Brenda Thornlow is an author, animal advocate, & certified Reiki Master from NY. Her books can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & iTunes.
Anyone familiar with me knows I had a less than perfect relationship with my mother. I don’t blame either of us. We both led difficult lives, though I will not delve into that in this post.
I had no preconceived ideas as to what I may or may not feel if I’d lost my mother; I honestly never gave it much thought. However, I had absolutely no idea the all-consuming pain I would feel given the complicated relationship we had. I’ll be honest with you and admit that a part of me wondered if I would be somewhat indifferent when that time arrived.
In February of this year, Covid took her. She was hospitalized on a Monday and less then a week later she was gone. I had no idea she was in the hospital, on a ventilator, until later that week. I live across the country from my parents and my father was so distraught by the situation (and diagnosed with Covid, as well) that he forgot to inform me until the moment he was notified that my mother wouldn’t last.
I noticed a voicemail from him while I was at a local coffee house and was taken aback by it. I hadn’t spoken to him in a couple of months and felt as if he’d been pulling away from me for the past couple of years. After her passing, I came to discover that her health issues were worsening and my father had been distressed over this, retreating into himself. While he assumed that my mother was keeping me updated on her health issues, I had no idea as she had a tendency to avoid, what she perceived, as burdening others. My mother’s first priority was to ensure others’ happiness before hers.
I returned my father’s call once I arrived at home and he broke the news to me: my mother was dying and had maybe a day or two left. I had no words. What could I do? I threw on my sneakers and walked for about five miles. No one could visit her. The best we could do was a Zoom call which my father was trying to arrange with the hospital. Fear began to take over. What if I didn’t get a chance to speak to her before she left us? Did she know I was unaware of the circumstances until now?
I barely slept that night and had to work the next afternoon. My father was having difficulty reaching anyone to arrange the Zoom call. I’m not completely sure if this was because he wasn’t thinking clearly due to grief, if the hospital staff was overwhelmed, or both. Regardless, I needed to speak to her. I asked my father for the hospital number and informed my supervisor of the situation. I reached the nurse covering my mother’s room and brought her up to speed. I could tell from the nurse’s voice that she was a caring and compassionate human being and that my mother was in excellent hands and I still thank God for this. She told me my mother was asleep and took down my number, promising to call when she awoke. I’m unsure as to how much time went by before I received that call. All I remember is telling my coworker, who knew the situation, that I’d be right back and, sitting near the break room, iPad in hand, seeing my mother in her hospital bed with breathing tubes.
Each time she attempted speaking to me she first had to place the oxygen mask to her face. I couldn’t understand a lot of what she said but she did open and close our call with the words, “Love you, love you, love you.” She told me I was beautiful. She asked about my husband and reminded me to be nice to him. (She loved my husband!) She told me to take care of my uncle, her younger brother, who has severe heart issues. I genuinely wanted her to know that I didn’t dismiss her this week and that I had no knowledge of her illness and when I did, she waved it off. I was not an easy child growing up, I put both my parents through hell and back and when I told her I was sorry, she said to stop apologizing and when she saw me begin to cry she, again, told me to stop. She reminded me that we would see each other again soon.
I don’t know how I managed going back to work after that call. My supervisor did tell me I could go home but I refused to do so. Later that night, after taking a sleeping aid, as I was dozing off, I felt her slip away. I physically felt her go. The sobbing wracked my entire body; I had difficulty breathing. After what felt like hours, I strange wave of calm took over. She was at peace.
As I write this, I’m reliving it all. Everyone tells me the first year is the hardest. I think what‘s most difficult for me to accept is that none of this - the pandemic - had to happen. All of this could have been avoided. I’m having difficulty being relieved that we now have a vaccine. After receiving both my shots, I sobbed. I can’t be excited about the world slowly opening up, again. She’s not here to see any of it. I now have the words, “Love you, love you, love you” with the date of her passing tattooed on my right arm. All I can do is feel what I’m feeling and remind myself that she is now at peace, watching over me and, in time, my broken heart will heal; it will will never be the same, but it will heal.