9 Lessons: Lesson 5- Passing

Today marks one entire year that Mom has been gone.

I am an extremely optimistic person (with some realistic in there too), and throughout all of Mom’s battles, I always believed she would win. Even in her last days, while I sat there holding her hand, I still believed that she would get better, that she would just wake up and start talking, asking for a frozen pop tart and a diet coke. I remember trying to accept the timeline she was given, I did, but in my mind, I still believed she would be that small percent to overcome it all and beat the cancer. I mean, she was my Mom, and she was basically immortal, right? Unfortunately, my optimism was overridden by God’s need for her.

It gives me migraines to think that just a little over a year ago I was able to talk to her, laugh with her, hug her, and physically be with her. Part of me wishes that the last few weeks before her passing, as well as that night/morning, were not so vivid in my memory. I remember it all, as if those days had just passed, but I wish so much more for fonder and happier memories to overtake those of such sadness. Slowly they are, and I know that it just a part of the ongoing fifth lesson that God is still teaching me, the lesson of passing.

No matter what, it’s not possible to prepare for the death of a loved one. I considered myself incredibly lucky and well prepared for it all. God put into place so many things for me to fall back upon for when Mom left us, He gave adequate time to prepare myself as best I can, and even gave me the last few days with her to get anything I wanted from her. Still, nothing can prepare someone to stand over a loved one and give them one last hug and kiss goodbye, knowing that you will never get to again. Those are the thoughts that I struggle with the most, knowing that I will never get to do such things again with my Mom.

Struggling with such thoughts, I try to remember more pleasant thoughts about Mom, like how great of a mom she was and all the things we used to do together growing up. Yet, those thoughts seemed to make things worse. I would cry so much over such happy thoughts, yearning for nothing more than to go on one last big trip with her, or go have one last lunch and talk about things with her. Nothing seemed to make me feel better, and I was aware of that. I tried and tried to figure out how to deal with such grief.

These thoughts and feelings were all a part of God’s lesson. I had to take these thoughts and feelings and let them flow, feeling them. There is no cure for grief, and that is what He has taught me. The best way I could explain what it is like for me is that there is a monster inside of my head, and he feeds on my sadness and sorrow. I have two options, feed him now and then where I let my emotions flow. I could cry a bit, I could read some of Mom’s journals, look at pictures, or even write a post. Or, I could try to starve him. I could keep bottling up my emotions, and repress the monster as best I could. However, the hungrier the monster would get, the angrier and more desperate for food he would get. He would start taking over and force myself into a depressive, emotionless state while he fed on my emotions.

Luckily, I went with option one. I listened to God and I understand that the death of a loved one, even one so beloved as my Mom, is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. But I’m optimistic, and I think of it as just another way I can remember her, and keep me from forgetting about who she was, is, and how she shaped who I am. I know that she is always looking down on me, and that gives me the happiness to push forward and feed that monster I call grief. It makes me smile to think, that even when she’s gone, she still seems to get rid of all the monsters that scare me.

I have a prayer-book, and after Mom passed, I turned through the pages and landed on one, as if He and Mom knew just where for me to go. It was the prayer for August 6th, and it reads:

“When things seem to be going all wrong, stop and affirm your trust in Me. Calmly bring these matters to Me, and leave them in My capable hands. Then, simply do the next thing. Stay in touch with Me through thankful, trusting prayers, resting in My sovereign control. Rejoice in Me- exult in the God of your salvation! As you trust in Me, I make your feet like the feet of a deer. I enable you to walk and make progress upon your high places of trouble, suffering, or responsibility”

Job 13:15; Psalm 18:33; Habakkuk 3:17

I love you and miss you so much Mom.

9 Lessons: Lesson 4- Words

Over the course of my time with Mom a year ago, God taught me my fourth lesson, the importance of words. The first few days, Mom and I would chat throughout the day when she was awake. However, because she was taking medicine, it was difficult for her to stay awake for long periods of time. Unfortunately, every day the amount of time she stayed awake shrank. Along with this, her ability to speak also began to dwindle. I was not ready for when Mom finally no longer spoke during the day, and instead only gave noises when she was uncomfortable. No one prepares you for something like that since it seems like such a minor aspect to the rest of the negatives happening, but it was something so major. The days following Mom losing her ability to coherently speak were the beginning of the worst days. My time with her went from talking with Mom to only sitting next her, holding her hand, and listening to her slowly drift away from me.

I was lucky though, because I was able to be with Mom while she could speak, we were able to have a “last words” type of thing. I know I was lucky to have such a moment, but it stings to have her words run through my head. The first day I was there, my Mom and I sat there chatting when there was a pause in our conversation. I looked at Mom and she started to cry, and all I could do was lean into her and hug her as hard as I could.

She cried and cried and finally said, “I’m sorry Alex, I really wanted to see you graduate. I wanted to see you get married”.

Those are the last words Mom essentially gave me that I will remember forever. I may have pictures and journals, but in my mind those will be what I remember first, those words. Then, I’ll remember all the other words and conversations I had with Mom. Most good, but of course I was not a perfect child and I’m sure I said some things that hurt her feelings. However, she never said something mean or demotivating to me regardless of how I was being. She always encouraged me and was positive, and always said she loved me. Mom knew the impact of words and chose them carefully. When Mom no longer spoke, that was when it truly felt like she had left. Mom had such a wonderful voice, and when she spoke, she was always so clear and so witty. I miss her voice and her words the most when I miss her.

This was God’s lesson to me, to choose my words with care, and always be positive with them. He taught me how you never know when words could be the last words you would hear from someone, and because of that, never end a conversation with a loved one on a bad note. Mom and I always finished with “I love you” regardless if we were arguing or just chatting. And on a day like today, the night before the anniversary of when I lost my Mom, all I can think of is her words, and how important they are to me, and how important words are to everyone.

 

 

 

 

Proverbs 16:24; “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

9 Lessons: Lessons 2 & 3

One year ago, today, God taught me my second and third lessons. The importance, well the lack of importance, of money as well as how to spend. A year ago, I sat in the room across from and had to call the car rental agency I was renting a car from and let them know that I did not have a way of knowing when I would return the car. The only option I had, was to constantly call and push back my return date by the next day so that I would not be paying for extra days. If you have ever rented a car, you probably know how expensive this could get, because it is almost always cheaper to pay in advance for a set time. The rental car on top of the plane ticket I had to buy to go see mom seemed to add up in my mind, especially with the thought of having to pay for another plane ticket in the future. My step father said he would take care of it all of course, but I still was uncomfortable with anyone having to pay for so much, especially for a time like this.

I have been blessed to grow up without the worry of money. I always had a meal when I wanted, went to great schools, had great doctors, and was even lucky enough to get a car when I turned 16. However, I was taught incredibly valuable lessons about money, and the art of saving, budgeting, and being smart about it. These lessons seemed to not matter at the time though. I sat with Mom all day that day, as well as the day before, chatting with her when she was awake. I began telling her about the costs and stuff and she just said not to worry about it, but I couldn’t. I felt somewhat responsible and wanted to help, because I knew how important money was. Mom just looked at me and smiled and told me how proud she was of me and wanting to be smart with money, but money is not everything. She told me how when she got diagnosed a second time with cancer, money was one of the last things she was worried about.

Life is too short to worry about money so much. Mom told me that’s why she sold as much as she could and moved away from the city, so that she could focus on what’s truly important, her life. That’s why she finally began going on trips and vacations (Something she hardly did when she worked), she was finally living. When I took this blog, and all mom’s writings and journals, I found a page with an entry. It was a small entry, only a sentence, but so powerful to me. It read:

“I’m worried, because I know that when the time comes that I truly live, is when I will die.”

The words seem as though she wrote them after she passed, because of how true they were, but that entry was years ago. Mom passed away, just as she was beginning to truly live. She understood though, that money is important, but so many things are much more important. When you understand that, you understand how to spend, not money, but life.

You can spend money and you can spend life, and you can almost spend both similarly. You can waste your money just as you can waste your life, or save some money and save some of your life. However, the difference is in the measure. There are trillions upon trillions of dollars in the world to spend, but each person has only one life to spend. How a person spends their life is much more important than how they should spend their money. I would have happily spent every penny I owned, given up everything I had, to keep Mom here. However similar life and money may seem, they are not currencies that can be exchanged, so spend them wisely.

 

Matthew 6:19 – 21; “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

9 Lessons: Lesson 1- Planning

One year ago, from today, God placed me on a course to teach me 9 life and spiritual lessons. His first lesson was not an easy one to learn and took me months to fully understand it. July 29th 2017, I had a flight booked to go see mom, a flight I had planned in my head that I would have to take, but was planned to be much later. Little did I know that this was not the only plan I would have expedited. I never planned to take over mom’s blog, until this day one year ago.

I will never forget that plane ride. Thoughts, memories, plans all rushing through my head, until a brief period where my mind was clear and I felt an urge to write. I pulled out my laptop, and through tears (that were hidden behind sunglasses of course) I wrote my first post. I knew while I wrote what I wanted from Mom, and I knew God wanted me to have it to remember her and to share her story. Being that I studied Psychology in college, I understand grief, and had planned somewhat to the stages. Acceptance is sometimes seen as the last stage of grief, but for me I think it was the first, again, something I had not planned for. I knew Mom’s fate, and I knew that I would be flying back home at some point knowing I would never hear her voice, text her about what I’m doing, or see her again. I knew all of this, before I had even landed.

I usually get extreme anxiety from flying, but for this instance, I wish I could’ve stayed in the air forever, because although the flight had many tears, nothing compares to the driving. I remember landing and getting a rental car and driving to where Mom and my Step Father lived. It was the worst hour and half drive I have ever done. I wanted nothing more than to turn around, get back on a plane, and fly back home and hide. I couldn’t of course, and I knew what I was going into. Or at least, I thought I did.

The day before was when my Step Father had called me to tell me that I needed to get to them as soon as possible. He gave me some details about how Mom was doing, but generally it was just “she’s not good” or “she’s really bad”. On the drive, I went through what I expected. I mean, how bad could she really be? I just went to the beach with her less than 2 weeks ago. I thought maybe she was just bed ridden, but that was it. It was not. When I walked into their room and saw her, it was a mixture of extreme happiness, but extreme sadness. I was so happy to see her still there, but so incredibly sad that I knew she would not be there long.

She was much worse than I had imagined, and I am like mom, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst” was our motto. However, I am sometimes too much of an optimist and did a poor job at understanding where mom was at. Mom was bed ridden, but not in her bed, in a hospital bed. She had just gotten on oxygen, and had a care nurse already. Even with tubes in her nose, and glazed eyes, she was still my beautiful Mom and smiled at me and in a soft, faint voice said my name before we hugged. I spent the rest of the day next to her chatting, and enjoying my time with her, because now my original plan to stay there for hopefully a few weeks was quickly being altered.

Now, as I said at the beginning, this lesson took months to be taught. Before Mom passed away, for many years, all the way to even after she passed, I had my life plan. I was in school for what I wanted to do, I wanted to get my PhD in Clinical Psychology and eventually go on into Forensic Psychology. It was what I planned to do since day one of college. However, I needed a bunch of extracurricular things to get into a program. Luckily, I had it planned out to get it all done in my last year because it would be my easiest year. The first thing I was going to do was volunteer for a help line, something I had already gone in to interview and basically was a for sure place for me, and something that greatly helps a résumé. However, training began the day after Mom passed away. I still planned to make it, so the night before, a few hours after I had landed, I grabbed my dog, jumped in my car, and left my girlfriend’s house. My girlfriend and her whole entire family have been my rock, and my absolute biggest help through all of this, it’s why I rushed back after Mom passed away to be with them. So, leaving them so soon after Mom had gone was difficult, too difficult. Maybe ten minutes down the road, I heard a voice in my head that sounded like Mom tell me to turn around. I did just that, and went back to those that could help me more. Doing so, though, virtually ruined all my plans of four years of school and studying. What I had planned was no more.

God taught me through my first day with mom, and first day without her that no matter what you plan for, only His plan matters. Never put all your eggs in a basket is what I always hear, and its true. I never planned to be where I am today. A year and a week ago I would not be expecting to be writing blog posts on my Mom’s blog, I would be expecting to be working on a PhD. However, things always happen for a reason, even if it’s not clear when it happens and I learned that if I ever needed guidance for my  own path that I just need to ask God for his guidance, and he will always show you the way.

 

 

Proverbs 3:5-6- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”