A Year Ago Today
A year ago today my mother died. That wasn’t the day she was supposed to die. The oncologist said she would live for 12 months with her lung cancer diagnosis, which meant she was supposed to be with us until at least July, so when my husband Henri’s aunt suggested we have a Traugott family reunion with 40 relatives I had never met in May it seemed like a great idea.
But my mom was on her own schedule and went into hospice. My house was filled with in laws and I had to fly in my brother from NJ, which was an ordeal in and of itself, there were oxygen machines and banking forms, insurance calls and lots of family feuds I didn’t need to deal with at that particular moment in time.
But I kept my mom calm. We played Frank Sinatra CDs and looked through her wedding album. My dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer when I was 26 and died two years later. He missed out on so much of my adult life.
He never knew that I got engaged, or was able to walk me down the aisle and dance at my wedding. He never met his grandchildren, and oh, how he would have loved them! I’m glad my mom got to meet them both.
There are different stages of death. A few months out you begin to withdraw from the people and things you once loved. A month or so out your appetite vanishes. Those final two weeks are weird. A day or two before you go there is a surge of energy. This happened when my brother arrived finally and my mom acted like she was ready to get out of bed and drive to Atlantic City to play the slots. This is temporary though.
Your internal temperature is out of whack so you’re cold and clammy and then hot to the touch. The hallucinations are actually kind of funny, because if you’re a caregiver God needs to give you a laugh to break the tension.
My father thought there was a hamburger under the bed, so I pretended to look for it. What could it hurt?
My mom kept asking where my father was and when the doctor was going to deliver these babies. I assured her that my father was in the waiting room (he died 13 years ago) and the babies would be coming out very soon (I was her 41 year old baby).
But then it’s time. It’s really time. In the hours before my father passed I lied and told him everything he wanted for my life. “I’m getting married, Dad. I’m going to be on TV, Dad.” (I had wanted to be an actress, it just hadn’t worked out. He still called me “Star” anyway.)
His death was like giving birth to the afterlife. There was a rattle in his throat. My mother, brother and I held his hands and whispered, “We love you, we love you, we love you…” until his breath left his body.
My mother was different. Fiercely independent, she said her goodbyes very lucidly the night before. I slept in her room to help her with morphine throughout the night. One of us in the house always took turns sitting with her. “When is everyone leaving, Lisa?” she asked. I gave her the schedule and she nodded her head. “I have to take the kids to school now, Mom,” I said. Instead of going straight back to her room I made sweet potato pancakes for our guests. My brother was upstairs taking a shower.
I walked in my mother. The oxygen masked was removed and thrown on the floor. She wanted to face down death on her own. It was jarring to walk in, and see her gone. “Mom!” I screamed. But she died on her own terms, in her own way.
I often wonder what heaven is like. I like to think that it’s my parents young and beautiful again, dancing at their wedding.
They were good parents to me and I feel like I was a good daughter to them. A lot of times I think they scratched their heads and wondered where I came from, because I’m so very different from them.
It would be a real trip to be able to watch American Grit with them. Who knew that my white lie to my father on his deathbed would end up being true and that I’d be on a TV show in my 40’s? My parents were always proud of me, I didn’t have to do anything special to earn it, but it would have been awesome if they could have seen me swimming through icy waters, repelling off a snowy bridge and running through muddy fields with a 120 pound log.
My parents are gone but their memories live on in my heart and I see their shadows in the faces of my children. I miss their humor, intelligence, compassion and guidance. I miss just having them at the table to share the minutia of the day.
Last Mother’s Day I was writing my own mother’s eulogy. This Mother’s Day I’m going to hold my children closer and cherish this time together, to give them memories of me to hold onto one day.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, Thursdays at 9 PM EST/8 PM CST on FO
ShesLosingIt.com (c) 2012-2016 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, video, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.