The Cup

cup

When I was growing up, my mother use to spend any and most all of her free time painting plaster craft pieces. This is the cup that she used to clean her paint brushes. When her cancer took a turn for the worse, she decided to give me all of her paints, brushes, various supplies and most importantly…. her cup. I doubt that she saw any significance in this cup, to her it was just a dirty cup that she used to clean her brushes. To me, especially now that she’s gone, it is a warm memory of her. I feel close to her when I use it.  I can envision her sitting at her table with her newest piece trying to decide what colors to choose. I loved watching her in deep concentration and couldn’t wait to see the end result of her master piece. I can almost smell the cup of coffee that she would have setting at her table while working. Painting was the one thing that she had just for her when we were all little and she loved it! When we were older, it was something that I shared with her. It is great to have something in common with my mother. When I paint, I always use it.

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The Night My Mother Died

     The phone rang around 12 am, I wiped the sleep from my eyes ”hello” I said. A voice on the phone said ”Danielle…she’s…gone.” Time literally felt like it was standing still, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breath! My brother was the voice on the phone and he was informing me that our mother had just passed. At that moment, I drove over to my childhood home with tears streaming down my face to meet my three older brothers and my younger sister. During that drive, I began to feel angry with God for taking my mother from me, “I still need her!” I yelled out loud to God. I was only 28 years old and I had three very young children who adored her and needed their grandmother! When I arrived, I felt sick to my stomach. As I walked to the room where she was lying, I remembered all the times I had walked down that hall to see her and imagined the big smile that she would greet me with when I would arrive. Instead, I was greeted with her still and lifeless body. She appeared so strange to me, like she wasn’t my mother anymore. The body before me was like a shell left behind and I felt as if she was looking down on all of us at that moment. I could feel her all around us for only a few moments and then she was gone. For a while we stood around staring at her. The room smelled of the sterilized hospital equipment that had taken up residence as well as the very familiar scent of Boost (The only thing we able to get my mom to eat was a vitamin drink called Boost… I will never forget the smell!). I leaned over to touch her and her skin felt cold; my warm and comfortable mother who had always smelled of soap and lotion was now an algid feeling mannequin.

     At this point, the coroner arrived to take my mother’s body to the funeral home. I stood outside in the humid June morning air and watched as they wheeled her out tucked inside a body bag; the tears streamed down my face once more. “This can’t be happening!” I kept saying out loud. It was as though I was in some bad movie or watching someone else’s life fall apart and everyone was moving in slow motion! I had the most horrible and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had a mix of emotions at that moment, part of me wanted to rip my mother’s body off the gurney to keep them from taking her away from me and the other part wanted to run away from that scary shell of a body and hide and cry for hours, neither of which I did. As the hearse pulled away with my mother’s lifeless body my siblings and I sat separately throughout the house amid the deafening silence. It was a strange experience because I am one of five siblings and our house was always alive with noise and commotion of one sort or another growing up. All of us, except my younger sister, had moved out going our separate ways. Then my mom’s cancer took a turn for the worse and all of us practically moved back in for about two weeks before she died. The house was once again alive with commotion…until this abhorrent morning.

Meanwhile, arrangements were made, her last outfit had been chosen, in what felt like a fog and numbness of emotion at this point. Shortly after that my mother’s body arrived at the church and I remember seeing all of the make-up that had been applied by the funeral home and thinking that she would have been disgusted having never worn make-up a day in her life. Then my father, brothers, sister and myself all stood in a line next to my mother’s body as people streamed by. It felt like a movie where now, everything was moving lightning fast.

    At any rate, many years have now passed (she died in 2007). I still feel the pain of her passing but what was once an unbearable pain that I thought would never go away, is now a low dull ache for times and memories gone bye. I still have set backs but healing is definitely happening, one step at a time. Along the way my brothers and I have become very close and my mother would be thrilled. I have learned that time really can heal all wounds; some things just take a little longer than others, and you need to be ready and willing to accept the healing.

Crazy Aunt

My mother was a triplet and within them she was an identical twin with my Aunt Carole. I never really knew my Aunt Carole. When we were growing up she lived out in Washington state and only ever visited once, that I can remember, and that was when I was around 10. Aunt June (the other triplet) would often travel out to Washington to check on her and talk to Carole’s many doctors because she had many different “illnesses” and mental issues. Aunt June was just generally concerned for her well being and wanted to make sure Carole had a place to live and food to eat, things like that. The problem was that Carole would always tell all of her “friends” and the people around her terrible lies about my Aunt and the whole family and they would all be horribly mean to June the whole time she was there. But, June would go anyway because she was more concerned about her being on the street and no one knowing than how she might treat her.

My mother was always too afraid to go with my Aunt June on these visits because of how Carole would treat June. My mother would also say that her and my Aunt Carole could not stand being in the same room together. She would call Carole from time to time to update her about things going on in her life but she always told me that it hurt her that Carole never asked her about any of it first (kids, cancer, life in general). My mom always had to volunteer the information and she felt Carole was selfish.

Fast forward to June of 2005. My mother is very sick and in the last stages of cancer (breast, bone, blood, lung, all over at this point). Carole decides to come see her, we have not seen her in about 20 years. At the end my mother was having more and more bouts of memory loss that would last longer and longer. Sometimes she would know who I was and sometimes she would call me “Junie” (My Aunt June). Before Carole got there my mother talked about seeing her and the fact that she was not even sure that she wanted to see her at this point. She reiterated the fact that they had problems being in the same room together for too long. By the time Carole got there my mother didn’t know who she was. I still to this day wonder however, if my mother ‘did’ know and just pretended because she did not want to face her or talk to her. It is fine either way with me.

Carole only seemed to be there for the shock factor anyway. She made the comment that all these people had come to see the long lost twin sister. My siblings and I said ” No, they are ALL here to see our dying mother!” That is when we decided we did not really care for our Aunt Carole. My mother was very thin from the cancer and Carole did look quite a bit like my mother when she was well. Many people that had not seen my mother in a while that had come to see her before she died had mistaken Carole for my Mother. It seemed to just tickle Carole every time this happened and disturbed my siblings and I. She did not seem at all concerned for my mother and really was very disruptive in the grieving process, as well as creepily tried to take over taking care of certain tasks for my father so we asked her to go home. My mother died a week later on June 27.

Her death has brought all of my three brothers and sister closer together in many ways. We were all together when she died ( I was at home right when she died but drove there in record time when my brother called). It was a very surreal moment from what I can remember. It was so very quiet. I felt like I could feel her presence in the room above all of us for a few moments and then it was gone and the room felt cold. I remember the coroner coming to get her and feeling like everything was moving in slow motion, it felt like I was in a movie and I was watching myself. I wrote a paper about that night and how it felt for an english class, I will try to include it here.

I don’t know how it happened and I don’t know that I really care but right after Carole went home she and my dad started talking on the phone. The next thing we knew a few weeks later my dad flew out to Washington state to see her and then without telling any of us (or inviting us for that matter) he married her out there. He brought her back here soon after and she promptly began to root herself into my mothers old life.

Mom

My mother died 12 years ago on June 27 2005. She had cancer for many years and her body and lungs finally succumbed to the chemo and the cancer that was equally ravaging her body.

You could say that I was very close to my mother. We saw each other pretty much every day and spoke to each other several times a day. I think it is more accurate though to say that she was reliant on me. I loved her with all my heart don’t get me wrong. It was just hard to tell who was the mother and who was the daughter at times. I had three small children at the time ages 10, 5, and 4. She would call me and ask me to go pick her up a cappuccino and bring it over to her. I know that she was just just lonely and wanted mine and the kids company but it was hard for her to understand at times how much I had to do at my own house. As well as how difficult it was to get two young boys in and out of a car especially to buy coffee. Although, I do long for a trip such as that now. I have not forgotten how difficult it was or how much she drove me crazy but I do really miss her in general.

I feel good about how I remember my mother. I feel that I am able to be real in my memory of her. I don’t feel guilty for being angry about certain things that she did. I still loved her but she made me angry sometimes. I think that is freeing in someways. Some people seem to think that if you remember or talk about the “bad” things you are being disrespectful in some way to that person. I disagree! If I died today, I would want my kids, or people in general,  to remember and talk about the good and the bad. It can be very therapeutic.