Friday, December 23, 2011
And now we're on the other side of the Solstice. The days have already begun inching longer; last night was a bit shorter than the night before. One year ago today, Gary and I flew out to Seattle, not knowing what we'd find there. We packed funeral clothes. I had spent the previous night sleepless, praying as hard as I could that I would at least get to have one more conscious conversation with Mom. That was my only focus.
Being December 23rd and last minute, we couldn't find a non-stop flight. Our first leg was delayed 6 hours, but we didn't find out until we arrived at the airport. The ticket agent couldn't figure out how to re-book our connection, so she cancelled our entire travel plan and tried to rebook us making three connections, but somehow couldn't do that, either. Already panicking, my clearest memory of that morning is willing my knees not to buckle as I held tightly to the counter, attempting to plead with her to put us on some plane that would arrive to Seattle at some point, but unable to form coherent sentences. Gary took over, negotiating everything: getting us back on the original late flight, getting us on a later connection, making me eat something for breakfast. And a couple of hours later, sitting at JFK, I got my prayers answered. Mom was alert enough to talk on the phone; I hadn't spoken to her in a couple of days and was getting all of the information relayed, so just to hear her voice was so reassuring. She was sluggish and medicated, but totally there and clearly happy to talk to me.
We finally arrived in Seattle close to 10pm PST. Dad picked us up at the airport. We went straight to the hospital and again and again, my prayers were answered. The next day, the waiting room was filled with our family and friends and didn't empty out until well after the New Year. This blog was launched because I couldn't field all of the phone calls, texts and emails that I was receiving, so I figured I'd let all of you come to us on your own time and when you were interested. And I'd only have to do it once.
This year, as we enter the light half, my life is so profoundly different. Any doubts or misgivings I had about getting married (and there were many, one year ago) have disappeared; I saw the strength of my parent's marriage every day and can't imagine one day since last December 23rd without Gary's support and love. My general anxiety has faded significantly; I've learned that my imagination is far crueler than life and that things I thought would destroy me have not. I saw the value in a support system and learned what it means to show up for people and am committed to maintaining and strengthening my own. I am trying to thank more, to love more, to allow more, to laugh more. I am happier this Solstice than I was at the last one. Strange that that should be true; I have suffered more, I have watched those I love most suffer more, I have lost more. And yet, I am undeniably a more settled, grounded, content person. I learned so much from Mom, watching her grace, her determination, her utter refusal to go into despair. And though she was literally surrounded in darkness for the entirety of her illness, it didn't penetrate her. And so, the darkness couldn't reach me, either.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
This past Sunday, one of my dearests threw me a women-only baby shower. Sixteen of us crammed into Gary and my little apartment, most sitting on the floor (including my mother in law, which I still feel badly about). Everyone at different life stages; some mothers, some never to be mothers, some just at the beginning of their adulthood, others with enough experience to offer sage advice. I always say gifts are optional but no one arrived empty handed. The amount of baby gifts we have received is unbelievable. Some of this is the nature of being first on both sides of the family, but a lot of it is concentrated well wishes from followers of the blog, people who don't really even know me but adore Mom and, still feeling helpless and sad about the circumstances, can't help themselves. But the best gifts were truly all of the blessings I received that day. Everyone either anointed me with oil or said a little prayer or gave me mounds of reassurance that I will not only make it through this transition to mother in one piece, but I will do a good job of it. And to seal in those blessings, everyone transferred them directly to my belly, in the form of henna tattoos.
I realize the past few entries have been depressing and raw and hard to read. But the truth is that while those emotions are real and true, they are not a realistic view of life now. Those are just the moments when it's easiest to write. Yes, absolutely, there are moments when the loss is overwhelming. But there are also many more moments when life simply continues, when we look forward to good things and deal with the mundane. And there are many moments when I think of Mom and it makes my heart soar with joy for the 31 years I got to be with her and all she taught me.
My dreams of her are still infrequent and mostly from when she was ill. A couple of nights ago, I was treated to dreams of her all night; we were hanging out at the Kline, working on walking the halls, and it dawned on me that if she really were still here and working on getting stronger, at some point I'd have to lose her again. And maybe that's the ultimate peace-making realization. That as hard as this past year was, we never have to do it again. And she made such a beautiful time of it. She lived her last year as fully as she could, finding joy and celebration; so many never even come close to such grace. And as difficult as it will be to enter into parenthood without her, and as sad as it makes me that she never experienced being a grandmother, my not having any real responsibilities allowed us more time together. I was able to fly to Seattle at a moments' notice, I didn't care about spending ridiculous amounts of money on airfare; things were easy in a way that they never will be again. So that's been my most recent discovery and most recent source of comfort. This mourning is what it is. I know that it has changed me forever. But at least I never have to lose her again.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Somehow, we made it through Thanksgiving. Luckily, no one at my table insisted that we share the things we're thankful for, as I am having trouble piecing together feelings of gratitude. Surely I must be thankful for all of the many blessings in my life right now; there are so so many and I don't want to appear ungrateful. But I can't honestly sit down and say "I am grateful for..."
When Mom first passed away, I felt a sense of relief. I didn't have to worry about her feeling worse and worse, about her pain, about letting her down again and again. I didn't have to sleep with the phone next to my pillow or check flight prices or availability every day. In the last couple of weeks, all of that relief has dissipated. My body has accepted the end of the frenetic pace, the end of crisis mode management and I am left with only the overwhelming absence of Mom.
Now the feelings of injustice and anger surface more readily, the reality that she won't get to know her grandchildren, that she won't see Ross graduate, that she is missing out on many years that she had planned to enjoy. I am angry that she won't be here to help me when the Pea arrives, that any questions I have now remain unanswered, that any bumps in our relationship that were waiting to be healed will never be healed. I get furious when well meaning people say there is no greater joy than being a grandparent; that I didn't manage to pull my life together in time and I robbed her of that.
Living across the country, it's sometimes easy to pretend that life is still normal. I didn't talk to Mom every day when she was healthy. The day that Gary and I got engaged, I had already spoken with her during the day before he proposed and when I called again, she was confused that I would call twice in one day. But when there were things I wanted to share, I would call. If events were happening, I would call. If I needed clothes advice (which is frequent), I would call. And now, it's been so long since I've been able to call and share something or ask for advice. Day to day it's okay, but the compound effect is hard. There's so much lately that I want to share with her. There are so many questions I want to ask, so much advice I still need, so much I don't know. And the road ahead is just so much more of that.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The infrequency of my posts since Mom's passing is a good lesson in discipline. I am so glad that I made the intention to write every day during her illness; we now have an invaluable, accurate record. But without her to talk to, and without a defined purpose of these updates anymore, I find that I slack.
In the past week, I have received a wedding gift, several baby gifts and a few notices of donations made in Mom's name. Surely this is bizarre. To have such major life changing events all together like this, to be using the same thank you stationary to thank people for onsies as memorials.
Or maybe not. There's no dependable timeline, nothing that we can count on to say that this is the natural order of life and you don't lose your mom as you prepare to become a mom.
A dear friend wrote to me sharing the fears of new motherhood and showed me how she coped with those last weeks of her own pregnancy and uncertainty. She made lists. She took control over what she could. A year ago, I would have done exactly the same thing; I was always trying to control every situation. I had a Plan B, C and D for every scenario. Now I don't. I can't be comforted by the lists anymore, by playing out what I imagine to be the possible scenarios. I know that no matter what I think could happen, life can have other plans and surprise you. And not only in the unfair, senseless randomness of Mom's illness. In amazing, beautiful ways, too. And despite that old truism "those who fail to plan plan to fail," I don't plan things anymore. At least not the way I did. In childbirth class, we talk about birth plans-people write out how they want their births to go and what their intentions are. I can't even fathom this without laughing.
We spent countless hours setting intentions for Mom's healing, praying, massaging love and tenderness into her ankles and shoulders. We cycled through disbelief, anger, sadness, and hope so many times it was dizzying. We celebrated small victories and mourned small defeats and learned again and again that we are not in control. We learned to let go of the disbelief. We let go of the hope. I'm trying to let go of the anger. Of the sadness. But I suspect it is too ingrained in me now to ever lose. So instead I'm trying to work with it, to let it teach me why it has taken up permanent residence in my heart. I think so that in moments of uncertainty, I can let go of control. I can see things as they are, not as how they should be or how I can fix them. I can look at situations from a place of wonder and simply be present on the journey.
Monday, November 7, 2011
In terms of my grief, the past week or so has been better. Fewer crying jags and more sleep. Gary and I have zoomed into baby planning mode-we are T minus 7 weeks (or so, really it could be anywhere from 5 to 10 weeks out) and I am feeling completely unprepared. I have also have a resurgence of morning sickness in the last trimester that our midwife thinks is grief-related. It's not such a rare thing for late pregnancy and it doesn't worry her, but it can be difficult at times to eat, despite being hungry. It's something I would love to talk to Mom about-she passed away right at the cusp of my third trimester and I didn't even think to ask her what symptoms she had late in pregnancy.
Today I started exploring newborn rituals and thinking about how we want to welcome the Pea into our community. I wasn't prepared for how emotional that would make me. So many prayers for mothers to say for their children, so many hopes and dreams and so much family continuation. Some of the rituals include passing the baby from grandparents to parents, or the grandparents offering blessings, and my heart just hardened. I have a hard time separating what I want for my child and what Mom wanted for me. I don't yet feel comfortable with the mother title, so when the websites reference "mother" I think of Mom and not myself. Surely this will be an evolution. Surely no one feels like a mother until they have mothered for some time. Just as I still fumble over referring to Gary as my husband (just the other day, I slipped and said "my boyfriend" which technically hasn't been correct for over a year), I will fumble with "my child."
But there's also an element of the surreal to the past year. I still don't quite believed it all happened. Mom's illness, her death, my marriage, the Pea, that we are all irreversibly changed. I think that may be a reason I fumble with calling Gary my husband. I think that as soon as I heard Mom's diagnosis, I detached from something and began operating on a perfunctory level. I knew the facts, responded to the facts, dealt with the facts. We all did what we needed to do. People would make comments about my family: how amazing we all are, how much we rallied and supported Mom and each other. It wasn't a choice. It was a need. We all reacted in the only way we knew how. But somewhere along the way, I needed to lock up my heart to keep it from breaking. And now, embarking on this parenting journey, I need to access it again. Though I wholeheartedly believe that we are choosing the safest and healthiest birth option for both me and the Pea by having her at home, part of that choice is the appeal of forcing myself to be present. I don't have the option to tune out, to medicate, to detach. I've been doing that all year. I've been saying Mom wasn't going to get better without really feeling the impact of that truth. Maybe that's a necessary side effect of knowing a disease is incurable. Maybe that's a flaw in me.
In any case, I suspect that other members of my family are coming to the truth that she's gone in fits and starts also. That some days the reality is so heavy and true that functioning on any level requires great concentration and force of will. And some days are okay. I don't know, I am not there, which is another difficult thing. I miss the frequent trips, I miss seeing all of my Seattle family. And worst of all, Dad's birthday is coming up and I can't fly to spend it with him. Though all the travel was difficult and costly and though my trips were never relaxing, it was always fulfilling and comforting to be there.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Samhain. The beginning of the dark half of the year, the time to honor our ancestors and departed loved ones, when the veil separating the spirit world and the living world is thinnest, when we face our ghosts. Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine and why not? Dressing up and candy: two of the best things ever. But as awesome as chocolate is, I think there's more to it. I have always loved ghost stories, always believed in spirits and little snippets of magic.
Last night I went to the circle of women again to celebrate Samhain. We all dressed in black, as that's the color of the season, and brought candles and pictures of the dead we wanted to honor. And we shared our stories of them. I was incoherent, my loss seemed the freshest and I couldn't even piece together what I wanted to say. Instead of talking about Mom, I talked about me. How last Samhain, everything was normal. How the cancer was so aggressive and came out of nowhere and how difficult is was to get a flight to Seattle on December 23rd...and this is not what I wanted to say, it wasn't supposed to be about that, but I'm clearly still trying to wrap my head around how this happened. How was she fine a year ago? How did we hike last Thanksgiving and shop for a wedding dress and how was that the last time she saw me? How did she have a clear mammogram last August and every August for the fifteen years before that? How is she gone?
But what I told all of these wonderful women who sat there and held space for me was that Mom has been out visiting the people she needs to visit. (And it's true, I've gotten emails and notes from people who have walked into rooms in their house and found old letters from her, people who have just uncovered a photo they forgot they had, a memory triggered that they had to share with me.) Once she's done making the rounds and bringing some peace, she'll come to me. I somehow knew as soon as I found out that I was pregnant that I wouldn't get to have both my mother and daughter. And Gary, Mom, Dad, Ross, me...we all knew well before the sonogram confirmed it that we were having a girl. In that same sense, I know that Mom knows she has a couple more months of visiting that she can do, but then she'll be at the birth with us. And, knowing her, she'll stick with the Pea as much as she can.
It's not actually Samhain yet-that's tomorrow night and Tuesday morning. So, if you want to celebrate the season, take some photos down of the people you want to honor, light a candle for them and share a fond memory. And as the dust fades tomorrow night, listen for them. They'll be there.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Gary and I arrived home this evening. Not gonna lie, it was very difficult to leave Florida today. Like, full on uncontrollable sob fest on the beach difficult. As is so often the situation, Gary just pulled me in close and gently asked why I was crying. I couldn't articulate it well, but this vacation felt like the last vacation we'll ever take. It was the end of something that I had been looking forward to and maybe clinging too much to: a last hurrah before baby, something easy and mindless to focus on in the wake of Mom's death, no responsibilities for a few days...But in a classic example of "World's Worst Thing to Say When You're Expecting a Baby in Two Months" I just said that I felt like I didn't have anything else to look forward to again.
Which of course isn't true. I am ridiculously excited to meet the Pea and to watch us begin the transformation into parents. I am excited to go into fall and winter in NYC, to not be traveling for a few months, to buy a monthly Metrocard for the first time in 2011, to see friends, to start our childbirth classes and on and on. But I do feel like we'll never take a vacation again. And I'm fully aware that the next big thing that we're anticipating and looking forward to will holler at all hours of night and day. I'm afraid of the hormone fallout of delivery and newborn care and mourning the biggest loss of my life all rolled into one.
Even though Mom was only receiving hospice benefits for less than 24 hours, we get benefits for 13 months after hospice ends. This is truly amazing. I can't say enough good things about the Group Health hospice care: the family receives social work benefits (nationwide) for a full 13 months after the last day of hospice. The social worker wanted to make sure that I knew that and took advantage of therapy or bereavement groups or anything that might help me in NYC. And while I don't think I have any need for anything right now, I am very happy to have those resources in my back pocket post-partum.
Monday, October 24, 2011
I bring Mom up in conversation all the time. I don't know if I always have done it and I'm only more aware of it now, or if it's new and it's my way of hanging on. Just little anecdotes or agreements with someone else who is talking about their family. The people who don't know the story wouldn't know.
I am trying to take Ross's advice and bring her presence into my life. I don't know yet if I agree with him, but I'd like to. I'd like to fill the voids and feel her with me instead of simply not.
Gary and I are in St. Petersburg, Florida until Wednesday. We came last Friday for a friends wedding and decided that we needed a vacation badly, so we rolled our honeymoon, babymoon and any relaxation time owed to us for the last year and the coming year into these five days. And it couldn't be better. I was worried about how I would be with the wedding (I have been having a very hard time with weddings since Mom got sick two months into my engagement and wasn't able to see ours, to name a few reasons) but I was able to get over myself and enjoy the weekend festivities. I have been able to sleep, I have been able to unplug, I have been able to sit on the beach or by the pool for hours at a time and be okay. The families staying here make me happy, not miserable. Today a woman about Mom's age was laying out with her daughter, chewing gum the way Mom chewed gum (with air bubbles that pop-no idea how that would always happen) and I made the connection and tried to feel her presence. I am sunburned and remember the stories of Mom's family trips to Florida when she was a kid and how sunburned she would get; silly that something like a sunburn would make me feel connected. But I think that was Ross's point. I could just have a sunburn. Or I could smile about it, knowing I share both my fair skin and my inability to stay away from the water's edge with Mom and we'll just deal with the consequences.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
This weekend was hard. Gary was away, and it was the first time I was really alone for any extended amount of time since Mom passed. And today was the first day I didn't have a packed agenda for myself. I did that intentionally, knowing I needed the downtime. But it was hard.
Lately I find myself tearing up constantly, triggered by anything that strikes me as beautiful. I think this is quite normal in most pregnancies and it's compounded by the fact that I am finally able to read pregnancy related books. I have absolutely no interest in What to Expect, the pregnancy advice books, the fetal development charts, etc. Once I got home to NY, I picked up Spiritual Midwifery and devoured the birth stories. I cried at every one. But since I do most of my reading on the subway, the crying is limited to what I can blink away and still go to work. It's not just birth stories; today walking through Soho, I watched a woman in her mid forties with her mom. They were window shopping and admiring the many tables of jewelry on the streets and it reminded me of me and my mom and how much she would have loved a day like today in Soho. Tear up, blink rapidly, go on with my day.
The thing that is most salient to me is that she's gone. Everyone has been telling me how she'll always be with me, how I'll feel her presence every day. And that is such bullshit. I feel her absence every day. I see what I'm missing, what she's missing. And that's all I can see sometimes.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I have received so many beautiful cards, letters and emails from such far-flung well wishers. I am nowhere near caught up in even reading them all, let alone responding. But so many of them share stories I haven't heard, memories that other people are cherishing.
Nearly all of the people I grew up with had interactions with Mom where she listened to them, entertained them, did arts and crafts, offered advice, offered open ears and a shoulder to cry on or some combination of the above. I had no idea that most of these scenes had occurred. And I feel so lucky to find out about them now. It's like she's sending me messages still. How to love children, how to connect with people, how to make someone feel special. That 10, 15 or 20 years later, these adults remember with such clarity how good she made them feel as a child or a teenager. How honest and safe they could be around her.
Many people have shared their experiences with losing their mothers too young. Again, it's like I'm getting reassurance that I can survive this. That somehow I will manage to build my own family, raise my own daughter and be okay. It doesn't seem possible sometimes. How does one become a mother without a mother? But so many people do it all the time. Many mothers that I admire and respect have done it, are doing it. And I will do it. Imperfectly and clumsily and missing my mother the whole way. But there isn't a choice here.
When I was reading The Council of Dads (Bruce Feiler, amazing, highly recommended) it occurred to me that Mom had set up a Council of Moms for Ross and me, maybe without realizing it, or maybe intentionally. For example, when planning our wedding, Mom recommended specific people to help me with my wedding dress, who were different people than who threw the bridal shower who were different still than who helped arrange specific details like music and programs. Now, all of these women have become the Pea's "aunties" and I know that I will lean on them all the way I would have constantly leaned on Mom to get me through the new days of parenting. Already they have created a book of parenting advice, gathered from themselves and Gary and my friends with kids; the book is a cute keepsake, the real value is knowing that I (or Gary) can call any one of those contributors at our wits end and they will happily talk us down. And babysit. Ross, too, has all of these surrogate moms to help him through school, navigate his future and love him unconditionally. The best part of this council is that they all have known and loved Mom for many years; they can be a version of her voice now that her voice is silent.
And then there are the people who write who don't know Mom, or her knew her in college, or who knew her from when their kids were in preschool, or who met her a couple of times when she visited me, but have grown to know her through the blog. And this outreach is astounding, too. The reach and depth of her spirit and tenacity and the hope and love she inspired has been humbling. So many people have felt it. I wonder if that's another reason that I have not fallen apart and the rest of my family has not fallen apart: there are so many sharing in our grief that it's being held for us. We don't have to hold it all. People want to hold it.
As I was writing this post, Dad called to read me two letters that he received today. One was from a former coworker and old friend that was beautiful and meant so much to him. The other was a long letter from Dr. H, Mom's doctor at the Kline, which brought me to tears. She spoke of how Mom changed her as a doctor, how our family inspired her, how Mom is so missed. She spoke of growing professionally from having cared for Mom and what an honor it was. This was so humbling to me. That this brilliant, busy physician not only felt these things but took the time to write them and send sympathy...we feel so fortunate that Mom had such loving care throughout her illness.
As I work out my grief process in my head (and out loud to anyone who is near enough to listen), I talk about this blog and how it needs to have an end. When discussing the idea of reworking all of this into a memoir, Gary gets very protective and doesn't want anyone to edit anything I've written, fearing it would equate my emotions being edited. Dad ruefully said that he loves the idea, but that no one will believe it. No one could believe Mom's attitude in the face of everything. I think that may be true. I promise that I haven't taken creative license with it, and that's part of what made her so damn special, but it's almost an anomaly of human nature. To have all of the things you love about life taken away from you and still love life.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Yom Kippur. I did not fast, I did not go to services, I did not even listen to streaming services as I pretended I might do earlier in the week. I am ritual-ed out. Or maybe just more interested in creating my own new ones.
One thing is clear: I am ready to loosen my grip on the nightly writing. I am thinking of dropping down to a few times a week, or even once a week. But I won't write tomorrow. I need more time right now to collect my thoughts and need to create more space for the Pea. I need to put more energy into our lives changing drastically and think about what that will mean and how we will manage it. Last night all my dreams were baby dreams, for the first time in almost my entire pregnancy. Clearly, my mind is shifting and I need to honor that.
I just finished an amazing book, Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin. I recommend this to anyone who is expecting, or just wants to be reaffirmed in all the beauty and miracles of life. The first half is all birth stories, just tales of ordinary people bringing their children into the world. But every birth is magical and every new baby changes the course of the universe. She finishes the stories with a small section "what to do if your child dies." Now, losing a parent is nowhere near as heart wrenching, tragic or impossible to deal with as losing a child. But she has some beautiful and practical words about grief that spoke to me:
Grief has its own dignity. To feel it makes you telepathic with everyone else who has ever mourned, and it makes you more compassionate of others. Hold on tight to your family. Losing someone dear to you is one of the risks you take in loving anyone at all. If you keep your heart open, the rawness of the hurt will go away in time. This is how healing happens.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Tonight is Kol Nidre, the beginning of the holiest of holy days of the Jewish calendar. Traditionally, you fast for 24 hours, from sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow, taking a small cleanse for your body, concentrating on repentance, forgiveness and beginning anew. I was planning to mark this holiday with something special, even though I won't be fasting this year, but found that I wasn't able to. No meditations came, no rush of energy, no connections to all the others across the world who are taking part in these rituals. I just wanted to walk.
So we walked a couple of miles. That was my exercise for the day-I am trying to work out only five days a week these days and have defaulted to Wednesdays and Fridays as my days "off." Walking was exactly what I needed to do and felt like the only thing possible.
I don't know if this is grief, or apathy, or the way I usually approach the holidays. Everyone keeps asking how I am and I really don't know. I think I am okay. I think I am handling everything well. I can't tell if I will fall apart at a later date or if I fell apart last December and have been putting myself back together ever since in a way that I can live without Mom.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Gary and I finally caught up on our prenatal appointments this morning and saw our wonderful midwife. And before we started anything, she just looked at us across our kitchen table (seriously, homebirth prenatal appointments are so awesome!) and said "I never met your mom, but in hearing about her from you both, and seeing how you are about your lives and your baby, I can just feel what an amazing woman she was."
What a gift to be reminded that our parents always live on in us. Not that we're aware of it, not that we even notice. But somehow that energy is there. I've had a number of people share this with me in the past few weeks. Even if they didn't know her, they feel like they do. She inspired them, she taught them, she filled them with gratitude for their blessings...one friend, recently back from her daughter's wedding, emailed me how thankful she was to bear witness. That literally just seeing her daughter on her wedding day gave her so much joy. Most of us consider this a given. But Mom's blindness on my wedding day reminded her to appreciate what would ordinarily be taken for granted. Imagine if each of us adopted some form of this once in a while. To be thankful for such minute details. To appreciate seeing your partner's smile, to appreciate feeling sunshine on your skin, that your legs can carry you to your next location.
Mom was always a beauty. I was not. She never struggled with her appearance. I complained constantly about feeling fat, various body parts being larger than they should be, or just overall the wrong shape. And Mom would always chide me: "your body is perfect; it's healthy!" Never have I appreciated this until now. Honestly. Never until this moment, being 7 months pregnant, seeing my belly swell with movement and still being able to run (albeit slowly and with lots of bathroom breaks) did I appreciate the gift of an intact body. What a lot of time wasted. What a lot of time ahead to practice gratitude.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I still have a stack of cards that aren't open, emails that I haven't read, let alone responded to. I have to meter everything out. I have to pace myself. I wonder if we missed out by not sitting shiva. Though in some ways, I have been sitting shiva for nine months. When Mom was first diagnosed, I was completely lost. I was spinning out of control, furious with people and situations that didn't deserve my wrath, prone to sobbing jags every night and oscillating between learning everything I could about the situation and complete denial.
As the months wore on, and I grew closer with my family (both of origin and new married family), my extremes mellowed. I loved talking with both my parents every night. I loved seeing my Seattle family so often. By the last trip I made, I was actually looking forward to being on the airplane, out of touch for six hours, nothing to do but sit, read and relax. Relinquishing control.
In some ways, I feel like this experience taught me all of the lessons that I needed to learn, everything I struggled against and wouldn't have understood any other way. We have been given gifts of unimaginable measure. We have strengthened bonds, we have opened our hearts, we have felt love so much deeper than we realized. Some days I am truly grateful for all the learning. Some days I rage against it, sure that Mom didn't need to be sacrificed to see all the beauty we witnessed.
I am trying to practice acceptance. It's going okay so far. But I don't think I've come anywhere near feeling the magnitude of what has happened.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I have been relieved to be home. Back at work, back to appointments (we had a lot of Pea appointments to catch up on this week), back to the familiar farmer's markets, back to our bed. But being here also allows me the indulgence of denial. I'm not going through Mom's clothes or jewelry. I'm not helping clean out the drawers, finding old photos, old letters, old mementos. I plan to help with some of it when I go back this winter, but I don't honestly know how realistic that will be. How much help I could possibly be to Dad with a newborn to attend to...or how much will be left to do when I am finally able to come. I'm not sure what I'll find when I am there next. I don't know what it's like to live every day in their house, surrounded by ghosts.
Monday, October 3, 2011
The seasons are different in New York. The two and a half weeks that I spent in Seattle were truly the turning of summer to autumn: the trees had a bit more scarlet every day that I spent there. I literally watched the green be eclipsed. Back home, the change hasn't started, or at least hasn't gotten as far. I don't know what makes the leaves turn when they do, but it does feel a little like going back in time. Scheduling a client this morning, I was shocked to see that it's October. October. How did this happen?
A friend from childhood re-posted a blog link on his facebook page, letting "friends" of his who aren't "friends" of mine know about Mom. He said she passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. I have been mulling this over, this sense of time. And talking with Dad this evening, he mentioned it, too. The perception of time is interesting. It was a long battle. It was the blink of an eye. Dad said today that sometimes it feels as though one hundred years have passed since he grocery shopped, cooked dinner and was home on the couch. And sometimes it's completely unimaginable how quickly everything happened. That less than a year ago Mom was vibrant, riding her bike, enjoying the fall colors, anticipating the possibility that Gary and I would get engaged (oh, yeah, it hasn't been a year since that milestone, either). I don't know if this is some riff on the Theory of Relativity, or if it's akin to the parenting mantra that "the days are long but the years are short" or if this is just human nature to forget how painful the pain is so that we can go on living, but I suspect that it's a function of grief and loss.
My dreams of Mom have shifted in the past couple of days. I had been dreaming of her as she was, sick and incapacitated in some way. But last night, I dreamt that she was her whole, healthy self. Her hair was long, she could see, she was sitting upright, unassisted and we were just having a conversation, but she was very sad. I hope that these continue to evolve and, in time, she will appear in my dreams as I hope to remember her most: joyful, active and enjoying herself. Loving life as she always did.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Today I am grateful for things that I have and moments I got to experience. I slept in today, finally waking at 9:30 to the feeling of thumps in my belly. It's really a bizarre experience, having something moving inside of you. So far, in my seventh month of pregnancy, I've never experienced pain or extreme discomfort caused by the Pea. I enjoy her movements; they makes me less anxious. Today was the first time her kicking (or head-butting-who really knows?) actually woke me up, but it was a nice feeling (probably because it was at 9:30 and not 3:30). And I was so happy that Mom got to feel her move, too. In her last week, I would unexpectedly grab Mom's hand whenever the Pea started dancing to have Mom feel. And Mom would take every opportunity when she was eye level with my belly to rub it and talk to the baby. While I know the Pea will not have any memories of this time, I know that she heard Mom's voice. Mom and I both know that we felt her move.
It's not enough, it's not what I wanted or what we planned, but it's what we got. And it's so much better than nothing.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Writing this now feels like an addiction. There are no more updates on Mom, no more good days to be celebrated, no more bad days to get through. Or at least not in the same sense. I'm sure my family will have more good days and more bad days; the rest of us are all still on this journey. But I can see these posts morphing into updates on us, on me, on our individual and collective grieving processes and maybe this isn't the appropriate forum. But, as I said, I'm a bit attached and addicted to the writing right now and not yet ready to stop.
Soon. But not just yet.
I am back home in NY, and went to work today. After being away for two and a half weeks, I had a lot to catch up on and a lot to sort through. A similar, though smaller, avalanche of condolence cards sits on my dining room table, mirroring Dad's dining room table.
Dad attempted to (and succeeded in) have(ing) a busy, social and enjoyable Saturday-a round of golf in the morning and the Nebraska game in the afternoon. I'm so proud of the way he is handling everything. He is choosing to enjoy the things he loves. He acknowledges the waves of emotion that come up and doesn't push them away. He talks to his friends and family. His eyes well up, he is angry, he is heartbroken, he is making arrangements, he is planning for the future, he is finding joy and beauty in what is left over. He is looking forward to things.
Ross is back at school, full force. He is preparing for an awesome independent study course this quarter, he is seeing friends a lot, he is receiving the support he needs and deserves.
And I am okay. I'm actually concerned with how okay I am. I don't know if I'm in denial or if I've been grieving for so long now that I truly am relieved that there's no more pain, no more unknowns. But I feel okay. I am sleeping, I am laughing, I am enjoying making future plans. I got to spend so much time with my family over the past nine months. I spent every other night of my last trip with Mom, and every day. I trimmed her fingernails, I rubbed her back, we talked politics, we sang to my belly. We entertained guests. We said "I love you" constantly. I don't know if there will ever be a point where I really know in my bones that she's gone forever. I'm sure I have a lot of magical thinking to do. I'm sure there will be many sudden impact moments where it will hit me violently and I'll lose my train of thought and all joy for a while.
But for now, we are hanging in there. We have an amazing support system, the same one that got us through the past nine months. The people who have done our laundry, brought in Starbucks every morning, called to check in, emailed anecdotes, texted just to say "I'm thinking of you"...they're all still here. And they are still doing what they've always done. And I suspect that's the real reason any of us are doing as well as we are.
Friday, September 30, 2011
As far back as I can remember, you have been in my life. My mom tells me that you were at my first birthday party, the first of many celebrations we would share throughout our lives. Our friendship began as two little girls playing with baby dolls, who we later abandoned for Barbie and Ken dolls, who we eventually ditched for our newest interest -- BOYS! So many boys had a crush on you, from early grade school days through high school. But who could blame them? You had a face like an angel. You were flirty. A jokester. Fun and daring. AND you were sweet, caring and kind. I think that's why, in spite of being envious that guys followed you around like lost puppy dogs, girls couldn't hate you. You were just so nice!
Flynnie, I hope you smile as I share some memories from our childhood. These little snapshots in time make ME smile as I remember how fun and exciting it was to be with you , no matter what we were doing. In fact, if you had a theme song it might be "Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy!"
First, here is a bad girl story. We are at Mark's bar mitzvah party which is in the synagogue's party room. You and I leave the party and sneak into the junior congregation sanctuary to make out with our boyfriends who are waiting for us on the bimah. We are scared to death that God is going to strike us down with lightening and we feel really, really guilty, although that doesn't shorten our make out session!
Story number two: "A Picnic Surprise". We're about 14 or 15 and we're at your house packing a picnic lunch to take on a hike into the woods with our boyfriends. These of course are different boyfriends than in the previous story. Your mom suggests that we take a special dessert as a prank on the boys. We think it's a great idea. After a lovely all American lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and apples, we ask the boys if they want to try a special dessert. They anxiously say "yes" probably with something else in mind. We open up a pop top can and hand them what appears to be unusually shaped small chunks of chocolate and then we stifle our giggles as we wait for them to take a bite. After both boys have finished swallowing, you and I burst out laughing and shout "YOU GUYS JUST ATE CHOCOLATE COVERED ANTS!!!"... I think they broke up with us on the spot. It's funny though and what's just as funny is wondering where did your mom buy chocolate covered ants and why?
Story number three: "Just Dance". You, Donna and I are in the main sanctuary at the synagogue practicing for our triple bat mitzvah. You declare that it 's important we not only practice chanting our Hebrew prayers and reciting our speeches, but that we also practice walking up and down the ten steps leading to the bimah. After all, you remind us, we 're going to be nervous on our bat mitzvah day and need to be prepared for anything, which in your crazy, fun world translates to choreographing a dance in case we need to cover up from tripping on our way up or down the steps.
So, we spend most of our time making up dances on the steps to the bimah, instead of standing on the bimah reading our Hebrew! Fortunately or unfortunately, none of us get to show off our dance moves - we all manage the steps without a problem. Our problem, however, besides each of us waking up that morning with a zit in the middle of our foreheads, is fighting the urge to look at each other and laugh hysterically when Rabbi Hyatt addresses us as he does with all bar and mitzvah, rocking up and down on his heels saying: " My dear bat mitzvah, today is your bat mitzvah..."
Flynne, I cherish that day when you, Donna and I became bat mitzvah sisters.
There's another story, but it's not appropriate to tell in a group setting. So, come see me later if you want to hear about the pickle bag.
Flynne, while many boys had crushes on you, nothing made me happier than when you found the true love of your life. You and Bob built such a beautiful life together, raised extraordinary children and developed an amazing network of friends. I have learned that people we love never really go away. Your love lives on through those you leave behind and through all the good you created in this world. I will always love you, my dear bat mitzvah sister.
When we think of Flynne, our dear friend of almost 23 years, the words just seem to flow. Words about what an incredible person she was and the example she set just by being herself. We were struck by her grace and gentleness, and her limitless capacity for caring about others. She formed powerful and lasting friendships and never let distance or time come between her and her many circles of friends. She always called on your birthday, asked us to let her know if we arrived safely when we traveled, and wanted to hear all about our trips when we got back, and we mean ALL. She was genuinely interested. Following one recent rainy Hawaiian vacation, two friends received texts that read, “dear Hawaiian tropical rain goddesses, wanted to welcome you back to sunny Seattle. Really missed you & can’t wait to see you! Love, Flynne.”
Flynne had a generosity of spirit that she incorporated into every aspect of her life, and that generosity extended to everything on the planet. She was ahead of her time in “thinking green” – re-purposing items and keeping things “just in case” she found further uses for them. She loved shopping and would touch everything, especially fabric; not to buy, but for the tactile experiences and ideas that came from doing so. She had her own sense of style, for example: a pair of pants, just a simple t-shirt, the perfect scarf and great shoes. She knew herself so well.
Flynne was always quick to embrace new ideas, whether it was magnetic mattresses and shoe supports or anything. When she became sick, she was not afraid to try new things to help her heal – yoga, chi qong, herbal teas, ginger chews, etc. If she thought it would help, she was game!
When we were raising our daughters, we would look to Flynne for sage advice, marveling at her patience in dealing with free-spirited Aynsley and Ross’s food challenges. Aynsley spray painted her car? Flynne loved the colors. Ross was on his 2,643, 502 peanut butter sandwich? At least it was protein. She knew not to sweat the small stuff and we looked up to her. She had an innate sense of how to deal with teenage angst and we wanted to emulate her. She made us all want to be better – better parents, better women, better friends. She had the most positive attitude! Even when she fought the hardest battle imaginable, she never complained.
Time with Flynne was a gift, never more so than during this past year. We cherished our special visits with her – when time and space were suspended and all that mattered was being together, gentle touches and always, always lots of “I love yous”.
Flynne embodied attributes that each of us will cherish forever:
* say “thank you”
* respect everyone
* stay positive
* laughter is always appropriate
* graciously receive love, support and help
* you can rise above your circumstances
* don’t give up
* cherish your health
* don’t put it off, whatever “it” is – do it
And the only thing left to say is what we all already know: Flynne made it easy to love her – we do and we always will.
Whenever Flynnie's name is mentioned, even among people who only met her a few times, the typical response is “Flynne, what a sweetheart!” That she was: a sweetheart in every way. Everyone admired her natural beauty, her smile that lit up a room, her easygoing Midwest charm, her natural athleticism and her love of outdoor adventures—particularly those that involved water, biking, hiking and sunshine.
On many occasions, we thought this girl must have been a dolphin or a mermaid in a former life - she took to the water as though she had gills. One of Fynnie’s favorite summer weekend activities was playing on our dock in Lake Washington. After her morning chores, Flynne would arrive at our front door, towel in hand, armed with a book and fresh figs, or whatever treat she had scored at the farmer’s market that morning. She would walk through the front door, eye the lake, and dart right out the back door picking up speed. Within seconds we would see and hear a splash. Flynne had leaped off the dock—in perfect diving form I might add–and before long we would see a little blond head bobbing and squealing with delight in Lake Washington.
If there was an activity on or in the water, she was all over it. One year, Seattle Parks and Recreation offered windsurfing classes. Flynne said, “Count me in.” I thought I might have to provide a little extra tutoring for her since I had taken sailing lessons already. What was I thinking? She had a natural understanding of tacking, jibing and wind patterns. Not surprisingly, she outpaced me and everyone else in the class and was sailing across the water in no time. She said she loved the wind in her hair and the feeling that it was like walking on water. I was convinced that she could sail from our dock to Mercer Island in a cocktail dress, and walk off her sailboard bone dry.
Flynne would drive Bob to distraction with her athletic antics every once in awhile. If you know Bob, you also know that he is far more comfortable on the greens than in the water. But in the afternoons, after his pilgrimage to Newcastle, Bob would arrive on the dock, too. In his inimitable protective way, Bob would carry the sailboard to the water’s edge for Flynne, and strongly suggest that she not go out of his sight. Once Flynne was afloat, he would watch her like a hawk from the dock. But one time the wind beckoned Flynnie south and out of Bob's visual field. Panicking, Bob came running to the house to assemble a rescue mission with the speed boat. It didn't take long to find Flynnie. She was fine, taking a little break while floating on the sailboard, just soaking in the sun and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Any body of water was fair game for Flynne. One summer following a concert at the Gorge, several families caravanned to Soap Lake in Eastern Washington. Upon learning that the mud in Soap Lake had rich mineral properties that rejuvenated your skin, she galloped into the Lake, despite its sulphurous odor, and within minutes had slathered her body with mud, all the while laughing and frolicking, summoning the rest of us to mud-up. Fresh water, salt water, all of it was her playground.
Speaking of salt water, Flynne loved to travel to foreign lands. She relished her trips with Bob and her business trips to Asia. When she traveled to Israel, one of the high points was floating on top of the water in the Dead Sea. And during a trip to Vietnam, she rode on a Vietnamese wooden fishing boat to take her to Ha Long Bay, where she continued to explore the Karst Islands in a tiny sea kayak so that she could experience the small channels. She was ecstatic.
No river was too scary or too rapid for Flynnie. One river rafting trip on the Tieton was particularly frightful. When the rest of us were clutching the lines for dear life, knuckles white, there was Flynne with her arms in the air, squealing with delight like a teen on her first roller coaster.
Her love of the outdoors extended far beyond water. She loved long walks and hikes. She was always cajoling the rest of us to plod up Somerset, following her like she was a Sherpa that couldn’t care less about elevation. In fact, last Thanksgiving, which was right before her diagnosis, she organized a hike with her friends and family into the foothills of Palm Springs, outpacing all of them. If Flynne happened to pass an appealing pasture while she was on a hike or a bike ride, she would be on that field in a heartbeat, performing her signature maneuver – the Kirshenbaum cartwheel -- whooping it up the whole time. Imagine a fifty-something woman who could still do a nonstop sequence of perfect cartwheels, just like a high school cheerleader! We all thought she would be doing cartwheels at 90.
She participated in several bike races to raise money for MS in addition to her pleasure rides–the trail around South Seattle to Seward Park was her favorite. I couldn’t keep up with her anymore, so I bought myself a hybrid bike that allowed me to supplement peddle power with electric power through a battery pack attached to the bike. One time we rode from downtown Seattle through Magnolia, with Discovery Park in mind as our destination. But halfway up an arduous hill, Flynnie’s bike chain broke. She didn’t want to end the day without seeing the magnificent Olympic mountain vista, so she hopped on the back of my electric bike like a schoolgirl and pointed uphill. I put my hybrid into high gear and we coursed up that hill like Bonnie and Clyde, laughing all the way.
Everyone here has been touched by our sweetheart Flynne. I haven’t even begun to talk about how talented she was as a designer and seamstress, or how much she loved the theatre, the arts, reading, sustainability, locally grown food, her family, rock and roll, and the naked bicycle riders in the Fremont summer solstice parade. Not to mention her killer matzo ball soup. But given the people here, her remarkable kids, the outpouring of love, the steady flow of memories that people shared in the blog, all of us here have experienced her extraordinary spirit. And for the rest of our lives, whenever we watch the fireworks or the Blue Angels flying over Lake Washington, or see a graceful windsurfer, a beautiful organic strawberry, or a talented yoga instructor, we will remember Flynnie: her classic deep chuckle, her smiling eyes and her dolphin-like squeal.
Flynne and Bob were soul mates, each the love of the other’s life, but she was everyone’s sweetheart.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Mom had a special calendar that was put out every Thursday by a special friend. It would have all of the available time spots to spend with her for the upcoming week so Dad could go to work and allowed her tight knit group of friends to sign up for 2 1/2 hour chunks of time to spend with her. If I was going to be in town, I would request people to come to either relieve Dad at 8am so I could sleep in a bit and work out, or to come at 10:30 if I was spending the night so I could run out and grab breakfast and lunch at PCC. And people would negotiate with me, asking if they could just come anyway, not wanting to miss their shift.
Today was the first Thursday in almost 8 months that there wasn't a calendar attached.
But there was an email. Instead of reminding friends of a chemo appointment or a special visit, there was this request: "pull out your calendars, take a look at the week ahead, and create your own block of time to do something loving for yourself or for another friend who could use a hug"
Another special person who reached out to me very early on to tell me stories of hope, love and heartbreak reminds me on a consistent basis to "rock myself gently."
And everyone who I've been saying goodbye to in the past few days has been reminding me to take care of myself and my family.
But these are good reminders for you, too. To anyone who has been following this blog since the beginning or anytime up until now: I hope you realize that no matter your situation, it is precious and temporary. This has been a trying and heartbreaking year for so many of us, for so many different reasons. We've lost so much. And yet, we've gained, too. I have had moments of sheer joy. I have come to Gary on numerous occasions, scared that we're never going to be as happy as we are at this exact moment. I had conversations with Mom that never would have taken place. I would never have realized the strength of my parent's marriage, their devotion to each other and to my brother and me.
What I'm trying to say is that I hope that you'll take some time in the next few hours or days or weeks and honor Mom's memory by doing something loving for yourself. And by doing something loving for someone else. Whatever it is, make it a priority and make it special. And if it feels good and right, make it a habit.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
And now begin the difficult days. The days when we have to start going back to our lives. Dad has the biggest adjustment, for sure. He's been sleeping on mattresses on the floor or cots with renegade springs every night for the last 9 months. He hasn't gone anywhere but the house, work, the Kline or the hospital. He hasn't stopped worrying about Mom's comfort. But Ross and I have adjustments, too. Ross started back to school today. I'll fly home on Friday and won't be back to Seattle until after the baby is born. This feels like a really long time, especially since I've been coming back every three weeks for the past six months. I'll start having more and more moments that I want to share with Mom and am unable to.
Already, today, I was proud of the outfit that I threw together for Rosh Hashana services with a combination of my own clothes that I packed (remember that I was anticipating being in Seattle for a week and it's spilled into two and a half. And when I was packing, it was 80 degrees both in NY and Seattle) and clothes that I pilfered from Mom's closet and was pretty pleased with myself. Every time I manage to put together an outfit that I think she would be proud of, I want to tell her about it. And up until she lost her vision, I would always send her a photo for final approval. So today, ready to go to temple, I almost called for her to approve my look. It's strange to be in the house with Dad and Ross and not her. In some ways, it's easy; I can almost pretend she's in a different room or on a trip. But I can't really sustain that for long before I notice the bags of cranes, the piles of sympathy cards, the bouquets of flowers, her clothes still in boxes packed up from the Kline.
Today begins the difficult days. The out of town well-wishers have left, Gary went home today, I should log back into my work email tomorrow. Soon enough, we will be back in our daily grinds. Dad will go back to work. The Pea will grow bigger. Ross will get engrossed in school. And there will forever be a hole in our hearts.
And now, a shout out. Mom's supervisor at Eddie Bauer dropped off an amazing gift basket this evening while we were at services. It's full of adorable baby gear: ridiculously adorable clothes, a very generous gift card, tiny little nail clippers, the cutest little bath towel you've ever seen (it has ears!), etc. And we got a separate letter that they made an extremely generous donation to the Metropolitan Seattle Sickle Cell Task Force. Mom's coworkers have just been amazing and gone out of their way throughout her illness to offer their support and well wishes. Tonight we were humbled by their love and good will. Thank you thank you thank you to all of you wonderful people who were lucky enough to spend 8+ hours a day for the past few years with Mom.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Though I was dreading today as something just to get through, I made an effort to try to be present whenever possible. I spent my wedding so focused on Mom, her comfort, getting through the day as quickly as possible and really getting everything done with that I have very few memories of the actual day. As soon as that was over, I realized that I hadn't been paying attention and I missed out on enjoying a very special day.
I didn't want to do that today.
So I spent the day testing the limits of waterproof mascara (it's come a long way) and enjoying the numerous well wishers. I saw people I hadn't seen in 20 years, 15 years, 10 years...I knew that would happen and thought it would push me over the edge but instead I found comfort in it. It was wonderful to see how many people showed up for Dad, who maybe didn't know Mom that well, but who were there to support him. It made me feel less anxious about leaving him on Friday. Especially knowing that this will probably be my last trip before Gary and I come out with the Pea next year.
There were five eulogies today. I completely forgot to ask Mom's friends for copies of their words, so I'll leave you with Ross's and mine.
I want to thank everyone for coming here today and celebrating my mom's life. I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming support and love, and helping us get through these last nine months. It was truly in my mom's spirit and in the true spirit of all of you.
My mom taught me the value of education, taking care of yourself, taking care of others, sticking up for people. Patience. The values of not being wasteful, of truly appreciating life, no matter what it hands you.
Finding beauty in love, friendship, happiness; and finding beauty in sorrow.
This is how my mom lived.
My mom was an adventurer. Never afraid to try something new. When together, we explored, whether it be places, people or ideas. It's that curious spirit which I feel the most in me now, too.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my hip. As soon as the MRI results came in, my doctor called me and told me to get off my leg immediately; I was not to walk, stand or put any weight on it at all for at least a month. I was devastated and called my mom for some sympathy. None came. Instead, she told me that maybe this experience would make me more empathetic towards other people who had mobility issues. Maybe this experience would make me a better trainer when I came out of it.
I was so pissed.
But now I understand. First of all, she was 100% right, on all points. Second, this was self-inflicted, curable, heal-able and in the grand scheme of things, not that big a deal. A learning experience and a temporary inconvenience. Not a time for self-indulgent self pity.
Growing up, there were many of these moments. My mom would irritate me by consistently doing the right thing. Her motto was that if you’re the parent of a teenager and that teenager likes you, you’re not doing your job as a parent. So there were many occasions where I didn’t like her so much. All my friends, however, adored her. One of my longest, best friends who has known my mom since 4th grade sent me this: “As a child I remember her creative energy - sponge painting the walls, making cookies for us kids, listening with a careful ear to all of our stories. Once I grew older, I think of her in my apartment in Jerusalem, laughing easily with my friends, the same motherly figure but now a friend.”
She transcended age boundaries, my friends were her friends, Ross’s friends were her friends. She was magnetic, everyone wanted to spend time with her. Throughout her illness, I would hear from childhood friends, college friends, far flung people who knew and remembered her fondly. All the women had stories of her kindness, her beauty, her humor. All the men were in love with her at some point.
I have really struggled with defining her with through her illness. I don’t identify her as a cancer victim, I feel very removed from cancer as a concept. BUT, the way she handled her illness, the way she lived her life in the last year of it has taught me so much. When I think about the reality that I will be embarking on my journey as a mother without my mother’s guidance, it’s too much grief to bear. So I think of all the preparation she gave me this year. Patience. Total and complete loss of control of what happens to us all. Lack of sleep. Accepting help, accepting gifts, accepting love, accepting support. And so I know that when my child arrives, she’s already equipped me with everything I need to know.