Two years ago, on March 17, 2007, my mom died. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and after a harsh round of chemotherapy, she was in remission for a year until 2001, when the cancer metastasized to her liver, lungs, and bones. She lived with a serious enough cancer that has a five-year survival rate of 5% for eight years, so she beat the odds just living into 2007. Knowing what I know now, about "the science" and the immune and lymphatic systems, the human body, anatomy, and physiology, granted that I have only had two semesters of it, does not make the loss any less significant.
The first year was pretty easy. I was mostly numb but realized there was a gaping hole in my life. If you knew my mom, she was the person that was always putting others before herself, finding any excuse to send a greeting card to someone, whether they were celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, some other happy occasion, or a get-better-soon card to aid someone in their convalescence from serious illness or surgery, etc. She was the person to take up the cause of people who needed help, including others with cancer, or survivors, and offer support and encouragement, or just share her story and try to comfort others. I wonder if the fact that she was a chronic worrier and probably stressed a lot about things she couldn't control contributed to her cancer and the fact it came back. I wonder if the surgeon didn't get a clear margin in the original biopsy or lumpectomy, didn't biopsy the right lymph nodes, or if he just didn't do the best possible job he could have done. I'm not stressed or worried about the past, while I am my mother's son and I have many of her attributes, I am definitely not a chronic worrier or stress out about things with which I can have no meaningful impact.
This second year without my mom has been more difficult. I have kept busy, but the numbness wore off, and I can't pinpoint the day, but it was as if a sudden realization washed over me that I would never get to talk to her again, to laugh with her, to share my tears and triumphs, to share my life with her. I could always be myself with my mom, completely open, vulnerable, and not worry about being judged. That isn't to say I'm not myself with other people, but you know as well as I do, that we're all a little more guarded when we're around people who aren't either A) close family or B) tight-knit friends. The shields come up when we're in mixed company, and it seems like it has to be that way, not because we are afraid of offending someone but because it's expected. I'm rambling. I was, and continue to be, a good son.
My dad remarried this past summer, to a wonderful woman. I am the youngest of three kids, with two older sisters, and we realized that it would be good for Dad to have a new woman in his life, and that if left to his own devices, his health would probably suffer, considering he is diabetic. My Dad is home now, and two years ago, he lost the love of his life. Dad, my sisters and I went to Mom's grave this evening to visit, along with one sister's husband and two young sons (3 years old and almost 4 months old). Dad admitted that he's thought a lot about Mom over the past year especially, and while he didn't say it outright, the sentiment was clearly there that he really misses her, even though they didn't have the perfect Ozzie and Harriet marriage. But honestly, who does?
The funny thing is my youngest nephew, the nearly-four-month-old, was laying in his car seat by Mom's grave marker, and I told him, "I'm sorry you didn't get to meet your Grandma, she would have loved you so much."
He smiled at me, and somewhere, I think Mom was smiling back.