Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Motherless Mother: a season of deep grief

There has been a lot of silence on this blog, my creative outlet.  I had many posts started and saved the past few months about selling our house, building our new house (which still isn't finished), etc. but those will take a back seat for now.

Just as things seemed to finally be falling into place in my little family's life (things we have been waiting and praying over for several years), my life took a very unexpected, tragic turn.

On May 21st at 2:18pm, my life was forever altered when I (and my siblings and father) held my mother's hand as she took her final breath. On that day, just three weeks ago, I became a motherless mother.

To say that the grief my heart and soul feels is exceedingly painful is an understatement, but I could not think of another adjective to convey otherwise. The pain can almost be paralyzing at times, but every morning I know I have to choose to get out of bed, take care of my three little ones who are so very innocent and naive to it all, and continue to live my life to its absolute fullest.

I will keep the details very vague, but I know people are naturally curious and concerned. My mother had been sick for some time now, however, we thought she was getting better. She had been undergoing a process for the past almost year to actually get her ready for an organ transplant. Being a transplant recipient does not immediately put you at the top of the list. They basically get you ready so that when your score is high enough...meaning you are sick enough...that is when you get the pager and officially wait on your turn. She was only in her early 60's, so it all seemed very hopeful.

We knew in February after her last hospital stay that she was getting closer to hopefully getting the pager and getting the call. It seemed like things were progressing as she was getting sicker...the irony, right? You don't want the person to get sicker, but you know they have to in order to get the transplant. It really is such an awful and agonizing thing.

In early May, she found herself back in the hospital again, this being her worst yet. After two weeks, she was stable and able to come home. I saw her on Mother's Day and this would be the last time I saw her at home. The following weekend, my dad called to tell me that they would not be able to go to Ella's dance recital because mom had become very lethargic and confused. That was May 17th and she passed away 4 days later.

In short, all her organs suddenly began to fail and all her clotting factors were out of control. Her lungs were filling with fluid, but they could not drain the fluid because she would have bled to death if they tried. We spent the next few days all at her bedside while they filled her body with as many blood products as they could, but it was not really bringing her levels up at all. She wouldn't survive a transplant. She fought hard and we fought hard, but ultimately that was not God's plan for her. My mom was terrified to have the transplant and really never wanted it to begin with. As painful as it all is, I know that God was merciful and loving by not having her go through something she never wanted. It's very hard to write those words, but after reading her journal about her fears in regards to the transplant, I have to believe that God lovingly took her in a way that she would have wanted.

We know that God was present and showed us His mercy by allowing our whole family (my dad, my brother, my sister, and myself and my mother) to be together during her final days. She was with us children as we all took our first breaths and we were all there to hold her hands as she took her last. We listened as our father, who had been married to our mother for almost 44 years, whisper a thousand I love you's in her ear. From the day they entered the hospital until the day she went to be with Jesus, my father never stopped holding her hand. Together, as a family, we were able to pray over her and hold hands together as she left her earthly body. We were able to rub her feet, brush her hair, and kiss her cheeks as she got ready to leave us. It was painful and beautiful all in the same breath...and how those two emotions can coexist, I do not know. But The Lord, in His perfect orchestration, made that possible.

There was one moment the day before she passed away when my mom was agitated, yet no longer verbal. My sister began to quietly sing mother's favorite hymns to her. She instantly settled down. When my sister stopped, my dad asked my mother "do you want to hear more music?" and Mom said "Mmm Hmm!!!" It was so calming to her. Seeing that she was comforted by music about her Savior was really beautiful.

There is so much I'd love to share about God's presence those days before and immediately after, but I will write them when I feel like I can relive them for a moment.

As positive and eloquent as you may find my words, my life is anything but that now. The truth is that my mother died too young and in a very sensitive time of my life. My remaining grandmother having just passed away two months prior, I am now left with no grandmothers and no mother. I am a mother with no mother...a motherless mother...and my heart physically just aches for her. I have always been a very happy and pollyanna-ish girl and I am now just muddling through life. I know there is no quick way to bypass my grief; I know that the only way to find that joy again is allow myself to grieve fully and experience the intense emotion. And in the same breath, I know that I am forever changed...that life will always look different to me now.

My heart aches for heaven. I think about my mom every moment, every second of my day. It is all consuming. And although I know this is normal, there is no way one can understand unless they have walked this road. The myth you have heard about "getting through the first year" is just that: a myth. There is no magical number that will make the pain stop. The pain and ache never goes away, you just learn how to live with it from what I've been told by a few friends who are also part of "this club": the club you never wanted to join. My brother's sweet girlfriend, who lost her own mother a few years ago, said "the pain is still there, but it gets less sharp." I cling to that hope...the day that I think of mom and just smile and not feel like my heart is completely broken.

God has been merciful to allow me to live with my dad while our new house is being finished. We literally had to move out of our old house just days after my mother's death. It has been so comforting to be with him as we navigate this together. I am nervous about moving and Ella starting a new school, me having to make new friends in a new part of town, and just all the transition that is going on. Those things are good things, but nevertheless, change is always hard even when it is good. (Could you please pray for God to bring good friends for both Ella and myself when we move? We are not moving that far, but far enough that people in my day to day life will change.)

I am so thankful that this is not our home...that we are merely passing through. I am thankful for the gift of my children who comfort me without even knowing it. I am thankful for the friends and people who aren't afraid to reach out in the midst of this hard season for me; they aren't afraid of the tears and they don't diminish my pain. Thank you for loving me and for being sensitive to my heart right now and in the many months that follow. I know that God is near the brokenhearted. Our God is still so very, very good. Like my dad said the other night:

"Sarah, I could sit and feel lost as to how am I supposed to live my life without your mother for the remainder of my days. You see, I'm the man...I should have gone first. But then I think how lucky I was to have someone like your mama who loved me for almost 44 years and I just feel so blessed. I know I'm going to be very lonely, but I also know I was so lucky to have her all these years. God has been good to me."

Good indeed. He is still so very, very good.