Simple Definition of ode
- : a poem in which a person expresses a strong feeling of love or respect for someone or something
This isn’t a poem.
Its been sixteen years since she died on this day, March 2, 2000. It was a 2 year battle with a form of lung cancer (ironically, she was not a smoker) with the ugly name adenocarcinoma, which metastasized, from her lungs to the bones of her back that claimed victory over her.
My sister Wendy, and I moved from California back to New Hampshire in November, six months before she died, to help take care of her so she could be at home and not in a hospital. It was the hardest 6 months of my life to-date. I’m pretty sure Wendy, and my brother, David, who was living just a few miles away, can probably say the same.
Watching your mother wither away, suffer in pain, and go through all the stages of grief sucks. Going through it for yourself at the same time also sucks. Every aspect of going through the process of death sucks. If I were to play the victim, or if I were to be bitter, I’d say there’s nothing good that comes of it. But that’s not me, and that’s not how I feel at all.
There were positives that would come from the process, there was good lurking in the shadows of the pain.
Going through what I went through, and what I watched my mother go through was a defining moment in my life. The events that unfolded in those 6 months literally changed something inside of me. It changed the way I viewed my life, it changed what I would become and how I would make decisions for myself.
She had regrets about her life.
And every single one of them was in relation to things she hadn’t done. She had regrets for the parts of her life which she hadn’t lived. All those times she’d said “maybe tomorrow” or “someday I’ll go here” or “if I ever win the lottery, I’ll do this.” All of those fill in the blank moments in her life, which would now remain empty, broke her agonizing heart. Those were the things she regretted, and how do you make amends with that when you’ve run out of time? To say it was not easy to witness, would be an understatement.
I made the decision, after witnessing this through her, somewhere towards the end of those 6 months that I would not die an unlived life. I made the decision that when my time came, when I was ‘in her shoes’, laying on my death bed reflecting on it all, whether I was 59 like her, or 99, that I would not have regrets for the things I hadn’t done. That’s when I discovered the poem by Dawna Markova that would become part of my Life’s Motto.
So where are the Positives?
…Here are the positives.
- I spent 6 months living back in my childhood home with my sister and my father (and my mother) again and I saw my brother nearly every day. None of this may ever have happened if not for this situation.
- I learned a lot about life and death and coping through the wonderful women of Hospice. Words cannot express how amazing Home Health and Hospice was for me, my siblings and my mother.
- I made peace with all the childhood issues I had with my mother before she died.
- I learned that it was important to say “I love you” often and freely to those close to you, which was something my family didn’t really practice until then, but which we’ve been pretty good at keeping up with through the years.
- I met some amazing friends, in the last few months, through taking a part time job waitressing at Applebee’s. The manager was kind enough, knowing what Wendy & I were dealing with and not knowing how long we’d be around, to give us just a few shifts a week: enough to get us out of the house & allow our minds to focus on something other than the heaviness of what was happening at home. I am still friends with some of these women today, who in a very short time, helped us cope with all the sadness through laughter, understanding and friendship.
- I was able to be there the day she died, which some might think to be scary or morbid. It was neither. It was peaceful and natural, and though extremely sad, was also extremely meaningful for me.
- My sister got a message from my mother the night before she died. I was just in the other room and heard talking. My mother hadn’t spoken for weeks and hardly even opened her eyes. We all knew she was very near the end, but that night, she opened her eyes for the last time & proceeded to tell Wendy, in a very clear voice, that she was “on the other side… and it was pretty.”
- That was the last thing she ever said, and she gave this gift to my sister. She knew that Wendy was struggling to come to grips with where my mother would go once she passed. She stopped breathing the next day, and I am grateful that she gave this precious gift to my sister, who needed the reassurance.
- I decided to pursue my “dream job” of working on a sailboat- even though I knew nothing about sailing or working on boats!
- I subsequently got the job because I knew how to cook, and the company I applied for desperately needed cooks! “You keep the crew fed, and they’ll teach you all the rest.” Less than 2 months after her death, I was being introduced to the crew & setting sail on my first charter in the Bahamas.
- In the years that followed I lived on sailboats, travelled all over the Bahamas, met my future husband (now ex-husband, but still incredibly close), worked at a ski resort, moved to St. Barth, accumulated a small nest egg, as well as an incredible group of friends from all over the world, stamped through 2 passports, traveled to a few countries in Europe (more to come), and finally, am where I am today; happily living in a historic town in New Hampshire, with many prospects of more adventure, travels, love and life experiences on the horizon.
So mom, Thank You.
Your regrets were not for nothing. Because of you, I have been living my life to its fullest, and I have carried you with me in a corner of my heart through them all! What adventures we’ve had!