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Mom

I've been trying for days to figure out what to say about my mom's passing.


I can tell you the facts. In February, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In March, the surgeon removed three lesions from her liver (two of which were cancerous) and her gallbladder. Then she suffered through a post-surgical infection for months. On my parents' 55th wedding anniversary, she was told that the cancer was Stage 4. In April, she had fluid drained from the space between her lung and rib cage. In May, she had surgery to remove more fluid from the space between her lung and rib cage, and the surgeon repaired a tear in her lung we didn't know was there. A week later she was supposed to go to LECOM for rehab but collapsed at the hospital and was taken to ICU. That day we were told to make a decision, and we chose to bring her home on hospice. She then spent five weeks with us at the house. She didn't really experience pain until that final week. When she passed, she did pass very peacefully, and we were all there, in the house, on Wednesday, July 6, 2022, around 3:49 in the afternoon, although because hospice has to pronounce her death, the official time is about an hour later. She wanted her memorial to be private, so there will not be a viewing, prayer cards, wake, or public funeral mass. My family and I will attend her private funeral mass on Friday, and then we will take her cremains home and will inter her with my father at the time of his passing, hopefully quite a ways into the future.


She retained her sense of humor until the end, joking with my brother just days beforehand when he was in town for her 75th birthday to please excuse her for not getting up to wave to him when he left to return to Pittsburgh (she hadn't been out of bed in five weeks at that point).


Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say. I could tell you that pancreatic cancer is a nasty, sneaky cancer because it often doesn't present any signs for quite a while. I could tell you that she hadn't really eaten much of anything for months. I could tell you how I know it was frustrating to her that she had lost so much of her strength and mobility. I could tell you about helping the hospice nurse prepare her body for the funeral home. But, I'm sitting with all of those things, every moment of every day, and unless you have been a caretaker for someone on hospice, the reality doesn't really sink in.


Last week I wrote about how craft and yarn have been here during the past five months, and they have been. But this week, they haven't been quite as present, if I'm being honest. I pick up a project, and I don't feel quite as motivated, or I forget for a moment and have the urge to call Mom when I'm at work to tell her about the pattern I'm working on, but then I remember that she isn't there, that I can't text her a photo of a cool pattern repeat or a pretty yarn combination, and my chest aches. And, when I do start to knit or crochet, I find that I'm not really paying attention to the texture the way that I used to, or I'm just on auto pilot as I follow a pattern, finding that I've already completed seven repeats without realizing it. This isn't a bad thing, really, because it's giving me space to think about everything my family and I have just gone through.


I think about how she made it past her birthday, but she won't be there for mine or my dad's this year. I think about how whenever she mentioned that she had a taste for something, one of us would run out and get it for her immediately because we wanted to make her happy. I think about future holidays and events and how she won't be here for those, and my chest feels like it's about to crack open from the weight of that pain.


We will all die. We will all lose someone who will die before we do. These are facts. But knowing such doesn't take the sting away from losing someone you love so very deeply.


And what makes now even more bittersweet is that while I'm glad that Mom isn't suffering anymore (because really, she was a strong, badass woman who dealt with such a devastating disease with grace, dignity, and love; I never once heard her complain over the entire five months), is that she isn't here as we've reached three years since I opened the store. I was so happy to be home, to be physically close to my parents, to follow in dad's steps and open my own business, to rely on Mom for advice and to share this with her. But now she's not here, and the only thing that comes to mind is, "This sucks."


This sucks that I won't hear her ask me how yarn sales were every night when I come home from work. This sucks that I can't show her the samples I've finished or the fun new stock that has arrived. This sucks that I can't ask her for advice. This sucks that I can't share funny memes with her and have her tease me that I need to get a life. This sucks that I won't get to watch Only Murders in the Building with her. This sucks that she's not here. It just sucks.


So, no real words of wisdom this week. Just a deeply heavy sigh.


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