A Year in the Upside Down

1 year and 7 days since I went to the store and bought English muffins for my mom, because she just had to have one for breakfast.

1 year and 6 days since she went to the hospital for chemo, they told her there was too much going on in her body for them to do chemo, she never left.

1 year and 3 days since I told work I needed to leave early because I was too anxiety ridden to focus on the kids I was teaching. “My mom is in the hospital and I need to be there with her” I said through tears to one of the lead teachers, she hugged me tight and told me everything would be okay. She had no idea what was coming, neither did I. Everything would be okay, but not for a long time.

1 year and 1 day since I woke up to a message from my grandparents saying they were on a flight to California and they’d message from JFK. 1 year and 1 day since I told my babysitting families I needed to be at the hospital with my mom after my dad said to come visit. 1 year and 1 day since I texted my best friend, an ICU nurse, and said to her “given the fact I have family on a plane and my dad wants me at the hospital, this isn’t good right?” She tried to calm me down, I asked her to prepare me for what we both knew was coming.

1 year and 1 day, my baby sister and I walked into that hospital room, where we were met by my dad, the smallest I’ve ever seen my strong, courageous father… “she’s not going to make it girls, we have to say goodbye”…words I already had prepared myself to hear, but never ever wanted to. We sat on the seat in her room, they told us they would move her to the ICU, and as she tried to wrestle with her breathing tubes, my heart split in two. The strong, fearless woman I knew and loved, was still in there but her body wouldn’t let that fighting spirit appear.

19 is my least favorite number. August 19th, 1:19 in the morning, & 19 hours in a hospital waiting room. Those hours spent waiting, that day forever etched in my memory. The anxiety coursing through my veins, awaiting the arrival of family members knowing this was their final chance to say goodbye.

Tubes & wires were everywhere, “Laura and mum and dad are coming, just hold on for them mama, stay here long enough” was said more times than we could all count. I’ll never forget when the nurse came to the waiting room, “it’s time”… part of me wanted to stay right where I was, glued to the chair I was sitting in. Maybe if I stayed in that spot long enough, what I knew was coming would stay away. Of course, life doesn’t work that way, how could it. Stepping into that room, seeing everyone surrounding her..how fiercely she loved us all shone through in those last minutes. As she took her final breath, as the tears flowed down our faces, as our knees buckled, we told her we loved her, it was okay to go.

Of course it wasn’t okay to go, but what else do we say to someone who’s dying. 1;19am. She was gone. 1 year ago today, the start of our entrance into the upside down.

The light she had merely dimmed, because someone like my mother who glowed with love and character, will never fully be gone. She lives on in my heart always. This year flew by, it was a year of all the firsts: our first birthday celebrations without her, first Christmas, first Mother’s Day, the first wedding anniversary celebrated, and now the anniversary of her death. There isn’t a guidebook to grief nor is there a guidebook to getting through the first year.

Grief is an ocean. I’m sure we’ve all heard it, the waves hit the shores, small, and then all of a sudden, CRASH, a huge wave knocks you off your feet. This year, I navigated new relationships, old relationships and all the ups and downs that come with those. The journey of loss is tricky. Spring and early summer brought a lot of struggles within my personal relationships, and I ached to hug my mom and ask her advice, how badly I wanted her to tell me what to do or say as I stood face to face with my grief and loss.

It’s kind of funny, I’ve always considered myself independent, and in many ways I am, but I never realized how much I valued my mothers opinion in my everyday life until I didn’t have it anymore. Every decision, and action I made this year, I longed to hear her voice in my head.

A couple weeks ago, during a Reiki session (my first ever); I heard her voice in my head..I was angry, I needed to forgive her and forgive myself..what happened this year didn’t define me. I questioned whether she was telling me this, or whether it was something I had known for some time but couldn’t find in myself to accept. It is so easy to let the things that happen to us in the past, define the ways in which we handle what comes to us in the future. Instead, we should embrace our loss, our anger, our grief, & let it push us to be stronger, fearless and courageous in the future.