Apparently Facebook changed its format, yet again, and I ran across a few “notes” I wrote 3 years ago this week. It’s amazing to read them now and see where we ended up. I’m OK. We’re all OK. Things are OK.
Sunday, May 10, 2010 at 2:15am
I have been in Joshua Tree, a very enchanting little place, for the last few days. I drove down to volunteer my time at the JT Music Festival in exchange for a ticket to see some pretty amazing live music. I worked a full 8 hours yesterday…ate some dinner…made a cocktail…walked out to the stage. The music started up…my phone rang. And rang. And rang. It was my brother. I had bad service, but knew exactly what he would say.
Dressed up in a Girl Scout uniform, I walked around for what seemed like hours, looking for a place with good cell reception. I eventually found some…up in a tree…dressed in a Girl Scout uniform. As I type, I still laugh at the thought of it. The news was true, “Mom’s pretty much gone”. I thought, “Great. I’m in a tree in the middle of the desert and my mom just died”. I felt numb. I saw white…heard nothing. This was the day I had been preparing for since she was diagnosed with her first of many diseases in 2008. My brain was spinning like a top.
As I drove the 6 hours back to Mammoth this morning, I tried to digest the news from the night before. I felt like a rock had been lifted from my chest. No more suffering…the beauty of death is that there is no more suffering. My heart always beats for those people around me…it’s huge…and it feels huge too. Seeing my family go through the pain that is watching a loved one wither away…this task was almost more than I could take.
I realized (or was reminded…AGAIN) that life always has a plan of her own. While we are busy making plans for tomorrow or next week, life is working on something a little different. Like my mom, I have always been a planner. When plans fail, we worry. Why? Because we don’t have control. And we absolutely don’t.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is this…
My mother taught me a lot of useful knowledge in my 29 (almost 30) years. Most recently, she taught me how to “be here now”. Since her battle of terminal illnesses began, I slowly gained insight into “what life is really about”. It’s what we make it. It’s how we react to it. We create so much suffering for ourselves just by our reactions to that little thing called “life”.
It’s not about yesterday.
It’s not about tomorrow.
It’s about today.
If you can’t live for today and embrace what you have right in this moment, then you will never be fulfilled. I always worried about what I didn’t have….what I needed…what would or wouldn’t happen next week. I am on a journey to find inner peace and acceptance. I have the tools I need to find happiness within myself, without having control. My mother, without even trying, taught me how to enjoy the beauty of now and I am forever grateful.
This is the part people warn you about. When the chaos dies, you’re left with your thoughts. My mother is gone. Her spirit lives on in me…I will carry it. I will do good things. I will give of myself when I am able. I will do my best to have the most positive attitude possible. I will be strong for my family.
To my Mammoth family…I love you all. I never knew how many people cared about me. I am so fortunate to be in a town 2,400 miles away from “home” and feel like I’m home every day. You guys have a special place in my heart ALWAYS.
To my friends and family here in TN…you guys have been a rock for us this week. We couldn’t have gone through this without you. Thank you for the food and donations. Your compassion overwhelms me.
With no rope, no harness, no partner and most importantly, no rocks in super-close proximity, the newest love of my life (climbing) isn’t an easy out right now. I can’t get out of my head. The thoughts, the spinning, the constant thought of the last time I hugged my mother. It’s sucking out my very soul. Climbing has given me the only clarity I’ve ever known in my 29 years of living on this earth.
When you’re climbing you think of nothing else. There isn’t any room in your head for that other crap. There have been many times this week that I’ve wanted to “climb” out of this fog, so I tried some alternatives. I tried shopping…it’s what women do! It’s hard when you’re broke. I tried meditation. It’s hard when there isn’t a quiet place. I tried sleeping…and while I have been sleeping better than I can remember in a long time, it’s not lifting my brain fog.
So the 2 miles of hell…my run today. As I was coming up the last hill, choking on the humidity, I realized I hadn’t thought of my mother the entire run. A full 15 minutes had gone by and I thought about nothing except for the run…amazing. I was covered in enough sweat to bathe all of LA county…breathing so hard I nearly went into cardiac arrest…feeling dizzy and heat affected…but my brain was clear!
I never thought a dinky little 2-miler during the hellish part of the day could be so healing. I can hear mom now… “Megan, you’re gonna make yourself sick running like that in the heat”…she used to say it every time I would go for a run…and I know she’s looking at me right now shaking her head.
Me: “Hey mom! Happy Birthday!”
Mom: “Hi there. Well thanks baby.”
Me: “Today is your first chemo treatment…how do you feel?”
Mom: “Well, you know, it’s ok. Cancer is kind of fun”
(You gotta understand by this point in her life, AMS was an everyday thang)
Me: “Haha. Ok. Well listen, I love you very much and I really hope you have an awesome day.”
Mom: “I love you too, baby.”
The combination of her brain injury, the liver disease and meds from her mastectomy had her in a constant state of confusion. We just rolled with it, because she was happy as a clam and that’s how we wanted her to feel.
Chemo treatment #1 down…zero to go. Her little body just couldn’t take it.
The next day dad called 911 as he so frequently had to do the last few months of her life. She had a severely altered mental status…we kind of knew where this was going. Her diseased liver wasn’t too happy with the chemo drugs and he wanted to let us know about it. He was hopeful. My dad has always had this amazing ability to keep hope when things didn’t look so good. I admire that. My dad kicks ass.
The weeks ahead were filled with mom being unresponsive, awake, on a vent, off the vent…add a few codes in there and then magically they took her off the vent again and she was “awake”. I was not here for all this, but I kept those poor RNs @ the Valley on their toes (I’d like to send a personal apology to them…I was a total bitch). When I say she was awake, that just means she didn’t need a vent. She was far off in another galaxy and unable to communicate. I don’t think she hurt…I think she was euphoric and that’s what we wanted for her. Something in my chest told me this was it. And it was. May 10th, 2010 she passed in her sleep. What a true miracle…she didn’t have to suffer anymore.
The last year has literally been hell on earth. I’m convinced that’s my hell. I have worked in the medical field in various capacities for a while….seen the awful stuff…worked the awful stuff…but NOTHING EVER EVER EVER prepares you to watch your family member go through that shit. Nothing EVER prepares you for losing a family member. No amount of suffering and misery prepares you to be ok with your mom finally being at peace. It’s a total mind freak.
I tricked myself into believe I was ok. I moved on….or so I thought. I freaked out and moved back to Tennessee. Once I got back here I freaked out because I couldn’t believe I moved back to Tennessee. I missed my Mammoth life. My ski town life. I was so bitter and angry about coming back to the one place I said I would NEVER EVER live again. I did this for months. I got a job that I hated….woke up pissed off every day. I realized I was in denial….I was hurting…and I wasn’t dealing with it. I couldn’t believe my mom had been taken away and I had to be miserable in the country music capital of the world (ok, so that’s Nashville but stay with me here).
Fast forward to January of this year…got rid of the UNrad job…got a job helping families in need in the ER at JCMC…met some amazing girls…reconnected with people from my past. “Ok, I can maintain just enough until I move back to Mammoth in the Spring”. Still wanted to move. Still hated being here. Then it happened…
The light bulb went off…”I will never be what I want to be if I move back to Mammoth”
I decided to stop talking and start walking…”Take the medic entrance exam…worry about the money later”
I stressed over this decision for weeks. I have been on the fence about this and going for my RN for years. I was always too afraid. I finally had a dream one night a few weeks ago…about my mama…and she made it very clear to me that I needed to take a chance with my life.
So I did. I passed. I have one more step and it’s real. Very, very freaking real. I’m scared to death but more excited about this than a kid on Christmas. I see it all now…and this is why the path has been so tough to walk…and scary to follow. If it were easy then anyone could do it. If it were simple then I would not respect myself for jumping through hoops to get here. Mom did it all. She taught me something that no one has ever been able to teach me and I’m still learning about it everyday. I’m grabbing life by the balls (yeah, I said it) and running with it. I can do this. I will do this. I couldn’t help my mom…but I’m going to have a chance to help others.