On the evening of November 5, 2013, I got the phone call that forever changed my life.
It was my son Justin, calling from Texas where most of my family lives.
When I saw his picture on my phone, I expected a light-hearted chat. But the first thing I heard sounded like some sort of static. I later realized it was the sound of him crying.
When he was finally able to speak, I heard the terrifying words, "I don't have any details, but Uncle David says Momo is unresponsive, and it isn't good."
That was a little over three months ago, and I'm still navigating an ocean of grief.
The sudden death of a loved one is different from other deaths. I'm not saying it's worse, just different...in a bad way.
I don't discount or minimize the grief that lasts for years, seeing a loved one waste away slowly, perhaps in pain or not themselves. That's what happened with my dad. The loss is no less of a loss, and carries its own brand of heartache.
But the death of my mother...with no warning, no inkling other than that she was 80 years old and had high cholesterol...gobsmacked us.
In my father's case, we were able to peruse hospice literature that readied us for the end. We were able to gather around him and say our final good-byes. We were as prepared as one can be for the death of a loved one--which, granted, is never prepared enough.
But we were able to release him to heaven and not feel sucker-punched.
One thing we cling to is the apparent peacefulness of her death. She laid down for her usual afternoon reading session that usually resulted in a nap. She had fallen asleep and died of cardiac arrest. No trauma, no pain...she simply went to sleep and woke up in heaven.
And yes, we are so thankful for that. We are completely cognizant of and grateful for the blessings...that she never suffered, didn't linger in the throes of a painful and debilitating disease. We rejoice that she's with my dad and all the loved ones that have gone on before.
But my mother...oh, my mother was amazing, wonderful, everything a mother should be. She was central to our existence. She was the hub around which we all gathered. She was the matriarch. Her unconditional love, her joy, her encouragement, her support, her smile, her faith, her grace--essential to our lives.
An ocean of grief
I said earlier that I'm navigating an ocean of grief. Some days are relatively smooth and fair, others are stormy and tumultuous. It's unchartered territory for me, because the pain is much more acute and shattering than was (and is) the grief for my beloved father.
We siblings ask, almost rhetorically, "When will this pain end?" "When will our grief settle down and become manageable?"
The truth is, on any given day, at any given moment, I could cry for my mother.
Sweet friends who have been through the same thing try to give us light at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to a time where it won't be so raw, so painful to the touch, where tears will be few and far between.
I also look forward to the day that I'll see both my parents again. If I didn't have this hope, this faith, I don't see how I could carry on at all. How do people do it who don't have this hope?
In the meantime...
I just miss my mommy.