It is 4am, and I have hardly slept. I knew it would be a difficult night as my mind replayed the last night I spent with my mother in the Comfort Care wing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in those final hours before she died, one year ago today. I heard her voice calling me so clearly at 2am that I jerked awake, my heart racing and chills running over me. At one point I could have sworn I felt her stroke my hand…but I realized it was Sophie’s tail slowly grazing me. Perhaps I just wanted it to be a visit from my angel. Perhaps that’s just what I got. I am open to the magic that happens in life- all of it.
The dogs knew something was up, especially Sophie, who is so attuned to me and was Mom’s dog for four years. She has stayed glued to my side in bed, draping her head over my hip, staying in contact with my body as if she knew how much I needed that tonight. She usually hogs Dan’s side of the bed. Animals know somehow…they just do.
I got up early, let the dogs out, and checked on Kasey’s food and water, then decided to head up to the top deck for a bit of morning peace. I felt the waves of grief wash over me and the tears started to flow as the memories of the last early morning Mom and I spent together flashed through my mind. I heard her sweet voice calling me in the dark hospital room…
Yes, Ma’am? Are you okay?
I knew this first anniversary of Mom’s death would be a tough one…I have felt it coming for days. It always amazes me how you can be perfectly fine one day, and then something like an anniversary can make the pain of loss fresh and new all over again. Even though I was weepy, I really wanted to go to yoga with Dan. I knew that even if I cried a little, that doing something healthy and peaceful would be a great way to start the day. Dan would be working until 8:30 in the evening, so I would have the entire day to do what I needed to to celebrate…and I do mean celebrate. A bit of tears and heartache wasn’t going to keep me from thinking of the many wonderfully happy memories I have of my mother- or from celebrating her life.
Before yoga, we had to run by Dan’s theater at 7am to let the renters in. I waited in the Mini Cooper, and suddenly a dragon fly was buzzing the car, dive bonbing the windshield in front of me over and over. I had never seen a dragon fly in the middle of the city, but here it was, making sure I saw it. It even tried to follow us as we drove away. I told Dan, “Hi, Mom!”, and he nodded his head and laughed. Another sign that she was with me on this challenging day. I felt gooosebumps…and I smiled.
The day turned out to be beautiful, and I began to think about what I wanted to do. I had promised myself that I would decide in the moment- no pressure to have to do anything. It was lunchtime and I knew what my next step would be….perhaps a bit of a nudge from my angel? I called the girls and said their favorite words, “Wanna go for a ride?” We piled in the Bug with the top down and headed to Sonic- time for a nod to Mom with a chocolate milkshake and some tater tots. So not on my diet, but a little bit of each wouldn’t hurt anything and I knew Mom would be smiling. I pulled into our ‘usual’ spot in the drive-in and thought of all the laughter we had shared sitting here while Mom enjoyed her shake and tots and mugged for my camera.
After Sonic, it was time to do a bunch of yard work to burn off the debauchery…and yard work was always something Mom loved. Sometimes I would bring her over and have her sit in the Bug with the top down while I worked on the front hill. She would tell me about the flowers…and let me know if I missed any weeds. I spent over three hours sweeping decks, raking leaves, pulling weeds…wonderful yard therapy. I also got to talk with my sister, Linda, always a healing thing. We told Mom stories and laughed healing laughter. I always feel better when I talk with my sister, sharing our love and our experiences. Such a gift.
After a long day of yard work, I went up to the top deck with the pups, enjoying the cicadas and the city views as I waited for Dan to get home from the theater. I messaged with some dear friends and took some time to just be and feel….to think about Mom and what I was going through after her death a year ago. So much has happened, so much has changed in this year. I’ve gone from the saddest day of my life, to many of the happiest, and I am so grateful. Life will still have its challenges, but I will always choose joy….that’s how my mom raised me.