Eight years ago, the Wednesday after Mother’s Day, I watched my mom die. The sounds of her life coming to an end are something I never want my children to hear. I could not stay until the sounds stopped. I think my brother will always be angry about that, but I just couldn’t do it. She was gone before she ever entered the hospital, and I will always regret that being my last memory of her.
Almost exactly a year earlier, my brother and I figured out that she was canceling activities with one of our families, but sharing stories of activities with the other family, and it took us longer than it should have to realize that she wasn’t interacting with anyone. When we did, we found her barely able to breathe in her completely hoarded apartment. That was a Friday. Her ER doctor said if she hadn’t come into the hospital when she did, she would have been dead by Sunday. I took pictures of her apartment for Adult Protective Services, and my brother cleaned out her apartment. My mom told me if I made the call to APS she would never speak to me again. She kept her word.
I yelled at the palliative care team when she was in the hospital again that next year. APS told me depression wasn’t enough to make her seek treatment. And since she had a cleaned out place to return to, they had to discharge her. I will always ask…. what is enough to make someone seek treatment?
I am consolidating family pictures for our upcoming move and see so many pockets of lost time. The times when my mom’s depression kept her isolated from the world. I try to focus on the memories from when she was happy, but there is a clear ending to when she stopped taking pictures and documenting my childhood. The end of my sophomore year in high school. She wouldn’t fully check back in until she left my dad and moved back to Kernersville right after Aidan came home in the spring of 2004. I honestly think that was the happiest she had ever been. But by the time Samantha came home in the fall of 2005, she was gone again.
For a long time I struggled with what else I could have done to help her. I wanted so badly for her to want to be happy, but I finally came to terms with the fact that SHE had to want it, and no one else could make it happen for her. I think I am finally at peace with her life and death, and fight HARD every single day to be honest and present with myself so that I do not get sucked into that hole of sadness that consumed most of her life. And I made the conscious choice to adopt so that the mental illness genetics stop with me.
Today was easier than I thought it would be. I don’t want to say grief gets easier with time, but it does change over time. I am able to see it coming, sit with it, let the tears flow, and try my best to keep putting one foot in front of the other to be happy.