I've been thinking a lot about my mom lately. I'll admit that not a day goes by when I don't think of her, but sometimes things happen and all the pain and sadness comes back. Two people very dear to me are struggling now. One suddenly lost her future mother-in-law. The other is dealing with her mother's serious medical condition. It breaks my heart, because I still need my mom. She was my rock. I know they feel that way too.
We lost my mom in 2007 after a bilateral lung transplant. She was 65, the upper limit for lung transplants at that time. I'm a nurse, and I spent years taking care of children who had received lung transplants. I knew the risks and the prognosis well. So did she. Although her new lungs were working great, she had a massive stroke and never came home.
I called my mom and talked to her a lot once I moved out. She helped me with problems I encountered, and gave advice without judging. She always took the time for me, even when I could hear her struggling. I would ask her if she was short of breath, and if she was sitting down. She would always say, "I'm fine." I don't think she wanted any of us to know how hard it was for her. She would always watch our kids when we needed her to. In fact, she put all the energy she had into her grandkids. They never even asked much about her being sick because she covered it up so well. She even spent time caring for her own aging mother. I don't know how she did it all. Boy, was that 5 ft. 2 in. petite woman strong!
There were a couple of days before her stroke when we could talk to her. One of the last things I told her was that her oldest granddaughter Jennifer was going to attend Washington University. I told her how Kristin's first job at Jimmy John's was going, (where she met her husband) and about Jessica's first boyfriend (now her husband). She gave lots of thumbs ups (not sure how to make that plural). She was proud of the adults they were becoming. My husband worked at the hospital where she was and would go to visit her every time he worked. My Aunt Diane came on Sundays and "had church" with her, singing songs and reading Bible verses to her. I know my mom appreciated that, and so did I.
Initially after she died, there were little things that gave me comfort. I remember a teenage girl who came in to the hospital for her third lung transplant. I asked her how she found the strength to go through that major surgery again. She said, "Just to be able to breathe for 24 hours makes it worth it." I mentioned that to my mom's pastor when he came to the hospital to visit. At her funeral, he called my attention to what I had said, and that my mom lived for exactly 24 hours after she was removed from the ventilator. She was able to breath for that precious 24 hours after struggling to breathe for years.
My mom's favorite insect was the dragonfly. Yes, she had a favorite insect! Every time I see one, I think of her. Sometimes several swarm by me, and I feel like she's with me. She has missed so many things, like her great grandchildren, but I tell them about her all the time. Sometimes when we're playing outside, a dragonfly will come by to check out my grandchildren. Yes, I think that's my mom coming in for a quick peek.
It's been 14 years. It took awhile, but I have come to realize that my mom wasn't my rock. She was teaching me to be my own rock. She taught me so many things, and gave me the confidence I needed to get through life with or without her. But here's the thing. I'm never really without her. She is part of me. She is part of my children. She is even part of the grandchildren she never got to meet. Things she taught me, things she taught her grandchildren, are now being passed down another generation and we don't even realize it - that intangible strength she passed to us will carry on.