If you knew the words you said to someone were going to be the last, how would you prepare? Would you say all the things you wished you could have but never did? Would words fail you at the precise time you needed them most? I had 6 full years before and 25 after, and I have just now built up the courage to find the words to say goodbye.
It’s been over 9000 days since I last touched your ashen skin, watching the life drain out of you before my very eyes. Feeling your hand as it grew colder and colder. Watching the nurse roll up a small white towel and place it gently under your chin so your head remained stable. You weren’t lying down, yet not quite sitting up. They had closed your eyes so I would be more comfortable in the room. It’s not like the movies where people take a last breath and gently close their eyes upon passing. Most die with their eyes open, fixed and gazed, the expression almost matching their unknown and final thoughts.
I was late. I missed it by 4 minutes. I missed the chance to hold your hand as you found your peace, or to whisper some last words, hoping my voice would be the last you heard. It was traffic…traffic was the reason I was not there. I had called just two hours earlier. 120 minutes before and they had said you would make it through the weekend. I thought I had no reason to rush. I believed it would be a Friday just like the rest. It was October 5th when you died. The Friday of an early Thanksgiving weekend. A day that branded my memory and life with a pain that I could not fathom.
A piece of me died then, right along with you. To this day, my memories are separated by a date. A month and a number. Life with a mothers love and life after.
You looked peaceful. Your long and exhausting war with a cancer ravaged body fought valiantly but eventually lost. The physical pain finally eased. Your emotional burden lightened like someone removed the weights from a scale. Your soul, finally freed, and mine burdened with a heaviness I did not know was possible.
I need you to know I love you, I miss you , and I forgive you. I know now, you were depressed and battered, that you were scared and alone. I know you did not mean to make me your confidante and protector at age five. I understand you were not strong enough to know not to hide in my bedroom and help me move furniture against the door, or scream to me for help. You put me in a position that no child should ever be in, and I forgive you for that. Perhaps it was one of the things that made me strong enough to survive this long. I know you tried your best with the knowledge and limited resources available. I understand your fear in leaving, your co-dependency and most of all, your mental illness. The severe depression that caused you to lie in bed for hours while I sat by your side, wishing I could be stronger, or bigger, or a better protector. Just know I tried to help you, I tried to protect you to the best of my abilities, at the time.
I sat at the hospital through all the surgeries. I tried to be there for your treatments and to hold your head while you were so desperately sick from the chemo. I did my best to hide my problems from you, as to not cause you any further burden. I tried my best to enforce the DNR when you overdosed at home, and to comfort you every time you woke up from a coma. I know you never meant to put me in the position that you did…to ask me to help end your life. I know you were sick, and desperate and I know you understand why I could not hold a pillow over your face as you asked. I know you realize it would have ruined me. I’m sorry I was late. I’m sorry I missed your passing to somewhere peaceful and was not there to hold your hand….it was damn traffic Mom, just traffic.
I also need you to know I have finally forgiven myself. I have finally realized that a 5 year old child can’t stop beatings, or save people, or give advice. I know that a teenager can’t stop or take cancer away or onto themselves, no matter how much they want to. I know that it is ok that I could not be all that you needed me to be, and that everything I did was because that was all I knew, and all I could handle. Such a small child with such a heavy burden which I carried for you for as long as I could, and I know you would want me to let it all go now.
So today I say not goodbye, but I love you…..and until we meet again.