To watch someone go through treatment after treatment and then have kids to make sure are going to be okay. I couldn’t imagine living a day without my boys by my side or being able to see my husband, even for just a few minutes a day. But my mom did that. She stood by my dad’s side through months of doctor visits, surgeries and hospital stays. She stayed with him. My brother and I went to my grandparents house and stayed while dad was in a hospital a few hours away.
I don’t remember a lot from around that time but I do remember a few visits. I remember talking to my mom the week before Christmas and telling her James and I would just wait until Christmas morning to come see them but then I told grandma that I wanted us to go the day before so I could wake up with mom on Christmas morning. I’m not sure if she ever actually knew or not. I like to imagine we were able to surprise her.
That Christmas I woke up in a tiny apartment with my mom, my dad’s mom, my aunt and some cousins. We shared beds, couches, floors, chairs; really, wherever there was a flat surface it was filled with blankets and pillows. We opened the door and outside was our stockings from home filled with presents and more presents underneath. My stocking had a knitted or crocheted wreath pinned to it that Mrs. Clause made just for me.
I remember James and I giving dad a brown bear with a purple bow named Brownie. And I remember playing Crazy 8’s with my Aunt Darla over the skywalk between the apartments and the hospital. We played for nickles, and then I got so good that I won all the change and dollar bills in her purse. (Although, looking back, I’m pretty sure she was letting me win.)
I remember my cousins, a lot of them, and we had mini M&M tubes that we would hunt through couches, vending machines, and pay phones in waiting rooms looking for lost change. And one night while dad was in surgery we went to the top balcony and dropped some of those coins down into the brim of Uncle Bob’s hat while he slept on a couch below.
I remember spending my birthday in the hospital room and getting a pair of white tennis shoes as a present that year. The big double digits.
I was also the highest seller of Girl Scout cookies that year because I posted the order form in his room and told all the nurses about it.
Dad had therapy and used one of the times to make woodworking projects for James and me because that’s what he did a lot before he got sick. (I now use that purple painted heart as a Christmas ornament. The back used to say ‘Welcome Bridget’ but it’s faded away over the last almost 20 years)
One day dad got to come home in his wheelchair. I remember seeing the front walk get adjusted a little to make the whole thing a ramp so we could bring dad inside. I remember the wheelchair being inside the house but that’s all.
Another day, not too long after that, I got picked up from school early. We went straight to the hospital, but I wasn’t allowed to see dad. I sat in a small room playing cards with grandma and slept in a very small bedroom, when it got late, on a twin sized bed with my brother.
I woke up from my nap and went back to the glass room with a few people and I remember my mom coming in to tell me the awful news, “Daddy died”. I sat in the corner and cried. And after a little bit, I went in to see him. All hooked up to a million machines, cords running everywhere; but no beeps, no noise, nothing.
Then I remember the house being full of so many plants from the funeral home. Trees and flowers and only a small path around the coffee table, enough space to water them all.
And one day when things had calmed down a little, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with mom and James eating pizza on those square Tupperware plates and drinking red fruit punch. Mom told James he was the man of the house now and my three year old little brother exclaimed “No, I’m the woman of the house!” I laughed so hard I squirted the fruit punch out my nose and all over my plate!
Somewhere while moving from the one hospital back to the local hospital my Aunt Darla lost a necklace that she received for her anniversary. It was a gold cursive D with an angel holding it. The night dad died she found it on her pajamas when she went home. The necklace was given to my mom, who gave it to me. I wore it every day until I lost it in high school my junior year. I never did find it.
And now, almost 20 years later, I sit with a sleeping one year old on my lap and a three year old in his bedroom. My daddy would have spoiled these boys rotten.
I still don’t know how my mom managed to keep herself together to raise James and me into the people we are today. She was so strong, and still is. I know she had lots of prayers reaching out to her and us and that’s ultimately what kept us lifted up.
So, to all the people that prayed for us, thank you. And to my mom, I hope I’m half the woman and mother you are. I love you with all my heart.
If anyone else is grieving or going through a deep suffering, check out a fantastic podcast and show notes by Risen Motherhood, When Motherhood Brings Deep Suffering. I am not affiliated with this link at all but I believe it was released at the same time I had this rush of emotions for a reason and wanted to share the resource with you all as well.