February is the month of my birthday. It’s also the month my mom passed away. The last time I talked with her was two days after my 40th birthday. She died less than two weeks later.
Last year, my dad and I celebrated my birthday by going to see Wicked, which was my mom’s favorite musical. We weren’t able to secure tickets on any other night except my birthday, and it seemed to be a well-orchestrated gift from her. This year, with no equally synchronous event in sight, I honestly wasn’t even sure how to celebrate, and as a result, my birthday came and went without much fanfare.
I recently ran across what I wrote right after I found out about my mom’s illness, and it seemed like the right message to share. Maybe it’s because this month still deserves to be recognized. Maybe it’s because celebrating my mom reminds me to also celebrate myself. I am, after all, one of the most significant pieces of her legacy. Maybe it’s because if we can leave any legacy in our precious time on this Earth, it should be one of love.
Whatever the reason, it feels like a pretty solid way to exit February this year…
I found out today that my mom is going to be admitted to the hospital in two days for a high dose of chemo. We just found out that she had MDS less than a week ago. She found out only a few days before that. (Astrology Zone said that October 2013 was going to kick the shit out of us.)
The reason? To kill the out of control immature blood cell blasts that continue to make their way from her bone marrow to her blood. To make way for the transplant that she’s going to have to have in another city. To almost kill her in order to make her stronger.
Without it, she would have weeks, months, who knows, but at the rate it’s going, she needs treatment. There’s no alternative to that. Irony is a weird little bitch.
Of course, we’re all reeling. Those of us who love her, who are blessed to know her. Words can’t really express the emotions that I’ve felt. They’re complicated. This is the woman who gave me life. This is the woman who was with me when my son was born. This is the woman who took care of my sister when she had treatments two years ago. This is the woman who has never wavered in her commitment to her family, to her husband, to our needs. She’s always been there. Without question. Without fault. Always with love.
Now that I have a child, I understand this love. It is deeper than any other bond in life. It is born of joy and pain, all wrapped up in an indescribable package that only other mothers can fully understand and relate to. We love without limits, our love is greater than we sometimes feel we can hold, and yet we do. We hold our children in our hearts. We long for them, we care for them, we live alongside them.
And now I understand what I didn’t before, what I sometimes took for granted, or wasn’t able to see in my own quest for self: the immense love my own mother had for me. I was a gift to her, she said. I was intended, wanted, loved beyond measure, never comparable to anyone else, even my wonderful sister, who was equally a gift to her. I never had to make her proud. I did. I never had to earn her love. I had it. Always.
And she fights now. Fights for her life. I said she’s resilient. She said she’s a warrior. She fought cancer in her 30s, twice, and was in remission for years. I know she can do this. But can she? This is always the fear. That someone you love will give up before you’re ready for them to. I know that death is but a veil. I know that peace is within. And yet, I cry for what I might lose here and now in this wonderful painful joyful life.
Within me though is also a warrior. I am grateful for this fleeting life and all the love that surrounds us in it if we only open our eyes to see it. I am grateful that I was loved so unconditionally by this woman. I am grateful for my own child.
I told my son Kane that Mimi is sick. He’s going to be a doctor for Halloween. He said he’ll make her feel better. He’s 5. I know he doesn’t understand, but his conviction matters to me. I don’t want him to understand just yet.
I see now the legacy that my beautiful mother has created. To love those close to us so fiercely is a gift. To receive it is a blessing. But to love immensely and without measure and without expectation is our call.
Thank you, Mom. ❤ ❤ ❤