I had missed the call. Mum was gone. He wrapped me in his arms telling me over and over how sorry he was and I began to cry but suddenly an overwhelming primeval sensation came over me. I had the worst pain my heart that i thought I would vomit from the severity. I hated myself and I hated the cancer that took her, I hated my circumstances and the distance half a globe had put between us. This is what it felt like to lose your mother. I had lost a best friend a couple of years earlier which was tragic but it didnt feel anything like this. When my first husband and I split up it didnt feel anything like this. When I crashed my car 20 years before and broke half my bones in my body it didnt feel like this!!!! My heart was broken. This is what a truly broken heart feels like. Since March the 22nd I have cried every day. I have regretted hundreds of times not going over, I have tormented myself and I miss her so badly I dont think I can ever speak about her without a lump in my throat. I see her often in my dreams and I talk to her daily in my head. My faith has given me some comfort and I feel her looking at me watching me and laughing at me when I do something silly. I will remember that pain for the rest of my life and wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy. I cant imagine how terrible it must be for someone to lose their mother if they have a close loving relationship with her. I wish to put my arms around all of you who have lost mum in whatever circumstances.

Comments for Shoulda, woulda, coulda

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Nov 07, 2012
The slate is clean
by: Anonymous

Cath

I do not know you, and this might seem unlikely, but it worries me that you feel such extreme remorse. I have lost my Mum too and everyday I battle with an overwhelming sense of guilt, though, I believe, not to the extent which you are struggling. What I wish to say is: Please do not feel so bad. You wrote about your Mum that she "was my best friend for the first fourteen years of my life...", and you said that "My sis told me later that mum had smiled for the first time in days when I began speaking to her..."

Like you, I am the oldest daughter in the family. During the early years of my life, I had the closest relationship with my Mum which is possible between two human beings and, perhaps unconsciously, my mission in life was to protect her against the many adversities which came her way. Yet, there arrived a time when I had to make a decision... Mum found happiness with a wonderful man when I was eleven years old, but my teenage years and the choices I eventually made became a burden to her until I finally decided to leave home. I stayed in touch with Mum and her new family, but, I was too far away and, I suppose, too busy with my own life to really share in theirs. I called my Mum often, and I visited regularly during the first decade or so, but the period between visits began to lengthen as I found my way in the world. I knew that she missed me but we talked on the phone and we laughed together a lot - I suppose I contented myself with the fact that she was happy, that she did not need me since she had my "Dad" and two young daughters who needed her attention. I have to admit now that perhaps I was mistaken. I know that she missed me and it will always be a source of pain and sadness that my absence had caused her heartache, particularly during the years that I did not visit or see her.

I lost my Mum five weeks ago, and I am devastated that I did not spend more time with her. She was a gentle being, my mother. She taught me respect and a love for natural things. Whenever I encountered a creature in trouble, or a problem with my pets, I could count on my Mum to advise me. Yet, I did not visit as often as I could have... I was in a different city in a lifestyle which she did not approve of. Perhaps I became apathetic, or selfish, and I allowed the years to slip by. Perhaps I am writing this note more for myself than for anyone, but I would like to remind you that it is human to make mistakes and that the love between a mother and a daughter surpasses "humanness". To me, the fact that you were able to write to her proves that you were connected beyond a clash of wills. I believe that your mother's smile, when you spoke with her for the last time, has cleared the slate. I also believe that you will find her again someday, just as I will find my Mum in that realm where they wait for us with calm expectation. In the meantime, try to remember the priceless smile, and forgive yourself... Your Mum has forgiven you.

Nov 04, 2012
The slate is clear
by: Anonymous

Hello Cath

To be honest, I do not know what to say, really. It's only that it worries me a little that you feel such extreme remorse because, I am in a similar position, though not to the same extent. I think my intention in responding to your letter is simply to say this: Please do not feel so bad. You wrote about your Mum that she "was my best friend for the first fourteen years of my life...", and you said that "My sis told me later that mum had smiled for the first time in days when I began speaking to her..."

Like you, I am the oldest daughter in the family (though I have a brother who is older by one year). During the early years of my life, I had the closest relationship with my Mum which is possible between two human beings and, without realising, my mission in life was to protect her against the many adversities which came her way. Yet, there came a time when I had to make a decision to leave my mother... Mum found happiness with a wonderful man when I was eleven years old, but my selfish teenage years and the choices I eventually made became a burden to her until I finally decided to leave home. I stayed in touch with my Mum and her new family, but I was too far away and, I suppose, too busy with my own life to really share in theirs. I called my Mum often, and I visited regularly during the first decade or so, but the period between visits began to lengthen as I found my way in the world. I knew that she missed me but we talked on the phone and we laughed together a lot - I suppose I contented myself with the fact that she was okay, that she was happy, that she did not need me since she had my "Dad" and two young daughters who needed her attention. I have to admit now that perhaps I was mistaken. I know that she missed me and it will always be a source of pain and sadness that my absence had caused her heartache, particularly during the years that I did not visit or see her. I lost my Mum five weeks ago, and I am devastated that I did not spend more time with her...

She was a gentle being, my mother. She taught me respect and a love for natural things. Whenever I encountered a creature in trouble, or a problem with my pets, I could count on my Mum to advise me. Yet, I did not visit as often as I could have. I was in a different city with a lifestyle which she did not approve of. I suppose I became apathetic, or selfish, and I allowed the years to slip by. I suppose too that I am writing this note more for myself than for anyone, but my initial intention was to let you know that it is human to make mistakes and that the love between a mother and a daughter surpasses that "humanness". To me, the fact that you were able to write that letter to your Mum is proof that you were connected beyond the "bad words" and the "stubborness". I believe that your mother's smile, when you spoke with her for the last time, has cleared the slate. Forgive yourself... Your Mum has forgiven you.

Jul 08, 2012
Shoulda, woulda, coulda
by: Doreen England

Cath I am sorry for the loss of your mother. Your story is not unlike mine. I shall try to answer impartially without being biased. The pain of grief is like nothing else we will ever experience. I lost my husband 8 weeks ago yesterday after 3yrs.39days with lung cancer caused by working with Asbestos. Steve had an aggressive, inoperable,incurable cancer. Steve was 65yrs. and didn't want to die. He was very sad all the time and was ill throughout.
I applaud you for writing to your mother, sending her photo's letting her into your life. When she threw your letter at your sister telling her to read this she was stubborn. Her pride prevented her doing what a mother should have done which was to forgive you for the rift between you and her. Stubborness is a destroyer in families. My mother was stubborn but still a gem of a woman in her own way. Teaching us how to care for others. But adversity in life eventually helps us get rid of stubborness and pride. Mum died in 2003, We got there too late. I didn't get to see my mother. I stepped out of the limelight so that my other sisters could get mum's attention, so didn't see her for 6 months. I only had the one week with her when I travelled a long distance to be with her. I hated the way my mum lived with such lonliness. That was cruel and I dreaded ever going through this. I am here now. I lost Steve to cancer on May 5th 2012. After 44yrs. of marriage. It is a different type of grief.
We all live with regrets. My mother ran to the bus station to get a journey planner for me to travel down to see her. I never used it. I didn't go down. She must have been very disappointed. That is my regret. The human race is fractured by SIN. So we will be fighting battles all our lives and overcoming them. Some we won't overcome. Some we will have to live with forever. Cath. It does get better. 9 years on I have only just been able to put my mother's picture on the wall. Steve's has gone up immediately. But it is very painfull losing a spouse. Steve was a carpenter. Now I am having to get tradesmen in to do all the jobs he would have done. I am angry and crying all the time now. I thought I was done with grief. I am dreading Christmas, and all the holidays. Steve should have been here enjoying his retirement. He went straight from work to cancer to death. How fair is that I say to God. All my sisters are going out and enjoying breaks away and short and long holidays with their husband's and I didn't get to have this. this was to come now when STeve retired. All 3 sisters and husbands all going out together. Now I have been sent to some type of lonely Hell. Where I spend my days in mourning my loss till it is over. Whenever that is. I hope that you can come to terms with the fact that you have nothing to reproach yourself for. Lose the guilt. You reached out to your mother. You made the first move. That gets my vote.

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