A lonely Mother’s Day
Sunday was Mother’s Day, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t have anyone to call.
There was no breakfast buffet, no presents to give, no social media posts to share.It was just another day, one that was — perhaps fittingly — gloomy and overcast.
My grandmother died years ago, and my wife, the mother of my two stepdaughters, died in 2016. My mother died on October 15, 2020, after contracting the COVID-19 virus.
The disease took her quickly, striking just days after her 73rd birthday on Sept. 1. She went to the hospital on Sept. 5 complaining of a headache and shortness of breath, tested positive for the virus and, after being initially sent home with orders to return if her symptoms worsened, was admitted on Sept. 9. By Sept. 12, she was in need of a ventilator. Her last words to me, via phone, were, “We’ll be all right.”
She spent two weeks in the COVID ICU before being transferred to the medical ICU, where I was finally able to see her, talk to her and hold her hand. The doctors did their best to get her to wake up and come off the ventilator, but multiple organ failures and an inability to breathe on her own complicated matters. By the end, there was nothing else left to try. The doctors laid out the remaining options for me — none of which lined up with my mother’s wishes — and asked me to make a decision about the way forward.
It took me two days to wrap my head around everything and reconcile her wishes with what I wanted. No matter how I approached it, I couldn’t make them match up. I talked with her doctors and set a date for the ventilator to be removed. I sat with her for hours before it happened, holding her hand and begging her to wake up.
I continued to sit with her, talking to her, yelling at her, crying over her and praying for her for hours.
Eventually, I became a liar. I told her it was OK. She could rest. I’d be all right. When the time came, I lied again, telling the doctors I was ready. In less than 20 minutes, she was gone.
She was laid to rest a few days later next to my grandparents in Charleston, Mo.
I was inconsolable. For more than 49 years, she’d been my shelter, my rock, my foundation. She was the one I could always count on to offer support, lend a hand, have my back and deliver a swift kick in the butt when necessary.
I was annoyed by her, amused by her, oftentimes frustrated by her. In short, I loved her. She was my mother, the only parent I had. During her life, she showed me strength, compassion, courage, determination and so much more.
She taught me how people should be treated, how to stand up for myself and how to forgive. She made me the man I am today. Well, mostly. Some of it is my fault.
“I taught you better than that,” she’d say, shaking her head in mild disappointment or barely contained laughter, depending on the situation. I always aimed for the latter. Making her smile — making her proud of me — was always my goal.
I can only hope I did and can continue to do that. I’d like nothing better than to see her smile again.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you.