Build the Castle

I’m sitting on my bed, knees angled in a V, my back against the Robin’s Egg blue wall. My son is building a castle out of over-sized Legos on the table next to the bed.

I’m hopelessly sad. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve. She had a long illness and every Christmas was the “last” Christmas in my mind, but this Christmas Eve she really died. I posted this on Facebook the night she passed:

“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.”

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network

Although her illness progressed slowly, I thought I’d be more prepared. I thought I detached from her more each year she declined in health, but I became more attached with every day she lived.

I took my son to meet her Thanksgiving 2010. She held him and kissed him in her arms. My mother didn’t die young; in fact, she lived a very full active life until the age of 77. Still, I am not ready to have my mother gone. I want to call her desperately.  I lived 2,500 miles from her. Now, the distance is immeasurable. The last year her health declined so much she had to live in a nursing home.  I visited her as much as I could.

Last May (2011), she had a close call (read this post for details); I received a call from the nursing home on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday. I had to leave my son very abruptly, who was actively breastfeeding – he was one year old. This was difficult, but at the time I had to make a decision. I brought my breast pump and pumped while I was in Colorado.

My husband and in-laws took care of my son. When I arrived at the nursing home it was decided to bring my mom to the hospital. She had a severe bladder infection and was severely dehydrated.  When I went to the hospital, my mom was delirious and hallucinating. She said to me, “There are some folks from Heaven here who want me to go with them.”  I said, “Tell them to take a number. I just got to town.”

My mother was treated with antibiotics and given IV fluids. She beat the infection and recovered. I stayed a week out West and visited with my mom.

Now my son and I are reading a book as he pulls the zipper down to his jammies and says, “I don’t like my jammies.”  We read the book, Road Work Ahead about seven times. Each time we get to the last page he says, “Again. You read it again Mama.”

Now he is asleep in my arms, his little boy eyes closed peacefully. I think about my mother doing the same exact thing for me as a two year old, snuggled deep in her arms listening to her heartbeat. I’ve realized that being a mom made my mom so happy. She was so good at it and I’m lucky to have been blessed with a lively, loving mother.

She was diagnosed with two benign brain tumors in 2000. Her condition deteriorated slowly, almost unnoticeable, until viewed in chunks defined by years.

Now I am grieving. The shock has worn off and I realize she is gone. The grief work for me truly begins now, a little less than a month later.

She will be buried with my father’s ashes at Arlington Cemetery. I will drive her ashes up 95 North with my husband and son to our nation’s capital. I assume the closure of her funeral will help me detach perhaps, but I have not detached as I can’t really detach from her as we were very attached to each other.

I think I put it rather eloquently in a Facebook post about a week after she passed:

“This by far is the deepest pain I have ever felt. It is layered in my mind, body, spirit, for at one time I shared my mother’s body — and heart.”

It’s going to take time. In the meantime, I cherish the moments like this — my son snuggled in my left arm, the memories of my mom alive in my right hand as I write.

Here is her obituary:

Here is a post I wrote about her: Magic Mama.

My beautiful mom