These Past Two Months: My Mother’s Legacy

momma_bird
The whirlwind I have been going through these past two months has begun to settle but has yet to stop impacting me on a mental & emotional level. It has been 8 days now since my mother has passed away. Since my mother has died.

My mother has died.

I’ve said it out loud several times and now I’m writing it. And it still doesn’t feel real. I’m not sure if it ever will.

As I sit here listening to Tori Amos’ “Little Earthquakes” album, I can’t help but reminisce on my angsty adolescence and how silly my mom and I were. We definitely had some weird, not-so-good times but there were just too many times that were SO great and SO fun and SO magical… that those weird, not-so-good times were nearly erased. Letting go of years of pent-up teen angst is such an emotional stress reliever…I highly recommend it. It’s unfortunate that it usually takes such a BIG situation like this one for us to fully let go of the “crap” that’s weighing us down and finally be at ease.

Yesterday, I realized that I had chronicled these last few weeks with my mom via Facebook statuses. I put them in order and read through everything. Regardless of the negative aspects I feel towards social media (that’s a whole other blog post), I’m thankful I was able to keep a record of the events that occurred & my thoughts during this incredibly difficult time. It definitely helped me cope and will always help me to remember (and treasure) the time I spent with my bestest friend ever, who I am missing enormously.

There are 9 posts altogether, complete with photos and links to music that have been a huge shoulder for me to cry on…
momma_beatI shared my Mother’s Day post along with the first update when the sickness really began to take it’s full effect in June of this year:

May 8, 2016: (This photo was taken the day my mom found out she was pregnant with lil’ ol me. I love how happy she looks and the fact that her earrings match her romper. To say that I adore this woman is an understatement. She gave me my love of rock & roll and instilled in me that everyone has feelings. She raised me the best that she could and I thank her for that. She’s been my best pal for the past 32 years; through thick & thin. I love her and thank my lucky stars that I have a mom who loves me as much as she does.)

June 21, 2016: My mom has been in the hospital since Thursday afternoon. Her liver has pretty much stopped functioning, leaving her beyond exhausted with no energy or appetite. Today she may be moved to a rehabilitation center in hopes to start working on building her strength but its all still up in the air. For any one out there who believes in karma and good vibes, send a little of those vibes towards my mom. She could use some loving energy.

momma_1


I shared an old photo of me as a little girl for a Flashback Friday post at the beginning of July:

July 1, 2016: Flashback Friday to wearing Chuck Taylor’s at 3 years old… thanks mom for making me the coolest kid in daycare! Going through old photos, its so easy to see how much my mom (and grandmother) loved me. I may have grown up in a bad neighborhood but I indeed had a happy childhood. My birthday parties were so fun and Christmas was always magical. I was spoiled with gifts for sure but the love I received on a daily basis made the greatest impact. I have never and will never doubt that I am a loved gal with a crazy, caring mom who is indeed one-of-a-kind.

jenn_2
A ramble that needed to fall from my head:

July 5, 2016: “I can’t go back to yesterday – I was a different person then.” My energy has been lagging a bit lately and my emotions have been all over the place. Dealing with a sick parent is not easy. There are so many conflicting emotions that pull me in all different directions. The melancholy of my mental state comes and goes and my spirit is quite heavyhearted. When I look in the mirror, instead of seeing the woman I’ve become, I see the little girl that resides within. I’m scared about a lot of things but at the same time, I’ve discovered new strengths in myself that I didn’t know I embodied. It’s easy to get lost in thoughts of the past and comparing the what-ifs and the if-onlys. But each day, it gets a little easier to unwrap the fear & the darkness, replacing them with love & light.

jenn_3

 

A Throwback Thursday post:

July 7, 2016: My mom was the same age as I am now in this photo. She came home yesterday from the Rehabilitation Center she’s been in for the past two weeks (after her one week hospital stay). She was happy to see her cats again and be back in comfortable & familiar surroundings. Thank you to everyone who has written to me, talked with me, texted me and sent good vibes toward my mom & me. We’ll continue taking things a day at a time and hope for more good times than bad. Sending out mucho love to you Momma… keep fightin’!!
momma_2

My update near the end of July, when the seriousness of the situation began to really sink in:

July 25, 2016: 

LIFE UPDATE
My mom went back into the hospital on Saturday. She’s at the main Duke hospital, which is where the liver specialists are at. She is so weak and jaundiced, with her confusion getting worse. She is so, so sick and the meds she needs to take to keep the toxins out of her body keeps her feeling nauseous, making her not want to take her meds. I understand it but at the same time, if the rolls were reversed and this were me, she would beg me to take the meds. It’s so hard to see the woman who brought me into this world in this condition. I’m just glad I can be there for her and remind her how much I love her. The exhaustion I’m feeling is heavy and the weight of the situation is constantly running around in my head. I may be strong but there are times when that strength isn’t enough… please keep sending good vibes toward my mommy.
Simonne Jones “Gravity” (acoustic)


I knew I had a little bit of time left to do a last few great things for my mom. I wanted her to have an incredible birthday, especially if it was going to be her last. So I posted an invite that turned out better than I could have ever imagined:

July 26, 2016:
 My mom’s birthday is on *Thursday*. She’s still at Duke Hospital on the fourth floor (under Debbie Garner). If anyone has a little extra time to spare, visitors would be MUCH appreciated on that day between 12-6. My mom could use a lot of love right now and it would mean the world to my aunt and I. Even if you don’t know my mom personally, saying hello and offering a smile on her birthday would be a really wonderful gift. She’s sitting up and talking, still cracking jokes and being my silly mom… she’s just tired. If you would feel more comfortable with me there, know I plan to be at the hospital the majority of the day. 🙂 Please message me if you would like her room number… thanks for reading this. momma.jpg

The next to last update was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write:

August 2, 2016:
LIFE UPDATE
This is the hardest thing I have ever experienced and has been so exhaustingly awful to watch my mom get so sick, so fast. The hospice nurse today, who has been doing this for over 10 years, said she feels like mom has days to a week. Knowing that I will soon be on this Earth without her is the worst pain I think I will ever know…and I still can’t believe its coming so soon. She just had her 63rd birthday this past Thursday, July 28th. She went into hospice care at her sister’s house the following day. Luckily, she had a lot of visitors on her birthday (thank you again to each and every one of you; my mom’s heart was truly touched), received so many flowers and cards. Even the nursing staff came in her room to sing Happy Birthday and made her a hat out of a bedpan and gowns. As weird as it sounds, it was the cutest & sweetest gift…my mom had an amazing birthday. She said it was one of the best she’s ever had (and being stuck in a hospital at the time, that’s saying a lot). The nurses staff said they hadn’t seen that many flowers in one patients’ room before. Being able to do that for her and to be able to say my goodbyes to her has made me feel so fortunate. I’m able to remind her of my love for her and reminisce on all of our amazing stories and to just be there for her.. its agonizing but at the same time, I feel so so fortunate. That’s all I can really say.

Today, I inked my arms with the handwriting of my mom and my grandmother Sarah, who passed away in 2007. One of the last cards I ever received from my grandmother, she signed with an “I love you”, which is now on my right forearm. A few days ago, while my mom could still write, I had her write down “I love you” as best as she could. I had the artist throw in a music note so I always have that love for (and from) my mom and our love for music closest to my heart, on my left forearm. To say they are my most precious tattoos is an understatement…I love them so, so much.

family_tats(Mom; Grandmother)

Until I had to write this one…

August 9, 2016: On Friday, August 5… my mother passed away from liver disease. She went into hospice care the previous Friday…and I was with her everyday. She received so many flowers and had many visitors, including childhood friends she had lost touch with over the years. They came to remind her of their love and express all the things they needed to say. I know how thankful they all are and am so glad they were able to visit. My mom loved all of you very, very much. Her weakness turned to restlessness on Wednesday, August 3. My aunt, Cheryl (my mom’s sister) and I began administering her medication to keep her agitation and pain at bay. She was still able to talk but only short sentences. At nearly 5am, after giving her a dose a medication and swabbing her mouth with wet cotton swabs, I told her how much I loved her. And she whispered “I love you, too”. Those were my mother’s last words to me and to say that I am one fortunate individual doesn’t even begin to describe my gratitude to this crazy universe we live in.

Back in June, when my mom was in rehab and she was nowhere near as sick as she became, she asked me what sign I would want when she was no longer here. Of course, I requested a hummingbird and she said she knew that’s what I would want. I haven’t seen hummingbirds at my house this entire year. On Saturday, August 6, the day after my mom passed away, I looked out my patio window and there was a hummingbird at the door, who then quickly flew away. My heart was beyond happy. No one saw it but me. Later on in the day when I was napping, my sister and Jacob were outside talking.. and a hummingbird flew up to both of them. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

It’s amazing how therapeutic music can be in times like this. When I first heard this song a couple of years ago, it stopped me in my tracks and broke my heart. The exquisite expression of grief in this song was so moving and beautiful, marking it as one of the greatest songs ever written (yes, it’s THAT good). I never quite imagined that I would live the subject matter and experience that kind of anguish personally. I thank Nothing More for this song… it is everything right now. To everyone that has reached out, sent cards and flowers, visited or simply just kept my family in your thoughts, thank you so, so much. Words can never express my eternal gratitude but you all helped and are still helping me get through this…❤ “God Went North”


I waited a full week before I made another post. There was so much to be done and so much to take in (and continue taking in). But that Friday was a really hard day for me…

August 12, 2016: It’s been a week. In seven hours, it will be exactly one week since my mom took her last breath. I am still numb and incredibly, incredibly sad. The word ‘sad’ seems so small for a feeling this big. There is a piece of me that’s missing and my heart is broken. However, at the same time, I am so incredibly happy and so at peace that it almost seems too good to be true. I still feel ridiculously fortunate to have had these last two months with my mom, as painful as they were, I was with her the whole entire way… all the way until the very end. I feel beyond privileged to have been there in her final moments… that my wonderful momma bear was finally at peace.

This photo is the last one I took of my mom. It was in between visitors on her birthday, after she had just received a bouquet of sunflowers from a dear friend. My mom was absolutely elated on her birthday; she was genuinely happy and felt very, very loved. I think it’s easy to see in the expression on her face.

momma_bear.JPG

Again, music has played a huge part in my support system (as well as all of the incredible people in my life). There are a handful of songs that I’ve been playing over & over that have been helping me cope. Maria of In This Moment wrote “You Always Believed” for her mother, with lyrics that seem to be pulled straight from my head & heart. This song will hold a special place in my heart for eternity now…it’s exactly how I feel towards my momma bear, always & forever.

I think back on the years we shared
All the times you stood be me
All the pain you wiped away
All the things you ever said
I think back how you carried me
And you never once have doubted me
And you were my
My hero through it all

I thank you for the moments of your life
And never giving up on me

And you held me through it all
And you never let me fall
And you let me fly away
And you always believed

I think back how you overcame
All the times you could have slipped
The way you fought the winds of change
All the times your wings were clipped
You taught me how to reach the stars
You taught me how to heal my scars
And you were my
My hero through it all

I thank you for the moments of your life
And never giving up on me

And you held me through it all
And you never let me fall
And you let me fly away
And you always believed in me…

August 13, 2016: I received her urns in the mail yesterday and they are everything I could have asked for. My mom was the biggest book worm I’ve ever known. Ask ANYONE who knew her what her biggest vice was and they will tell you books! During her time in the hospital and up until her final hours, my mom had a throw blanket of mine with her to keep her warm. It was so soft and covered with multi-colored owls. She loved it so much… so I combined two of those loves into one. 🙂
momma_urnAnd then of course, I absolutely had to have a hummingbird. This photo does it no justice: it is such a beautiful & sparkly memorial piece.

momma_urn2
I know my mom would approve of them both because they are just so perfect. I simply wish I could show her. But I know, somehow…

…she sees them. 🙂

 

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2 Replies to “These Past Two Months: My Mother’s Legacy”

  1. Pingback: Thirty Days

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