This has been my year of firsts since she died.  All the holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. It’s been the hardest year of my life. My friends tell me that it won’t be better but it will be different. They said that I’d find ways of dealing with the pain so that I’ll get to a point where I can remember her and talk about her without breaking down in tears. When I had to tell Mom that she had a week or maybe two left, her exact words were “Thank God! Finally!”. Then she looked me in the eyes and said “And I don’t want you to cry. Promise me you won’t cry when I die.” I told her that I couldn’t promise that, but I could promise that I’d try.  I’m sorry Mom, I’ve failed miserably on that one. There are still days when I wake up crying.  I’m getting better, though. I gave myself permission to cry during this first year. And I’ve promised her that after this first year, I’ll honor her wish.  The anniversary of her death is the hardest of all the firsts.  

Late that Friday afternoon I told her that J and I were running out to the big-box store and would be home in two hours. She said that she wanted to sit at her computer while we were gone but she was so weak I asked her to stay in bed until we got home. She was disappointed but agreed. We got home in less than two hours and when we got there, she said she had some pain in her side. I gave her some morphine but it didn’t seem to touch the pain. I called the nurse who said to give her more. That didn’t work either.  I called a family member who’s a nurse and she came over right away.  She said we could give her more morphine and I did. Finally she said her pain was down to a three. We got her changed and comfortable and then she looked like she was sleeping. My cousin left and I said I was staying the night with her so J went upstairs to our place. Her breathing changed and it sounded like she needed to cough. I tried talking with her but she was staring at a point on the wall.  I sat rubbing her arm and holding her hand for hours. I told her that if she wanted to go, it was okay. I promised her that I’d be alright. For the one and only time during that whole night, she looked at me. I told her I loved her and that I’d continue to pray for her. She turned her eyes to the wall again and I continued to rub her hand. A while later she pulled away from me and slapped my hand! I realize now that she was busy and I was distracting her. I think her angels, no… I KNOW her angels were there and they were helping her prepare for her final journey.  I just sat there listening and praying.  Sometime around daybreak I called J and asked if he would come down for just a little while. “I have to leave the room for a bit.” He came right down and I cried that I just couldn’t listen to her breathing-that I wanted to reach down her throat and clear it for her. He suggested that I go catch a quick nap, just thirty minutes and he’d call to wake me.  I had just crawled into bed when the phone rang. It was J and he was sobbing, saying “She’s gone”. I couldn’t believe that I’d left her for no more than fifteen minutes and she was gone! NO! I was supposed to be there! I was supposed to hold her hand so that she wasn’t alone! I FAILED HER! I ran downstairs and hugged her tight, never wanting to let her go. “MOM! Don’t leave me! Please! Oh God, please!” J left the room to call my cousin and I stayed there holding my Mom until the nurse came and  made me let her go.  She was my Mother, my first friend, my best friend. And now she was gone. I never knew how deeply one can grieve until I lost her.

I’ve never told anyone about that morning. J is the only one who knows because he was there.  I’ve held that memory inside where it’s been eating at me. All those feelings – I shouldn’t have left her. I was selfish for needing a break. I’m awful because I left her to die alone. I should’ve been holding her hand or praying or something! My family and friends tell me that I was a wonderful daughter and that I took such good care of her but they don’t know that secretly, deep down I’ve been thinking that I failed her. I wasn’t there in the minute it mattered. 

Early this morning, long before it was time to get up, I woke up. As I laid there I knew that God had been talking with me. He said that it wasn’t the minute that she died that mattered, it was all the millions of minutes before then.  He whispered that I had been a good daughter and that how I treated her in those minutes is what matters. My Mom always felt bad because her own mother had died after everyone left the room but I guess it must be a private thing. Mom waited until I left for a reason. Was it privacy? Did she know and want to spare me? I don’t know and probably won’t until we see each other again some day. Maybe when we do, it won’t be important anymore.