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Lessons from Mom

Sunday is Mother's Day and it is bittersweet for me. It is a day to honor my beautiful Mom, but the one thing that I want to do the most (give her a big kiss and hug) won't be possible. We lost my mom on April 12th to breast cancer. She fought for 20 long months and I take comfort knowing that she is no longer in pain.

Mom's battle with cancer and this short time after her death has yielded some important lessons for me. I'd like to share them with you all.

God has perfect timing. Always. God wanted to give my mom two precious granddaughters in 2008. My daughter was a surprise pregnancy and we had a bit of a rough patch with things being unplanned. My niece was born in July. Baby A was born in September. Three days after her birth, my mom received the bad news that her cancer (which had been in remission for ten years) had come roaring back. Mom always told me that having Baby A around when she was going through treatment was like the brightest sunshine breaking through the darkest rain clouds.

When Mom was taken to the hospital in her final weeks, I struggled with balancing my obligations to Baby A and to work. My mother-in-law saw that I needed help, but was worried that she might come too early, leave and then my mom would take a turn for the worse. She prayed about it, bought her ticket, and flew across the country to be with us. With my mother-in-law around, I was able to spend hours at the hospital and hospice knowing that Baby A was being cared for by her Grammie. Those we're my mother's final hours. In the days following, Grammie provided Baby A with the stability she required and provided me with the comfort and assistance I needed. The timing was perfect.

Learn to ask for help. As Mom got sicker, she could see that I was struggling being her caretaker while being a mom to Baby A and working. She begged me to get help. I refused. I didn't want to be a burden on anyone else. To be completely honest, it seemed like it would be more work managing whatever tasks I delegated out to others. I know I am not the only woman who feels this way. My own mother often refused to ask others for help when it came to driving her to chemo sessions or doing chores. She didn't want to be a burden, but she also said it was exhausting for her to coordinate so many parties. In a way, I feel like I failed her. I should have been the coordinator. It's a full-time job and one that should not be left to the patient.

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The day after my Mom died, I was inundated with phone calls, text messages, and emails. "Let us know how we can help!" People like to help. It is part of their grieving process. Thankfully I am blessed with the most amazing friends in the world. I asked for their assistance with my mom's funeral service. They responded in ways that still bring tears to my eyes. What about my fears of having to manage whatever is delegated? Non-existent. Ask for help and find someone who can manage the helpers. That's the key!

Saving meaningfully is just as important as decluttering. Exactly a year ago, I had written a blog entry about what to do with a lifetime of things. I shared tips about getting creative with archiving and going digital while trying to downsize all that "stuff." I used to tease my mom that she was saving all kinds of things that we're of no use to anyone - who needs macaroni art from 2nd grade? I wasn't completely right.

In the week following my mom's passing, we took the time to go through some things she set aside. She knew she was dying and left special packages for her family members. Opening my envelope was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Inside was a letter she had written to me along with a binder. The binder had an assortment of things she had saved over her years as a mother - birthday cards, little poems I had written when I was in grade school, pictures I had drawn, even print outs of emails I sent to her when I was in college. It was a symbol how much she loved being my mother. Now it's my most cherished possession.

You don't have to be famous to write an important autobiography. It was my job to write the obituary that went into Mom's service booklet. After staring at a blank screen for a good 20 minutes, I realized that I didn't have a clue where to begin other than her date of birth. She was an educator, a psychologist, a wife, mother and grandmother. What did those titles mean? Those words didn't do justice to my mom's 62 years on this Earth. Then I remembered a gift I had given her shortly after her diagnosis. It was a book called "A Story of a Lifetime."

My mom had written religiously in it. Some 120 pages worth of stories in her own words - a priceless autobiography. We get so caught up in day to day exchanges about trivial things that we miss the opportunity to listen to the great stories filled with family characters. Sadly, my mom was too ill to complete the book, but what I do have will be shared with Baby A and her children one day.

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Posted in Other Health and Medical Post Date 02/07/2015







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