I thought she would live forever. My heart knew it. She wouldn’t leave me. No matter how old I got to be, she would always be there for me. Moms live forever. Don’t they?
The summer of 2010, the most awful summer of my life. This story began in June.
My 86 year old mom lived on Long Island in New York. She and my dad had been married for 64 years, the example of true love, best friends. They held hands. They kissed each other good night. They were always there for each other. But then, mom became sick.
Mom and I talked a lot on the phone. I could share anything with her and we would talk and talk. My dad would make me laugh. He would get on the phone and say hello; then his line was always the same, “I’ll just talk to your mom and get all of the updates.” Soon, though, Dad would be giving me the updates.
Mom was losing weight without trying. She was so tired. Then the pain started in her leg. A blood clot. A visit to the doctor. A hospital visit. Dad’s updates started and they became more and more difficult for him to write. There would be x-rays and scans, blood work, and special medications to break up the clot. However, a spot was found on Mom’s liver. Was it another blood clot? Dad’s updates stopped for a few days. Mom always told me that “no news was good news.” I became obsessive looking at my e-mails repeatedly through each day. Finally, an update from Dad. Excitement filled my body and then my world stopped. Mom had pancreatic cancer.
No. Not my Mom. The tests were wrong. Wait. What was pancreatic cancer? How do they cure pancreatic cancer? What would Mom go through so she could get better and go home? Quickly, I googled “What is pancreatic cancer?” I read the results and then my tears started to fall down my cheeks. Mom had a cancer for which there is no cure. Another update from Dad gave my four siblings and me the course Mom’s life would take. There would be no treatments, no chemo. There would be no IVs and a Do Not Resuscitate order. Mom went home for a little while but the care that she needed was too much for my sister and for my Dad.
I could not have found a more loving and caring nursing home for Mom than the one Dad found for the love of his life. Dad was 89 years old and he drove to see his sweetheart multiple times a day. Sometimes Mom would just sleep, but Dad stayed by her side and would just watch his beautiful bride.
An update from Dad. Yes, come and visit Mom. “Why don’t you stay for a week and we will work out visits each day to see Mom.” My wonderful husband drove me to Long Island so I could be with my Mom for a week. The first visit with Mom was almost the hardest visit. I didn’t want to cry. I needed to be strong and put a smile on my face. When I saw my Mom, my heart sank to the floor. Mom was so thin and so pale. She was asleep when I arrived there, but just a little whisper of “Mom?” and she opened her eyes. We bear hugged and I didn’t want to let go.
What do you talk about when you see your Mom for the first time after she has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer? Do you talk about the cancer? Do you talk about dying? Do you cry? No. Mom wanted to know everything about all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. We would talk and talk; and then, Mom was tired. Time for another hug and a kiss on the lips (no kissing on the cheeks for my mom). “I will see you later Mom. You get some rest. I love you.”
How many times were left for me to say those words to Mom? Only the Lord knew the answer to that question.
In seven days, I watched my Mom’s body become more and more frail. She no longer ate food. We were lucky if she would drink some water or juice. Mom couldn’t get out of bed. The nurses were angels. They bathed Mom. They changed my mom’s diaper. I thought I would fall apart right then and there. My mom was now wearing diapers. My mom, the woman who had her hair done once a week; the woman who made sure her nails were manicured and kept shapely. My mom, the woman who always made sure her cheeks were pink with a little bit of what she called rouge. My mom, now the woman who had to be bathed and had to have her diapers changed. How much longer could I keep it together and not fall apart when I visited?
Seven days. Those days went by so quickly and before I knew it, the day arrived. The day I would have to say good-bye. My last good-bye. Mom knew. She knew she was dying. One last hug. One last kiss. And then, what we always did when we said good-bye. We blew a kiss to each other. Only this time, Mom caught the kiss and held onto it. She knew. I knew. Pancreatic cancer was winning.
My husband and I had a three day drive back to Texas. I had a hard time sleeping that first night at home. Did I say everything I wanted to say to Mom? What was I going to do without my hero?
The next afternoon, my cell phone rang. My brother-in-law’s phone number. I knew what he was going to tell me. I was right. Mom had passed away. Pancreatic cancer had won. The cancer took my mom. However, it will never take away the memories and the love that stay in my heart. You see, moms do live forever. They live in our hearts and pancreatic cancer cannot take that away.