How Losing My Mother Taught Me How To Live

Today has been one of those days. A day where I have to weigh out my emotions and decide if what I am feeling is really what I am feeling. I learned a good thing in the past few months leading up to now and on; I learned how to use the words YES and NO. What does that mean? We all know how to use the words YES and NO!!

Not for me, I didn’t, not in my youth and not in my becoming adult ages til now did I know the power and strength in those two words. A few things has happened over the last two years really that has changed me in ways I did not think was possible mainly because I did not actually change so much as I adapted being me. Let Me Explain.

On November 11, 2011 I was talking to my mother on the phone, I was on the bus going to work at the Mall of America, we were talking about my son being dropped off over there later and some other stuff that I don’t remember and then I said something along the lines of “Well, I’ll talk to you later mom, when I get off work” and the phone went silent. I heard a rustling sound like she had dropped the phone so I assumed she heard me say goodbye and I hung up. I was a few minutes from work and it was my boss/friend’s birthday so I stopped off to buy her some scarves and went to get a card. While in Hallmark my sister called me, something had happened to our mother. She told me our step-dad had found our mother unresponsive in her room, he said she was on the phone and he heard rustling sounds and went to see what it was and my mother had dropped the phone and was not breathing.

My heart dropped but my sister said to go to work and she would call me from the hospital. I went to work and gave my boss her present before she left but I was worried. I had told them (her and a coworker) what my sister told me. Naturally they told me not to worry but then my sister called, she was crying. She said mom wasn’t doing so good. About a half hour later because she told me to stay by the phone, she called, and told me to get to the hospital. Our mother was in a coma. I stood with my back to the back door of my job and hunched over in tears trying to catch my breath. I worked a good 25 mins from the hospital and I didn’t drive. My coworker gave me $50 to catch a cab because I didn’t have cash and I was too nerve wrecked to go to the ATM. I couldn’t even do that so I called my friend who left her job near by to drop me at the hospital. I was hysterical and didn’t know what to do because she couldn’t understand what I was explaining to her. When I got to the hospital I was directed to a waiting room area in some odd unit unlike other waiting areas where I met my sister and my step-dad, and a chaplain. We sat there for a moment as my sister and step-dad explained to me what they knew thus far; the doctors revived her once, got a light heartbeat and then she slipped back into the coma.

The chaplain held my hand as he walked me to the area to see my mother who was in a tiny room that smelled of all the hospital shit you hate to smell; death, sterile stuff. . . .machines were beeping. A tube was in her mouth pumping oxygen into her. I held her hand, I spoke to her and I know she heard me. I went back to the waiting area and after what seemed like forever, three surgeons walked in, of course nothing is good news when three surgeons walk in. They stood as we sat and they told us that our mother was brain dead. My sister and I, in tears asked what that meant, we knew but we had to ask, and they said she would never wake up. She had an unknown and inoperable brain aneurysm burst, while on the phone with me. I ran out the the waiting area crying, hitting the walls and screaming. The chaplain followed me and grabbed hold of me. I was beating the walls in that dim ass hospital hallway in a corner when he held my arms closed. I was screaming, “NO, NO” over and over again as my friend Lauren was walking down the hallway. She stopped, started walking slowly and her and the chaplain sat on the floor with me as I took it in that my mother was gone.

My sister called our aunt, my mother’s sister and she told us, “You better not take my sister off any machine until I get there.” She lives in Chicago and we understood, we weren’t going to let go just then anyway. They transferred my mom to the critical unit upstairs, where the staff was incredible (THANK YOU REGIONS HOSPITAL). Our friends came to support us and we made the calls to family, it was difficult but we had so much support up there, it was incredible. They brought us food, and comforted us, made us laugh, kept my mother’s memory alive. The next morning my aunt and my dad (my mother’s ex-husband and best friend) came by megabus from Chicago. We all sat in a conference room as the doctors explained to us how my mother ended up brain dead. It was the worst thing I ever heard in my life, but when asked if she suffered, a woman doctor responded that she died instantly, within a minute. I was thankful that she did not suffer and even more that I had spoken with her as we had a fight a week prior and that was the first time we had spoke since. A few hours later, we took her off the ventilator. They asked if we wanted to stay in while they removed the tubes and I said yes, My father decided to stay in with me. We sat on the bench as my sister looked through the door and turned her head and they removed the tubes. I remember the very helpful nurse who cared for my mother (keeping her clean and sweat free even though she was not with us mentally) she sat next to me and she held my hand and I squeezed hers as I heard the machine flat-line. That was it. . .my mother was gone.

My mother, the woman who gave birth to me, my sister and our brother; the woman who lived a life of extreme drug abuse, homelessness, alcohol abuse, abuse from my father, abuse from other lovers; a woman who was so beaten by life but found God, got sober and witnessed her grand-children’s births sober; a woman who was as tough as nails. . .she was taken by something so small as an aneurysm. Her God had called her home; sober, in good spirits with her children, in a healthy relationship with my step-dad. . .that’s how it should be if we are to leave this earth. I hate to say, “It wasn’t her time.” Because it was. She had lived a hard life but came through it all with so much fight and determination in her and her God called her home to be a bigger inspiration to her children and those who knew her.

The next step was to make the funeral arrangements; our mother wished to be cremated. I was shocked to find out that she left me as her beneficiary because we were not close, at all, or so I thought. My sister and I decided to have the service on Dec 3, 2011. We wanted to wait until after Thanksgiving and to make sure that all of her family from Chicago could make it, and we were not ready to let go just yet. During that time we had to tell our brother about our mom’s passing. He is serving a 25 year sentence in an Indiana prison, so we called and they told us that the chaplain would get him and have him call us. Hearing his voice as we spoke to him was the craziest feeling ever, we couldn’t hug him, we couldn’t be there for him and that hurt.

A few days before her service my sister and I went to the funeral home to do her hair and paint her nails. We walked down the stairs of the small funeral home and there laying on this stretcher thing was our mom. Dressed in the red dress she had brought for her birthday (Jan. 5th). My sister did her hair the way she always wore it, we put on her favorite earrings, necklace, rings, and watch. We painted her nails her favorite color red and then my phone rang, it was our brother calling from prison, we say our mother orchestrated that. We were all with her. Her service was great, so many family members came, there was so much love and our father, a pastor, officiated his first love that he’s known since grade school, his first girlfriend, his first wife, the first woman to bear his children, his best friend’s funeral. The prison allowed my brother to be on the phone during the whole service and I even put the phone up to the mic so that he could say his words.

A few days later I met the funeral director at the crematorium. I hadn’t told my sister I was going nor anyone else, I caught the bus in the freezing cold and had a letter that I written my mom the night before in my purse. I went inside the little white room where the retort was. My mother was placed on it in a white cardboard box, there was a ladder than I used to step on and get one last look of her physical form and I put the letter inside the box with her and told her I loved her. They let you observe the body going into the retort from right outside the white room where there is a huge glass window a few feet away from it. Right as my mother’s body was being rolled into that retort, my phone rang; it was my sister and while on the phone with her our brother called from prison. When I told them where I was they were speechless. I stayed a few moments after they closed the curtain then I walked out across the street to the bus stop and at that bus stop I looked over at the black smoke rising from the retort that I knew my mother was in. That moment, right then, that moment of knowing that that’s what it boils down to; either a tombstone or smoke in the air. I felt something. . .a kind of freedom for my mother and a happiness that I saw it all the way through. I never left her for one moment. I took the bus home, it went past the funeral home where I smiled because they were so helpful, it went past my mother’s old neighborhood; again another smile and then finally home.

I never thought anything like that would happen to my family. . .but it’s ironic that we don’t think of death happening when it is the one thing we can be sure of. SO WHY DID I TELL YOU THIS STORY. . . .

To tell you this one. . .Losing my mother taught me not only that life can be taken in the blink of an eye or the in the middle of a conversation but that it will inevitably be taken and how we live our lives everyday should be in pure enjoyment. Of course we all know this, but how often do we act on this knowledge by living every day as memorable as we can make it because it could very well be our last. Before my mother died, I lived a life of maybe’s. I lived in the grey area all the time because I wanted to please other people. I had to please other people to be liked, I thought and felt. I was a timid but wild teen. I started drinking and smoking cigs and weed at 15, going heavy at it too. I tried being a lil gang-banger, engaged in criminalistic behavior. . .I was just lost. I went along with what my friends did because I didn’t know what else to do. I was left at home with a drug addict and alcoholic mother while my sister and brother escaped the moment they could so I acted out, I ditched school so much that I was ordered to go to court, I smoked so much weed that you’d wonder how I got all A’s in school. I ran away from home at 16 and never went back. I lived  with friends until I moved out of state with my mom’s sister then with my dad’s brother in another state where I enlisted to go to the Airforce but got knocked up at 19 by a deadbeat 27 year old before I could deploy.

I was forced to come back home to Minnesota where I was pregnant and homeless. I slept in the hallway of the Indian Hotel that is across the street from the Mall of America. I hoped no one would come and see me so I stayed awake playing on the payphone watching for someone to come and force me out. I’d walk to the SA gas station up the street and get some hot cocoa with the change I had. I’d spend my days at MOA walking around then back to the hallway to get some rest. I stayed with a friend for a few days after a few days in that hallway when I got in touch with her then I found this lady who rented rooms to pregnant homeless women. She was beyond a Jesus freak, I think she was mentally ill. I gave birth to my son there and soon left her crazy house and moved to a shelter where we had a 9pm curfew and I slept in a room with roaches and mice everywhere. I found out that the mice was coming onto my bed at night and eating through my son’s bottle so from then on I stayed up at night making noise to keep the rats away while my son slept and I’d wake up at 7am when we could leave and get my son dressed and warm in his stroller and walk a good 13 or so blocks in the cold to my mom’s friend T house where she would watch my son while I slept. (My mother was in rehab.) I did this for a few months until my sister got a place and let me come stay with her but living with her was like living in hell so I found a program for young homeless mothers, the YWCA, they had apartment buildings we could live in for free while we worked on our parenting skills and worked on bettering ourselves.

It was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself and my son got to have his own home for once. I stayed there for two years until I got Section 8 Voucher (the program helped us get it sooner because we were homeless) then we moved into our own apartment. WHEW. . .finally. I entered college, dropped out of college, we moved again, lived there for 7 years, moved again, I entered college again and now I am one semester away from graduating, with honors.

Here we are, my son is 11, I’m 31 and we are living life grateful for every day that we get. I saw my mother live and it wasn’t a great life but what I saw in her the most was her will and determination to live better. She was drained and tired of life beating her down but nothing stopped that woman from fighting on not even her internal bleeding, ulcers, or Hep C and poorly functioning liver.

I see myself in my mother, always have which is why we never could get along. Now as I am adult on my own without her helping me to raise my son as she often did, I have found so much of her will and determination to live a better life in me. I no longer live in the “maybe” category, I live in the, “Yes” and “No” era. A lot of my past mistakes from youth til adult was because I never said No. I never said “NO” to smoking weed or getting drunk at the park. I never said “NO” to sex without a condom, I never said “NO” to anyone for anything because I felt so alone from childhood that I thought the only way to keep people around me were to be “in” with them, do the “Maybe” which turned into an reluctant, “Ok” and that reluctant, timid, shy, lonely little girl grew up to see herself for what she is truly worth. My mother saw my true worth and I never knew it. She was so proud of me and I never knew it. She loved me and I never believed it, until now.

My mom’s death taught me how to let go of a lot of things that were far overdue. I have learned that I can love some one eternally from a distance. I have learned that friendships are not everlasting but to cherish the ones worth cherishing and that loyalty is earned. Her death has shown me that to truly enjoy life I must live each moment up to it’s full potential and most importantly to put my fear of the unknown on the shelf. I am not a NEW Monique, I am an awakened Monique and I love it. I used to think that my hardened personality was wrong and I tried to fix it (for other people) instead of adapting to it and embracing it like I am doing now. I am not religious, I don’t believe in any kind of higher spirit nor power and I am okay with that (although I get judged a lot but typical and expected (I am not an atheist either)) so my awakening is not because I went to church and found God and prayed, I never pray, but I do have faith in life happening on the course you set it on and the course I was once on has been reset. I say YES and NO a lot. YES I love you but NO I will not continue to wait for you to come around, NO I don’t like her and I won’t be friends with her anymore. YES I will do that and NO I won’t do that. The power of the words YES and NO is magnificent. There is no grey area, no maybe so’s or possibles just a YES and a NO. I forgive only once and then I move on. I smile more now and maybe it’s the anti-depressants kicking in or maybe it’s me, LOL, who knows. I do know one thing, the fear is on the shelf and I am happily loving who I am.

Some do not understand my change as they think it is a change but it’s okay because I stand by the fact that while growth is inevitable, the time it takes to get there is up to you. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders as I have gotten rid of all the negative people in my life. The things I used to cry over I smile at. The people who angered me, I wish for them to find peace. I used to want to find love SO bad but I realized that loving the person I loved for many years taught me so much about me and I thank him for that opportunity. I thank my friends for the opportunity to showcase myself to them. As I move forward, I want those reading this to know that if you are in my life, THANK YOU. If you do not continue to be in my life this year as some will not, THANK YOU for the friendship and the memories and to those I have loved, You are forever cherished for giving me the strength to remove the wall around my heart. I wish all of you a happy continuation, beginning, and well-being.

I miss my mother every day but I know that what she has given me in her death is far richer than anything I could have imagined.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s