Thirty years is a long time for anything.
If you get to 30 years of marriage, people cheer for you. If you live to the age of 30 years, people celebrate with you. If you make it to your 30th high school reunion, people reminisce with you.
However, when 30 years goes by after losing someone you love, nobody cheers, nobody celebrates and nobody reminisces with you.
30 years ago today, my mom died after a nasty fight with mesothelioma - cancer from asbestos. She was 49 years old. I was 17 years old.
You want to know the worst part of my final memories of my mom, other than how ravaged she was from the cancer?
Our last time together, we fought. The last time I spoke with my mom, we had an argument.
I remember what the argument was about, too.
She was mad at me, because I was late getting home. My younger sister had been caring for her all day, and I was supposed to get home at a certain time to take over. (Mom was bedridden and needed round the clock care).
What Mom didn't know and didn't ask was why I was late. I had been at my boyfriend's home, talking to his mom. I was sharing my fears and concerns about going back to school at Marquette University, 90 miles from home.
I already felt like I'd dumped a huge burden on my sister by leaving 10 days earlier, so I had come home over the long Labor Day weekend. I should have stayed at school.
Back then, there were no cellphones. I couldn't just send a text to say "I'm running late." When I realized the time, I went home.
That's when we argued. What I said didn't matter. In her eyes, I had been rude to my sister, even though my concern for my sister was why I was late.
We left it there. We shouldn't have. We should have talked more, but I was hurt and she was exhausted, so I spent the rest of my free time that weekend in my room.
Returning to school was a relief and a stressor. I attended classes that next Tuesday, September 3rd, 1985, then returned to my dorm room to study.
I fell asleep on my books, and was awakened by the dorm chaplain. She came to tell me that earlier that day, Mom had died.
The chaplain was a sweet woman. I wish I could remember her name. She held me while I cried, then helped me call my boyfriend's family so they could come pick me up and bring me home.
These plans had been put in place just two weeks prior when I'd arrived at school, because we knew Mom likely wouldn't last much longer.
Knowing what to do made doing it simplier, but not easier.
School went on without me while I was home that week for the wake and funeral.
I was miserably happy to go back to school when that week was over, but the tone for the school year was set. It was a mostly awful year.
After freshman year, I transferred out and got my degrees someplace else.
Looking back to 30 years ago is hard. Most of my memories of Mom are from when she was sick, and that's really hard.
The hardest part of losing Mom when I was 17 is that we never got to know each other as adults.
Our last relational phase was with me as a teenager. Forgive my language, but that just sucks. Nobody's last relationship with anyone should be when one or more of them are teenagers.
My life, from that point forward, went in a very different direction than she would have liked.
I got my degree, which she would have approved of, but I got it in music and communications. Not sure she'd have been too pleased with that.
I became a paramedic; I know for a fact she didn't want me to do that. She told me so a long time prior.
I became a firefighter which she would have hated.
I married a man whom I think she would have really liked, even if it took her a little while to warm up to him. She would have loved my girls, her grandchildren. I would have loved seeing her as a grandma.
I left the Catholic Church and became a born-again Christian. She would have freaked, at least for a little while, but I think she'd have come around on that one eventually.
She'd like that I still sing and play the piano. She'd like that I'm a good cook. She'd like that I'm a good mom and that I stayed home with my girls as long as I did before going back to work.
Would she be proud of me? Would she visit me? Would she want to spend time with me and my family? Would we chat on the phone? Daily? Weekly? I'd hope so, but I don't know for sure.
The not knowing is what makes missing her hurt so much, even 30 years later.
Grief is a terrible, funny thing. Just when you think you've got it "handled", it sneaks up and kicks you in the gut, leaving you breathless and in pain.
So, once again, this year, the 30th one, I will sit here thinking of her, wondering about the "coulda, shoulda, woulda's", crying some tears of loss, then, I'll take a deep breath, and go on, just like I've done for the previous 29.
Miss you Mom. See you in the Kingdom.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Revelation 21:4 (NLT)
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Have you lost someone you love and wonder what they'd think of you today?
Tell me about it here, then come by my Facebook page for love and encouragement!
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