Red hair, green eyes, and a smile that could light up even the darkest tunnel. Her voice seems far away and distant now, I can barely hear it, but if I close my eyes hard enough, it sounds as if she is right next to me. I still remember what her perfume smelled like, I have spent years searching for that exact scent. I remember what the contours of her face felt like when I did her makeup, or the texture of her hair the last time I brushed it out for her. I remember the way she would tell me her plans for my wedding. I remember the way she would sing with me in the car and the way she encouraged my curiosity. Mom.
It has been six years since my mother died, but I still remember her like we talked yesterday. There have been many important moments my mother has missed over the past six years, but none have been as painful as the smaller victories. It hurts more to know that when I have a rough day at work my mom will not be there to tell me, "It's okay." It hurts more to know she won't call me "Peanut" again.
The smaller everyday details that nobody tells you that you will miss, will suddenly become the things you miss the most. Death leaves an ever aching hole in somebody's heart, but for me and many people around the world, this can be preventable.
As much as I loved my mother and saw no flaws in her, she did have some. I was born in Colorado in 1999, that was the same day that my mother's doctor would tell her she had a mass in her uterus. I am not sure what she had said to the doctor, but knowing my mother it was more than likely, "I will get it looked at as soon as I can," knowing well enough she would put it off. It would be 12 years before the mass was spoke of again.
She had been getting sicker for years before she went to the doctor. She had inconsistent periods, cramping, loss of appetite, and fatigue. They were all always easily explained away to her.
Many women suffer from inconsistent periods, it was something she thought to be normal. Cramping could have happened from anything like eating the wrong food (lactose intolerance runs in the family). Loss of appetite just meant she wasn't craving that food, but she would eat anyways. Fatigue, of course, she was tired she worked and was raising two children. That's how things always were when it came to my mother's health, they were easily explained away because there were always more important things at hand.
I was at a Girl Scouts meeting the night my father came to pick me up. The thing that was wrong with that sentence was that my father was coming to pick me up. That morning my mother had told me she would be there to get me; she was not.
On the ride home I was told very matter of factly that my mother was admitted into the hospital and we would go see her tomorrow. That night was weird. I don't think my father knew how to handle the news, or how to help us handle the news. It was hard to fall asleep that night. It was as if, in my heart, I knew that there was something very wrong, and it wouldn't be easily fixed.
The next day my studies were the last thing on my mind. I didn't pay attention to my multiplication charts or my government lesson. I sat imagining what would be waiting in that hospital room. Finally 3:25 rolled around and I got into my dad's car.
The drive to the hospital took about an hour every day, and we would make that trip for close to three months every day, sometimes two times a day. I would watch out the window as the fields of grain would roll past the window and turn into the small western buildings of Longmont. I remember when I walked into the room her eyes were shut, the light was dim, and she had a breathing tube and an IV.
I lost it. I cried so hard that she woke up and was instantly taking me into her arms. My mother the woman, I considered to be my rock, was suddenly breaking. She would be dead in 6 months.
My mother died from ovarian cancer in June of 2012. Just a few months after she received her diagnosis. It is easy to stay stuck on the what-ifs. What if my mother had gone to the doctor before it got this bad? What if I saw the signs? What if I could have stopped it?
The truth is there is no way to know that the outcome would have been different. As harsh as that may sound that is the reality. The easiest way to live after a loss is one day at a time because loss and grief comes in waves. One day you will be fine and the next you won't. But in the end, it will be okay.