Death is a Part of Life but Little Comfort to the Griever

Guest post by: Kim Pace

Death is a Part of Life but Little Comfort to the Griever

Kim Pace & Mom

It has been almost three years since the death of my mother.  I fumble through day after day of waking up pretending I am okay living without her.   Yet, the truth is I lie every single day to myself with affirmations like “death is a part of life, she is in a better place, and she is no longer suffering”. You can rattle off all the inspirational quotes to me and my reaction is the same.   I will never be the same person I was before July 21, 2013.

How can I? The reminder she is gone is constant. There are days the emptiness inside of me is more of a background noise, and then there are the days where it leaves me feeling crippled, helpless, lost and really mad.

So very mad my Mom has died

I selfishly sulk, saying over and over in my head how “NOT FAIR” it is that she was taken so young. How my boys, who loved their Grandma, were robbed of her quirky, hilarious personality. My mom filled every room with smiles and a no-nonsense attitude.

My Mom was the center of my universe. She was a single Mom that raised three girls on her own with the help of my grandparents. We were in every sense of the word a dysfunctional family, but at the end of the day we knew we had each other. I knew no matter what my Mom would be there for me, and I would be there for her.

My Mom was exceptional at loving.

Breast cancer did not define her. She fought really hard the last four years of her life trying to outlive the death sentence of being Stage 4.

This next part of my story is hard. It is hard for me to write, but harder for me to share because I can’t get past the pain I feel for experiencing all I did, and the guilt of feeling that I could have done more.

It was Tuesday, July 16th 2013 when my Mom was discharged from the hospital and we were set up by her doctors to have hospice care come in to make her comfortable. The doctors and my Mom knew the end was coming. I was still not ready to accept reality.

The day before my Mom came home from the hospital, my baby sister and I decorated the bedroom she would eventually spend her last days in. We filled it with all of my Moms favorite items and paintings. My Moms face lit up when she walked in and saw what we did.

When the hospice nurse arrive she gave me very detailed instructions on how to administer the drugs that would evidentially help aide my Mother’s body in dying. I was the only one to administer them because I was her health care proxy.

My sister and I had no idea we only had less than 48 hours with my Mom once I started administering the drugs. Thursday, July 19th my mom’s last words to me were she was thirsty.

My family kept saying over and over again for me to step away, to take a break. But I insisted how I wanted to be there, how I needed to be there with my Mom during every moment. My sister and I set up a cot next to her hospice bed and we only left her side to go home and shower. I would drive home, spend an hour with the kids and my husband, making sure everything was and then I would give kisses head back to be with my Mom.

Here is the truth of it all, the night before my Mom passed, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to run away. I couldn’t give her another dose of pills because her jaw was clinched tight; her death rattle was so profound that it echoes in my head to this day. My sister and I were scared. Scared because we couldn’t do anything. Scared because we knew the end was coming.

Seeing death first hand never leaves you, ever.

But knowing you are the one aiding death haunts you. Forever.

It was early morning on Sunday, July 21st, and my sister and I had not slept again. We were making small talk with my Aunt in the kitchen. We decided to all go into Moms room to change the bedding and get her as comfortable as we could.

We all talked to her knowing she could hear us, and we told her we were making her look pretty by cleaning her up. After we were done, my aunt went to start a load of laundry, and my sister ran downstairs for a moment to get something.

As I had done every day, I sat on the cot next to my Mom, with her hand in mine and I was asking her what she wanted to watch on TV. She started to make the familiar moans, where I knew she was in pain, so I turned to her and said “I know Mom it hurts, but it’s not time for your meds yet”. I leaned in close to her, kissed her cheek, and then whispered in her ear “it is okay Mom; you know we love you, but you can go with Nanny and Poppy now. We will be okay.”

I didn’t mean it.

I knew I was not going to be okay. But I knew my Mom was done fighting. Cancer had ripped her down to the bone. She needed to be free from the pain.

I watched her gasp for air one last time as I held her hand. It was if she was going to get up and say something, but it was the last gasp of air she took before I felt her leave. I felt my Mom leave her body.

I knew she was finally free of what Cancer did to her. And for a moment I felt such peace. It was a gift she gave me, because she knew I was there until the end with her, she knew I wanted to be there. She knew my sister or my aunt did not. They both left the room because it was how it was suppose to be. My mom was supposed to pass with just me in the room. There is such purity in my heart for that last moment with her. It is what calms my demons when I get so mad that she is gone.

My Aunt and Sister both ran into the room seconds after she past and said she is gone right? She is gone? They felt her leave too.

I just nodded and we all fell apart.

It was as if her body went cold and hard within seconds. I put my head on her chest and held her hand until my sister had me get up. We both couldn’t believe she was gone.

My sister and my Aunt are the only two people who were there for those last days. They know the horror I replay in my mind. It is not what I choose to replay. Those are not the memories that flash through my mind when I think of the amazing women my mother was. The images that haunt me are only in my nightmares.

The guilt I carry that I could have done more to help her strangles me at times. That I hurt her because I was the one that gave her the medicine that shut her body down and killed her.

Life is life, and I understand our bodies are just a temporary place until we cross over. I cannot tell you the countless times I have heard “you knew this was coming, you can’t be shocked”. We knew at some point cancer would rip my mother from life. And I am in awe of people that handle death with grace and ease. They are stronger than I am.

There is no way to measure the toll my Moms death has taken on me. I thought I would be able to slap a smile on my face and move on and hide my pain. That only made my depression get deeper. My guilt stronger. Hiding what I was going through crippled me and crippled my rational thinking. It changed me.

Yet no one saw it.

No one saw it because I kept those closest to me far, far away from me. I blocked them all from knowing how I was falling apart. I wedged bridges between lifelong friends because it was easier than dealing with who I was now.

I was an optimist that lost all hope.

I lost me when my Mom died. She was so much a part of my everyday life. I spoke to my mom more than three times a day. I saw her at least four to five times a week. If we were not running around to doctors, or hospitals, my mom was at a ball game cheering on my kids or doing something with her 5 other grandkids.

My Mom never stopped living, no matter how hard cancer tried to make her stop.

I didn’t know how to live without her and I had the easy part. I was only her cheerleader. I held her hand during chemo, or transfusions. I was not the one going through it. I was not strong. I was there for her, to make her laugh, to distract her from the cancer. And that part I did well, I never let my know how I cried knowing how I saw her suffer. I never cried because I knew she was being strong for me, and the least I could do was be strong for her.

The reason why I chose to share my story is not for sympathy. Not for empathy. Not for the “time heals all wounds” encouragement. It is for others that think they are drowning in their own private sorrow after losing someone so close to them that they need to reach out to a friend or someone they love before it’s too late.

I didn’t.

I don’t blame anyone but me.

I lost touch with so many friends because I shut down so hard on what was real in my life and hurt so many people along the way.

Almost three years later what have I learned?

That cancers sucks, but my Mom fought until the end. Her strength gave me the tools to constantly pick myself up, dust myself off and deal with life. No matter what.

And more importantly, I have learned that I miss my mom so much.

I miss her sense of humor. I miss how exceptionally loved I always felt around her.

Author:  Kim Pace, KimPacePhotography.com

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