Sunday, May 5, 2013


Today is my mom's birthday.

Today was my mom's birthday.

Past tense, present tense, when do we stop using the present tense to speak of those who have passed?

My mom died from lung cancer five days after I turned 24.  Those five months from diagnosis to death were agonizingly long and brief.  Anyone who has had a loved one go through the special hell that cancer is knows of what I speak.

May is always a hard month for me:  my wedding anniversary is the first, my mom's birthday is the fifth, and Mothers' Day, the worst holiday ever conceived, follows shortly thereafter.

You would think after 16 years I would be getting Better At This.  I have in many ways, in others I have not.

Today I will share with you a heartbreakingly funny story from her last day at the hospital.  I was getting her discharged so she could die at home, with as much dignity as death allows.  Her husband and my brother had gone to fetch the car from the lot and I was helping her use the bathroom and get dressed.

This was June.  I had yet to cry a single tear over this situation; my stoic self would like to attribute it to there was so use in expending tears over a terminal situation.  Maybe my emotional self was in shock.  At 23 (2 weeks before her death and my birthday) we, as many mothers and daughters, had just started to get along again after those long, dark, dramatic teen-aged years.

My mother, barely five feet tall and barely eighty pounds at this juncture, is perched atop the toilet.  I am crouched between her knees, making sure she doesn't fall over or have another stroke.  She is silent, as the most recent series of strokes have robbed her of her speech.  I look up into her eyes and I waver.

"Mom", I say, "When I was little and very angry with you I would go out front on the pavement and stomp on all the cracks hoping to hurt you.  Ma, I am so, so sorry for trying to hurt you."

She cautiously reached out and stroked my hair and I cried for us both.

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