Life Is Beautiful

“Follow the signs to Terminal B,” my dad said as I almost missed the turn at the airport.  I was driving, and I wasn’t sure where I was going as it had probably been 15 years since I flew into the San Jose airport.  Though the landscape surrounding the area looked the same.

Everything looked the same actually.  Only now … everything is totally different.

The lump in my throat grew and I had trouble removing myself from my dad’s car.  For I shed more tears on the ride to the airport, hugging my brother and my dad goodbye and on the flights home than I had in the previous 2.5 weeks combined.  Leaving them ultimately ripped off the bandaids we’ve been using to provide comfort and clarity to each other, exposing our gaping wounds and raw emotions. 

Accepting our ‘new normal’ meant that the reality of life is now upon us.  And my mom is truly gone. 

I’ve walked around in a virtual haze since my late night arrival into San Francisco a few weekends ago.  What I hoped would be a quick visit to see my mom in the hospital and offer support to my father and siblings during what was already an unfathomable and sudden series of events, turned into a surreal nightmare.  I can’t help but feel like I’m having one of those out of body experiences where I’m watching from above as my life slowly unfolds below me.  Minute by minute.  Hour by hour.  Day by day.

It was just twelve short days from her lung cancer diagnosis to her death.  Twelve days.  Barely enough time to comprehend her prognosis.  Certainly not enough time to understand enough about chemotherapy and radiation, pain relievers and sedatives, dialysis and kidney failure, pH balances and stents, tumor lysis and bipap machines, DNI and DNR.  But we became well versed in hospitalese.  And we sat by her side 14, 15, 16 hours a day.  Nobody ever leaving her alone, for we were her advocates.  We demanded to know every poke, every test, every single thing they put into her failing body.

My brother and I were with her during the final few moments as her heart beat slowed and faded to a long thin line.  Was she scared?  Did she know how hard we tried to provide her comfort?  Did she feel how much we love her?  Nobody tells you that death very seldom resembles a Made for Lifetime TV movie with a beautiful Hollywood ending.   It’s messy.  It’s scary.  And often times leaves more questions than answers along with little closure.  Her passing was no exception.

These past eighteen days from the date of my arrival to San Francisco, have been a blur.  From choosing a final resting place to planning a funeral and catering a luncheon to organizing drawers and cabinets and bathrooms to focusing on our family.  There are no words to describe how the unwavering support from our family and friends helped get us through these past several days. Well ... that and humor.  And inappropriate jokes.  And pictures.  And the wrestling tournament my dad has been running for the past 20+ years (where my brother Scott announced and my brother Randy officiated).  These things to focus on, aside from the obvious, have given us the opportunity to begin the healing process together, in four very different ways.  We.  Are.  Blessed.

Last night I flew back home.  To my amazingly selfless husband who has given me the most precious gift of time.  To my kids.  To my friends who have become my extended family.  However, I am at a loss with where to begin.  How do I deal with my lack of closure?  My anger and frustration?  Where do I turn for answers?

Though leaving my brothers and my dad, the calming familiarity of the house where I grew up, and the safety net where one could melt down were far more difficult than I could have imagined, deep down I know that Life is Beautiful and it must go on.

"Dear Mom.  While our relationship has always run its own course, oftentimes with our paths never crossing, I never stopped loving you.  It may be awhile before our yin and our yang come together again, but one thing is for sure … our twain are sure to meet." 

Until then, May Her Memory Be Of A Blessing.

 The very last picture ever taken of my mother (17 days before ...)

Our "new" normal

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