Eight years ago it was September 6, 2009. A Sunday. I remember that detail because I got the phone call before I had woken up to start getting ready for church. It was my senior year in undergrad at Welch College. Back when it was Free Will Baptist Bible College on West End Avenue. Right after Nathan and I had gotten engaged (less than a month after).
I knew. They wouldn’t tell me anything on the phone. I woke up my roommate and told her, “Can you drive me to the hospital? I don’t think I can drive. I don’t think I should drive today. It’s my mom, I think she’s gone. They won’t tell me anything, but I feel like she’s gone.”
& she was. I was 21 and my mom was gone.
It was a beautiful sunny autumn day. It was one of those days in September when you wake up and the air is just a little bit crisper here in Tennessee and you cannot almost taste autumn in the air. Of course summer wasn’t really over, as it goes in Tennessee, I remember it was much hotter the day we buried her…but that Sunday it was crisp and sunny and clear.
I was so scattered we went to the wrong hospital. When I did get to the hospital, they took me into a conference room. I remember Becky holding my hand. I remember the floral flats I was wearing. I remember staring at them and waiting. Waiting for a long time. Then a doctor came in. He seemed nice. An older man with sad eyes. He asked me if my parents were still married. He asked me about my siblings and asked me about my mom’s family. Then he told me gently with crossed hands calmly clasped together that my mom was gone. He kept talking, but I didn’t hear anything else he said.
I do remember the nurse that put her hand on my shoulder. She had pink nails. One of the nails was chipped. She had a kind, open face. I remember my roommate holding my arm.
“Would you like to go see her?”
“See her? She’s gone. No, I don’t want to see what’s left. No, no, that sounds awful.”
I called my dad. I remember begging my dad to come handle it. I remember saying relatedly, “I’m 21. I’m 21. I don’t know how to do this. I can’t do this. I’m not old enough to do this. I can’t be this adult.” To my dad’s credit, he quickly said he’d deal with it and told me to put someone on the phone. I signed papers and left the hospital four hours later. When I walked out of Centennial, I walked out without the safety net most people call “Mom.”
At some point I called Nathan. Or someone told him & he called me. I don’t exactly remember. I remember he had found out after church. I remember Stephanie showing up. We all went to the movies and I saw Ponyo. I cried because the little fish-girl didn’t really have a mother either. Exceptionally strange and beautiful movie. I own it of course.
I remember going back to college that afternoon. I remember being worried that people would want to talk to me about it & I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want the attention. I didn’t to attempt to explain how things were between me and mom. I sat on the ledge outside the music building until the sun started going down.
I went to bed that night, but didn’t sleep. Then I slept for days. Lots of nightmares. I remember people had found out and were worried about me, but mostly I wanted to be alone. Because the reality was
I was alone. & I needed to figure out how that was supposed to be.
It turned out fine, I guess. I got married the next year when I was 22. I finished undergrad that year, too. I became a teacher a year after that. Now I have kids. I watched my brothers become men. I’ve worried about my dad every day since I lost my mom.
(Something happens when you lose a parent. The other parent increases in value x2, because they’re all you have. When they’re gone, you’re an orphan. )
Wrap you mind around that. My mom missed her only daughter graduate college. She missed her daughter achieve her dream. She missed her only daughter’s wedding. She missed her grandchildren. She missed her baby boys grow up. She missed them graduating high school. She missed so much life. Do you know she would’ve loved it all? You can’t tell me she wouldn’t love my babies. She’d be living with us by now if she was still alive so she could be near them. I don’t have a mom anymore, I’m a brand new mom, with no mom; I remember this time last year when I was pregnant and I was heartbroken about this concept. My children have one grandma, that’s all they’ve ever had. My husband has no mother in law. I have no mother. My brother has no mother.
The last thing I’ll say on the subject is my mom was such a sad soul. Love your parents. One day you’ll wake up, maybe on a beautiful sunny day, and you won’t have the.