Since becoming a mother I have discovered something that I never imagined to be true when I was growing up. Something my mother used to say to me, but I always told her it was impossible. Turns out, she was right. She always told me: You can never out-love your mother. ANd you can’t. It is impossible. Even when she is your hero as my mom has always been to me. Simply put, you just cannot out-love her. I am a mother to three and know that there is no way they could ever love me more than I love them. No way they will know the deep intensity of love for the very beings that I brought into this world and am raising to one day go forward and change the world around them. They could never out-love me.
Just as I can never out-love my own mom.
As a little girl I learned more from Mom than I could ever document in an essay or column. I learned how to be the woman I am today. I probably even learned my distain for sorting socks from her. The best thing I learned from her was to laugh. You just have to laugh in the face of any horror you are confronted with. You have to look at fear, pain and, yes, even death and laugh. Or you will cry and it will win. What an amazing gift she gave me with her laughter and her humor.
I was always Mommy’s Little Helper growing up. Perhaps it was the “youngest child” syndrome. Or maybe the suck-up gene. But honestly, I think it has more to do with the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed her company. She made anything and everything fun. Nothing was so bad that she couldn’t find either humor in it or a way to remind you why you should be laughing. Helping her out was my greatest joy as a little girl. I would “help” her fold clothes. (Which probably always led to her redoing them later, but never in front of me.) I would “help” her clean the dishes. (Which equated to making lots of bubbles and getting the sink, floor and both of us soaking wet.) I would “help” her carry heavy things that looked like they were too much for her to carry alone. (Now, I see that she was carrying it and I was merely placing my hands on it, probably making it heavier.) It is now that I have my own Mommy’s Little Helper I realize how little I was helping her and how much she was actually helping me. A mother’s love. There is nothing like it. And no pain like knowing it is going to leave your life.
There is a certain grief that comes before death. A cruel time of waiting. A limbo where you desperately want more time, yet agonize over every new ailment or setback. A time when you desperately want death to just hurry up if it is going to come. Just stop taking her piece by piece. Stop robbing us of her bit by bit until she is no longer there. There is a cruelty to a slow death that torments those who are standing on the sidelines watching it happen, for those of us who see it lurking in the corner and wonder, “Are you coming? Is it time? What do we do until you decide to end this sadistic dance and let the music finally end?”
Honestly, I get really mad at all of this. I want to scream at Death and tell it to just stop screwing around with her. To just go away until it is time. But it hasn’t listened. It sneaks in, steals another part of Mom and slithers back out. To those who haven’t known her forever, it is hardly noticable when she has been robbed of another aspect of what makes her who she is. To those of us who have always known her, there is a huge emptiness that is left behind. A hole in the very essence of who she is that has been taken from us. Before we were ready.
I can’t stop what is happening to her. I can’t do anything to ease it or make it less cruel. I can’t even be there for her on a daily basis. There are days I am so thankful that I don’t have to face this in person on a day to day basis. And then I hate myself for thinking that. For being thankful that I don’t have to watch her go. How awful is it that I find relief in my absense? Because when I am with her, I hurt. Because there is still so much I have to say to her. There is so much that I need to know. Why didn’t I ask her about the little things when there was time? Why didn’t I tell her that being her daughter was the most fun, most amazing experience in the world? Why didn’t I ask her to share more of her stories with me? And then the anger hits again.
The last time I was with her she apologized. Can you believe that? She apologized to me that she was so sick. She cannot even use her voice past her treach tube, yet she managed to whisper out the very words I have been telling her. I’m so sorry.
I hope I have told her enough that she was a good mom. I hope I have given her enough love to get her through those hard times in our past of slammed doors and rolled eyes. I hope she knows that although I am aware I can never outlove my Mom, I sure can come close.
It has been a few days since she has been awake when she has visitors. The doctors refer to her as minimally responsive. Which basically means if you poke her with a needle or start a proceedure on her, she will open her eyes wide and give you a scared look followed by a go to hell look. But when my Dad has been there, she wouldn’t wake up to see him. When my sister was there, Mom opened her eyes once after my sister repeatedly and loudly told her to. Very loudly and very sternly. As Mom must have done for us as children when we were not responding to her when she was asking us to do something for her.
My heart shatters each time I hear that she is asleep more than awake now. Does she know what is happening? Is she scared? Does she wonder why I am not sitting by her bedside holding her hand as she has done for me countless times? Or has Death done it’s only merciful act and already stolen her ability to reason those things out?
Bit by bit. Day by day. I grieve for her. In a way, I wonder if these little deaths are more painful than the big one that is inevitable. There is a desperation that wants this nightmare to end, yet a fear that never wants her to leave me because I love her and cannot imagine her not being here. And this waiting, this watching, this grieving…it is hard. I wonder what she must be thinking when I stand beside her bed and tell her how much I love her. I wonder if she hears me and knows all of the things I want to say but just cannot find the words to express them. Yet, when I leave her and return home to my boys and my own baby girl and hold them in my arms, or watch them play or even when stand over their sleeping bodies when I check on them at night, I am comforted in knowing that no matter how much I love Mom, there is a peace that comes and surrounds me just by knowing the very basic truth that …
You can never out-love your Mom.