Mom Memory 2: Colorado

My mom was raised in Colorado. Her love for the mountains never left and she passed this on to all her children – a love for the air, the trees, the colors, and the perspective one gains when they are in the mountains.

One of my most memorable Colorado trips was a camping trip we took the summer I was 16. I had just lost a dear friend and the drive to Colorado was full of sad songs and poem writings. The theme song for the trip was RENT’s Seasons of Love. We camped among the trees and I often found alone time to write and think – a still moment amongst those who loved me.

In high school, my best friend and I accompanied my mom to Denver for my grampy’s wedding. My grammy passed when I was very young and my memories of her are fleeting – mostly created through old photos and stories. My grampy remarried a wonderful woman, Donna. She lives just outside of Denver and always welcomes us with a smorgasbord of food before we enter the mountains.

In January 2012, I traveled up with my mom for my grampy’s funeral. Family came from all over and converged for stories and togetherness – perhaps one of the greatest gifts funerals give us. We took my mom up to the mountains for a couple nights after the services. It was snowy and cold but the views were spectacular and the company did not disappoint.

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I married a man who has an equally big love for Colorado and we try to make it to the mountains at least once a year. Sometimes we are accompanied by my siblings, sometimes his parents, and sometimes just us. This past summer we went just our family. It was during this trip that my mom went to the emergency room.

My siblings and I began text strands and FaceTime calls about how best to help mom – she had just turned 65, was working two jobs, not eating well, and struggling with depression. This is what we thought we were battling. And perhaps it was. However, as the days unfolded we slowly found answers and realized we were battling a bigger beast – Cold Antibody Hemolytic Anemia.

After my mom was admitted to the hospital, we decided to cut our vacation short. On the last morning in Colorado, we hiked up to Lily Pad Lake – one of my mom’s favorite hikes – and enjoyed the views and sense of family, of being together and of caring so damn much for one another.

We headed back to Kansas and I drove all night – getting back about 3 am. I slept for maybe 2 hours and quickly showered and rushed to the hospital. I arrived at 6:30 am and walked in my mom’s room.

She embraced me weakly and we both sobbed.

“I thought I was going to die,” she cried.

“Me too, mom. I love you.”

She had no energy to move, to lift her head, to speak – that is what Cold Antibody Hemolytic Anemia does. I sat in a chair next to her and we both dozed off until the doctors and nurses started moving us down for her treatment.

This was the moment.

Just my mom and I.

Togetherness.

That is really what Colorado is all about. Being together with people you love. At that moment, her hospital room was my Colorado. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Thanks mom, for Colorado.

 

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Mom Memory 1: Music

I studied Social Work and was/am particularly interested in Solution Focused Therapy and how a strengths-based approach translates into parenting, work and life in general. During college, my professor asked us to write about a traumatic event through a Solution Focused Framework. We were supposed to look for the change agents and the positive coping skills – not just the silver lining, but the grit and tenacity it takes to make it through a traumatic event and come out on the other side more resilient.

So this is part of my mom’s story. Not through the lens of gut wrenching sadness – believe me, it was and is there – but a series of memories of what got me through.


Mom Memory 1: Music

As a child music was a part of my life. I grew up on oldies, a little bit of county, and praise songs. Sometimes we would play a game where everything we said had to be in song form. And my parents would often sing me to sleep with songs such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “All the Pretty Little Horses”.

From July 13th – 16th, music filled my mom’s hospital room. After she suffered a major stroke on July 12th, we were transferred to ICU. Throughout the next couple days she had a never ending line of friends who came singing hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Being Moshers, we sang “I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas” on more than one occasion, trying to fill the room with laughter.

I spent the night at the hospital on Thursday, July 13th. My brother left the CD player on repeat when he left so there was music in the room for us. However, the only thing on the CD was Pachelbel’s Canon… all. night. long. At first it was annoying, but I was too tired to get up out of the plastic hospital chair. It then became soothing and I kept it on repeat all morning too.

My mom’s brother had been practicing the Native American flute to play with my mom. When the room was quiet, he embraced this instrument and played for her with compassion and love.

As relatives came, we joined in song together. The longest rendition was by 4-year-old Niece Nora. No one is quite sure what she was singing, but it was a lovely song created in the moment just for Aunt Debby.

My Uncle Jim Mosher played his harp Thursday evening and all morning on Sunday, the day she died. His melodies were slow and familiar hymns mixed with long tones and the room’s tears. A peaceful comfort blanketed my mom, our visitors, and the nurses in the ICU.

My mom passed away the evening of Sunday, July 16th. The grief settled over us and we cried and embraced one another. We naturally formed a circle around my mom and shared stories and memories – and songs. Even in this time, we took turns playing songs that reminded us of mom.

“When words fail, music speaks.”

After her passing, my siblings and I divided up her Native American flutes and other instruments. And we have enjoyed playing them – definitely not doing them justice, but we think she would like it.

I continue to listen to songs that remind me of her. It helps me feel her and sense that she is here enjoying the music with me. Music has been and will be a cornerstone of our family. Thank you mom for creating this memory for me – this family value of music. I love you and look forward to feeling you in the next song I hear.

Long Vacation

It feels like my mom is on a long vacation.

She’ll arrive at the airport this afternoon and I’ll go pick her up.

She’ll have so many stories to tell me on the way home.

We’ll go to her house first to unpack and feed the cats. Jasper and Sweet Pea greet her at the door with kitty meows and nuzzles. Her house smells like her and there are piles of half read books and notes with bible verses and sayings scribbled on them.

She’ll look in her fridge and talk about all the spoiled food she should have eaten before she left.

She’ll snuggle the cats and we’ll sit for a minute as neighbors stop by to say hi.

She is loved by so many.

Then we’ll go to my house so she can see the boys.

First is Otis the dog. He’ll howl with excitement and jump all over her – which she both loves and hates. He’ll settle down after a few minutes and sit next to her so she can pet his back.

Then she’ll say hi and hug James and go down to poke her head in and say hello to Mr. Miles.

She’ll say hi to Casey and ask what cool work projects he’s doing and if he’s been playing music lately. She is so proud of Casey as a writer, a musician, a husband and a dad.

I’ll start some dinner and she’ll sit on the stool next to me. Her grayish-blonde hair will be down and beautiful and she’ll wear comfy pants and a patterned top – with matching earrings and necklace, of course.

She’ll ask about my day, my work, my family and my life.

She invested so much time in everyone she knew. She wanted to know it all – the ins and outs of their life, their hopes and dreams, and their epic fails. She wanted a deep relationship with everyone. She wanted to learn about their life and how to better her own. She craved these conversations and was always willing to dive in deep.

We’ll talk while I make dinner.

She’ll offer to help and I’ll say I’ve got it, let’s just chat.

Then, we’ll sit down at the dinner table to eat together and the boys will get out a game of some sort. She loves the humor and laughter that accompanies family game nights.

We’ll eat and play and laugh.

She’ll help me bring in dishes and clean up the kitchen.

We’ll chat some more.

She’ll give us all great big hugs.

She gives the best hugs.

And then she’ll head out waving good bye, honking her car horn as she drives past the house, knowing that we’ll see her soon.

Reach Out

Grief is a shapeshifter. At different times of day. In different situations. With different emotions. Never predictable.

Sadness in the morning flows into distraction at work, met with joy of children that grows into anger about loss, followed by simple daily tasks that poke at grief for fear of forgetting.

I went to visit my mom this week. I sat on the ground – it was as close as I could get. I told her about my week, about her friend’s birthday, about her grandchildren. And my eyes rained sadness as though they were just now realizing she was there – and not there. I put flowers down for her and noticed the difference of the new stems with the old – a combination of flowers long gone and flowers new today. The scars of life, visible and vulnerable. Piled on mom with love and sorrow.

 

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The next two days, my grief lingered as though it was again raw and new. Shapeshifting into sadness at any given moment. Seeping into conversations that have nothing to do with mom. Seeping into everything.

So I reached out. I sent a text to my closest family – on the same strand in which Casey texted them from the hospital, “Anybody that can come should come now”. I told them I was struggling and needed kind words.

And they responded.

They sent me kindness, love, memories, emojis. And offered to come over and hug and cry with me.

Grief is a lot of things. And each person’s experience is different.

But what grief should not be – is lonely.

Please reach out. I am here. Others are here. You matter. I matter. Collectively we can support one another as grief shape shifts from one moment to the next.

And mom’s flowers were beautiful.

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Getting crapped on

Man. There are just some days that we get crapped on.

  • Someone is unkind
  • Someone is very sick
  • Someone just lost custody of their daughter
  • Someone’s baby just died

And I hold a space for people to feel safe to share these things with me – so they do.

And sometimes being the on the receiving end can be heavy.

And it is rainy outside, so there’s that.

World, please stop crapping on people.

Thanks.

Update: I then received a call from my husband and a text from my sister just checking on me. And then I drove through Taco Bell and had the kindest interaction with an employee, who wished me a fantastic rest of my day. Then I laughed with my teenager and snuggled the cat and dog.

Self care doesn’t have to be some grand gesture. More often it is the small moments throughout our day that remind us what we have to be grateful for.

So world, thanks for the reminders of joy. If you could do this for everyone, that would be helpful.

Loving Verbs

Sometimes words are hard to put on paper because the emotion and sense of what one is trying to describe is just too large to be contained in sentences.

I’ve started writing many times this week, but feel as though I’ve come up short.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my mom was a verb. Everything she did was a verb. An action to benefit someone in her life – perhaps me, my siblings, a member from church or bible study, a stranger on the street, and often herself last.

In times when family is around, there is still an air in the room, a sense of what is missing. Her casseroles that always had a weird ingredient. Her one-on-one time set aside for each person. Her phone call before bed just to see how I am. Her laugher.

Her.

How can I write her? She was too big. Too special. Even in the times she was annoying – as every mom can be – she loved me unconditionally. She lived her life through verbs. Loving verbs that she gave to others freely and accepted in return.

The world needs more people who live life through loving verbs.

 

Funeral Dress

My heart aches for the families who lost three young lives due to a shooting in Lawrence this weekend. I know how crazy hard it has been to suddenly lose my mom. I cannot fathom losing a child. My heart aches for my city, that is searching for answers and grieving a loss of its sense of safety and security. And my heart aches for all those impacted by the most recent and deadliest mass shooting in history.

My heart aches.

So, today I decided to wear the dress I bought for my mom’s funeral.

It is a way to embrace my need for her today. I know that wearing this dress will help me feel close to her. Why hide it in my closet – looking at it every time I go in there?

Our loved ones are meant to be celebrated. We should wear them and carry them with us. We should talk about them and listen to their favorite songs. We should remember them and make new memories for them.

Yesterday was Sunday – a typical day for mom to make plans to see all three of her children. Sarah, Jon, and I were all busy doing our own things with our own families yesterday, but we talked before bed about how mom would have made time to see each of us that day – and how proud of us she would be.

So I wear this dress to remember mom, to carry her with me, and to make new memories.

To those that are grieving today, I am with you.