I used to think I knew sadness. How naive and silly of me to believe the world to be such a gentle place. I assumed that there was a limit to the load any one person would be asked to bear. But now, I have discovered that pain is a bottomless pit and grief is a desperate existence.
On October 15, 2018 I watched my mom take her last breath as her prolonged battle with illness finally ended. I was too young to lose her, I decided. It wasn’t fair that she wouldn’t be here for my major life milestones ahead- pregnancy, birth, marriage, parenting, a job promotion, home remodels and all of the more minor events of daily life that we choose to share with our moms. My mom was 60, not 90. 60 is not when you are supposed to say goodbye to your mom. But I was prepared to say goodbye to my mom.
One year before her death, the doctors had told us that without a heart transplant she had 1-2 years to live. At first, we were optimistic that she would soon be living with a borrowed, better heart. As the days turned to weeks and weeks to months, we never lost our hope despite the reality that screamed loudly in front of us. Eventually, reality shrieked louder, and we stopped being able to totally ignore it. We usually tolerated this uncomfortable truth of death for a minute, and then swatted it away. Over and over again. I was lucky in these fleeting moments of acceptance, that I was able to have deep, difficult, and honest conversations with my mom. What would I do when she wasn’t there to zip my dress before I walked down the aisle? Who was going to hold my hand when I couldn’t push another time to deliver my baby? How was I going to finish baking the pineapple pudding on Thanksgiving when she forgot to right down exactly how much pineapple I needed? Who was going to listen when when I complained about the woes of my world? How do you do any of these things without your mom? She answered all of these questions for me and we cried together often. I asked her what she was afraid of. Mostly, she just felt sad. Sad she wouldn’t be there to witness all that was to come, the good and the bad, in our future lives. Sad that we would be forced to do it all without her. But she insisted with so much confidence, that when she left us behind on this lonely earth we would be okay. She believed in our strength and our ability to succeed amidst our sadness. Her conviction in this was so real that I even believed it myself.
But then my baby died.
And maybe we’d be okay if we just told the truth about what’s hurting us.