The last time I spoke to my mother was 4 years ago last week.
To this day, that conversation haunts me. I called to ask her a question about cooking. I said at the beginning of my call that I couldn't talk because I wasn't in the mood. Not because I didn't want to talk to her - I always loved to talk to her. (We used to spend HOURS on the phone.) My excuse was that Matt and I had been arguing that evening and I was more interested in staying upset with Matt than I was with talking to my mom. It was a Wednesday night and I can no longer remember what Matt and I were arguing about - I only know that it wasn't all that important and it kept me from talking to my mom.
Through the rest of that week and on the weekend, I didn't call her. Now, I wish I had. I should have. She didn't deserve to be dismissed that way. Oh, I know she understood - she'd had moments like that herself over the years. But not with me. Once I moved to Canada, she never told me she couldn't talk because of her mood. Occasionally because she wasn't feeling well, which happened more often than any of us liked. Or perhaps she had to make an appointment, but more often than not, my mom always had time for me.
The following Monday, when I got a call from my younger brother, I knew something was very wrong. He was on his way to work, but called to let me know that Dad was taking Mom to the ER. That wasn't terribly unusual, but I had a bad feeling anyway. My brother had just left their house, having gone to help Dad get Mom to the car. He said that Mom was unresponsive. To make a long story short, my mom had a massive stroke, was resuscitated three times in the ER, then admitted to the ICU where they evaluated her brain activity for 48 hours. Wednesday in late afternoon, doctors told my dad that she had no cognitive brain function and he gave the approval to turn off life support - an action that my mother had requested if just this situation should ever occur.
Dad called me at 4:00am on June 22 to tell me that she had died. I knew she was gone as soon as the phone rang. I'd already booked my flight home the day before, despite my dad asking me to wait. Doctors couldn't say how long she would live after they turned off the machines - it could have been weeks, months. Somehow, instinctively, I had known since Monday that this was it and I felt strongly that it would be quick. My older brother had been urging me for two days to get home. I didn't feel a need to see her and I have complete peace about my decision. The woman I knew and loved, who had nurtured me through my entire life had already gone. I wanted to remember her alive and active - not in an ICU hospital bed.
Mom loved to do things for people. She loved going shopping (especially with me). She loved music, loved to sing. She was a fantastic teacher and loved children (especially her children and grandchildren). She loved creating things - knitting, sewing, crocheting, craft projects. She loved to read.
One by one, as mom's body turned on her due to a condition called neurosarcoidosis, she was forced to give up most of the things she loved. She gave up teaching and trained as a programmer, which she also enjoyed, but it wasn't her first career choice. She gave up singing when her voice would no longer work. She gave up teaching Sunday School. She gave up knitting, crocheting and all her other projects because her hands couldn't continue doing them and her eyesight was getting worse. She never gave up shopping with me (or reading), though there were times when she had to postpone. In the journal she kept in her last few months, she even mentioned that she was having increasing trouble picking up my (then) 18-month-old niece. I know that broke her heart.
Had she lived, I know my mom would be bursting with pride over my son. She was a true grandma - a true, doting grandma. I'd give practically anything for her to have been able to see and hold him even once - to ask her advice about something - anything - related to him. I do the next best thing and ask myself, "What would Mom do?" and then hope I get the answer right.
I have no regrets with regard to my Mom other than our last conversation; if I'd been less self-absorbed, we could have had a great chat together - one that I could remember with a smile today. But that isn't how it happened and I hate that I botched the last chance I had to speak with her. However our call went, though, Mom knew I loved her and we were very close to each other. We hadn't had a disagreement in years - she wasn't just my mother by that point, she was my friend.
Tuesday is the fourth anniversary of her death and I miss her like it was yesterday. Time does heal, but losing a parent is a special kind of wound. You're never really old enough that you don't need them anymore.