Friday, August 11, 2017

Lost My Mind When I Lost My Mom

It was like any other day really. After I was done with work, I grabbed my keys and headed downtown to grab some fresh salmon and veggies from the local farm market. Mom loved when I made my baked salmon over broccoli rabe. I wanted to make her something special. I hadn't slept in quite a few days, but felt the need to do something nice for her. All week, something was happening to me. I was having anticipatory grief due to Mom's illness worsening. In fact, a few days before I had a complete meltdown because I spent the entire night in the living room with her, watching her rock back and forth in pain before the meds kicked in. When they finally did kick in, I would then hear her labored breathing, which was a new one for me. As I kept an eye on her, at one point, her positioning was so twisted and visibly uncomfortable, that I wondered if there was something she wasn't telling me. I knew she was very ill and that she had exhausted all of her options of treatment, but something was much different this time. She was different -- her entire personality had changed, because that's what pain does to you. It changes the person you once were. That killed me. So my anticipatory grief kicked in, and so did my insomnia. I already missed my mom.

As I drove down the road, tears were streaming down my face. Would she be well enough to sit at the dinner table with me? Would she even eat? Would she be...okay? I only got the salmon because I knew how much she enjoyed it. Madelene typically hates any kind of fish and thinks all of it is tainted somehow or another by her conspiracy theories (which is cute) but...not. The market was crowded and it took a long time to order my stuff. As I was driving back home, I started nodding off, almost hitting a tree on the side of the road. I decided to pull over and have myself a good cry before I drove home. I made sure my makeup wasn't running down my face and wiped off the leftover tears on my cheeks. I couldn't have her know that I cried like this all the time. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. I have to be happy. And I tried. When I walked inside the door, she was lying on the couch watching TV. I sat down even before putting the food away because I had a crazy dizzy spell.

"You OK, mommy?" mom asked. She always called her daughters "mommy" -- just like Latinas call their daughters and loved ones, "mama" or "ma" and even, "mamacita."
"I don't know, ma. Maybe we can order Chinese tonight?" And she agreed.
"I promise I'll cook the salmon tomorrow for us. I'm so sleep deprived."

My mom was easy-going with everything. I ordered takeout Chinese and her last dinner here at the house was sweet and sour chicken with pork lomein. Later that night around 11pm, she called me from her bedroom.

"Deb? Can you come down?"

I was almost asleep for the first time in three days. I crawled downstairs, barely seeing anything in front of me because my eyes were so blurry and I was so incredibly disoriented. When I saw my mother downstairs, she was still in her housecoat standing near the bar area in our living room.

"Come here, Debbie." she said. with her arms extended out.

As I walked up to her, she gave me the biggest hug she ever gave me in her life. As she was squeezing me, she said, "I love you, Debbie and I'm worried about you." I said, "I love you too, mama, and I'm worried about me too!" We both laughed and then she said, "I have to call 911."
She gave me her "goodbye hug."

Mom never wants to call 911. We always have to force it. Something was wrong.

"What's wrong, ma?"
"I think I have a UTI, nothing major."

She never calls 911 for a UTI. She wouldn't even call 911 when she was having chest pains in the past.

Long story short, she was bleeding everywhere and the cancer had worsened to where it was bleeding outward. She didn't tell anyone. She didn't want to burden me with the news that she was progressively getting worse. As the ambulance took her away, somehow, some way, I knew this would be her very last time in this house...our house...our home...our sanctuary.

As I went up to the hospital to visit her, she was eating well and making jokes with the nurse. I was relieved she seemed to be okay. She kept saying, "I wanna go home! Take me home now!" She even told the nurse she wanted to go home and that she didn't need a home health aid, and that I would be caring for her. But at this point, she was such a fall risk that they wouldn't let her out, unless she had a home health aid. Later that night, she called me up and said, "I already miss you! I can't wait to come home!" I said, "Don't worry, I'll pick you up tomorrow if they release you."

The next morning, I called her at around 10am. Something was off...way off. It didn't even feel as though she was the one to pick up the phone. It sounded like someone else picked it up and put it to her ear. It sounded like she was crying in pain.

"Helloooooo?.....Debbie!!!" she cried as if she was being tortured.
"Ma, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
"Ohhhhh it's terrible!!! It's sooooooo terrible!!!"
"I'm coming up now!" and hung up the phone.

I never heard my mother like this.

I immediately called my sisters to ask what happened and was told that her tumor had grown in size, blocking her from going to the bathroom at this point. Her rectal cancer could not be cured nor reversed, neither could the pulmonary embolism living in her left lung. Trying to remove any of these would just simply kill her.

I needed a pep talk from a close friend. As I was on the phone upset, I started to get chest pains. I started to feel dizzy and couldn't breathe. I was advised to call 911 for myself. I guess this was the safest way to get to mom at this point -- we'd both be in the hospital.

As they carted me in, the ER was so overcrowded, that they had to give me a bed that was against the outer wall of a nurse's station. As I had EKGs, blood tests and x-rays done, I got a call from my sister.  I remember I was lying down in my bed just waiting to get a clean bill of health.

"Deb? Mom's not going to be able to come home...she's not supposed to make it through the night."

There was a long silence. The type of silence that explains everything. I felt my heart break into two -- I actually heard my heart crack into half. I was supposed to make salmon with her! I was supposed to take her out to dinner soon! I was supposed to get our outdoor patio set so she could relax outside! I was supposed to... All these 'to dos' were flying through my head -- why was I even thinking about this -- almost like telling God, "No! You can't take her now! We had plans! No!"

As I was sobbing in my bed near the nurse's station, trauma patients being rolled through the doors one by one, leaving trails of blood as they passed my area. I noticed people staring at me -- sad for me, some even really concerned. Why me? People were dying all around us. But they still stared as I covered my face so nobody could see me cry. I felt a hand squeeze my right shoulder.

"Honey, do you need pain medication? Are you okay? I can order some pain meds for relief."
"No, thank you. My mom is dying upstairs. She's not supposed to make it through the night." I said, hoping she would help me from losing my mind or for some miracle to take place. Maybe I'd get a phone call saying, "Deb! They can help her! She's gonna be okay!"

She's gonna be okay.
She's gonna be okay.
She's gonna be okay.

I cried harder, and harder, until I saw boxes of kleenex being thrown at me. A bunch of nurses consoled me, rubbing my shoulder and one holding my ankle explaining how much better the other side was. I didn't want to hear that. I wanted to hear that she has a chance! Don't tell me she's leaving me! I guess that was the beginning of stage 1: Denial.

They released me with a clean bill of health, letting me know stress was the culprit for my hospital visit. I still had my pajamas on because I hadn't jumped in the shower yet. My pain started way before I went to go get ready. So Madelene came to pick me up and we schlepped out of the ER and walked toward the elevators. As we were approaching her room, I felt like I was going to throw up. I opened up the door to see every family member sitting and standing around her. Mom was no longer conscious. I couldn't make her laugh or try to talk with her. Occasionally, she'd let out a moan or two, but that was about it. In my mind, I kept saying, "Ma, wake up! C'mon, Ma! Wake up! We have plans!" But she still remained unconscious. I just wanted her to come back home with me.

Eventually, we had to go home. The doctors couldn't tell us her 'timeframe' really, but it was soon. I decided to get some sleep and come back in the morning. When I got home, I wailed and cried so hard, that I'm almost sure my neighbors could hear me. That night, I cried myself to sleep.

And this is where it gets strange.


I had a dream that I was driving in this old vintage convertible through a field of sunflowers. The sun was going down, but it was still so bright and sunny. I looked over at who was driving and it was my mother who looked like she was back in her 40's! She was strong, tall and had long hair again. She was also driving her old Corvette, to which I found a photo of her in this car after her passing, except she was the one driving!

"Ma! You're driving again!"
"Yeah! And I feel so terrific!"

We drove through that field and smiled so much -- so much joy and no more pain. Our hair was blowing in the wind, my arms were reaching out against the wind -- it was pure heaven. It was the perfect day.

Then I woke up from my dream to a loud noise. It was an owl perched on the ledge of my window making the loudest "hoo-ing" calls inside my bedroom! I looked over at the clock and it read, 4:17 -- my mom's birthday. I looked over at Madelene who was also shocked by the owl and I said, "Mad, she's going home..."

Mom and I collected owls. We started collecting owls when I was around 8 years old. I have owls downstairs, upstairs, in the bathrooms, in my bedroom -- they're everywhere. It was our thing. For her to send an owl to tell me goodbye was just amazing.

But she was still here...

We went back up to the hospital the next day. As we were driving, the song, "Wherever You Will Go," by The Calling. As the song played, tears were streaming down my face, and then I noticed Madelene crying too. She could feel that the song was from my mom as we were driving up to say our final goodbyes.

Here are the lyrics.

So lately, been wondering 
Who will be there to take my place 
When I'm gone you'll need love to light the shadows on your face 
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all 
Then between the sand and stone, could you make it on your own 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, 
I'll go wherever you will go 
And maybe, I'll find out 
A way to make it back someday 
To watch you, to guide you through the darkest of your days 
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all 
Then I hope there's someone out there who can bring me back to you 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, I'll go wherever you will go 
Run away with my heart 
Run away with my hope 
Run away with my love 
I know now, just quite how 
My life and love might still go on 
In your heart, in your mind, 
I'll stay with you for all of time 
If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go 
Way up high or down low, I'll go wherever you will go 
If I could turn back time, I'll go wherever you will go 
If I could make you mine, I'll go wherever you will go 
I'll go wherever you will go

The numbness set in. It was my body's defense mechanism kicking in. I didn't want to feel the dreaded intense pain I knew I would feel on this day. I had to say goodbye to my mom! I HAD TO SAY GOODBYE TO MY MOM!

Be strong.
Be strong.
Be strong.

I contacted my friend and fellow author, Anita Moorjani who had an NDE (Near Death Experience.) She wrote, "Dying To Be Me" -- a book where she explained everything about the afterlife. She said to me, "Whatever you do, do not approach her with fear. She can feel that even if she is unconscious." My mom was always concerned about my wellbeing and knew that I could possibly die without her. I even told her, "Ma, I would die without you," -- she's heard this a million and one times. I'm not sure if I said this so she'd hold on, but she knew I'd be in bad shape if this day came to pass.

I sat by her side, held her hand and played with her hair as she used to love me to do. It made her sleep. "Play with my hair," she'd ask -- and then you had to sit there for an hour until she fell asleep. She was so cute. Her hair was still nicely colored -- she wouldn't leave the house if she saw a gray. She still looked beautiful, but she looked tired.

I took a deep breath after squeezing her hand for a while.

"Mom, I love you. It's okay to let go. I'm gonna be okay."


***Interrupting this for just an update on what happened when I typed that last line***

As I wrote my last line, I started crying. I had to take a break from writing this. As I was wiping my tears away and felt my heart break all over again, my phone rang. It's right about the time Mom always called me in the morning. It was HER ringer!!! And the number at 7777 in it, with the name of Ma on the ID. I tried calling it back and it was a nonworking number. My stories will have have a similar baseline to this because strange things have been happening before and after her passing. Bear with me if I take a break and let you know what happens as I'm writing these pieces. When I have extreme outbursts of emotions, she usually flickers the lights on and off repeatedly or she'll turn my computer on and off like a madwoman! I do believe it's her telling me to calm down. I feel her energy all around me and late one night (or morning) at 3am, I audibly heard her voice call out, "Debbie!' Like, "Debbie! I'm so happy you can hear me!" But just, "Debbie!" I walked out of the living room and back into my bedroom and put the covers over my head. I was a little freaked out.

I stood up from my chair and kissed her forehead and brushed back her hair with my hand. This would be the last time I would ever see Mom or feel Mom again. As I walked slowly out of the room, a part of me wished she would wake up from her groggy sleep and yell out, "Deb!" There's so much to this story than just her being here alive. There has been so much activity after she passed away. She's still here with me and I don't know what to make of it.  I'm almost scared to tell my happenings, and some of the happenings are when Madelene is here with me. She witnesses these occurrences as well, so I know I'm not going crazy. I've never had such great faith as I do after my mom's passing. I truly thought that I would somehow lose faith after this -- but it was the other way around. It feels really strange these days. It's not the same life. There's a huge shift in the atmosphere, or maybe in just my world. But the message I'm getting is that I cannot live like this -- in fear -- in great sadness -- because there are things I need to do beyond what I was initially doing. I need to move on and move forward.

But how? My best friend left me.

Don't tell me that things can be worse. Don't tell me that losing a child is the greatest loss ever, because some parents don't even give a shit about their kids. Don't compare my grief to anybody else's. It's wrong. And if you downgrade my feelings and say "snap out of it," then I'm assuming that you never loved someone as much as I loved my mother. Each relationship and dynamic is drastically different and should be respected. Nobody knows how much love went into a relationship. But my mother and I had such a strong connection -- we could finish each other's thoughts. We have been in the same dreams sometimes, waking up and asking each other details about one another's take on the dream. Fact is -- she was my favorite person in the whole world. So don't tell me that my grief isn't "greater" because it's the one thing that almost killed me. I guess I'm in the anger stage for now, so I'm trying to cope with that alone.

My story will continue on. As for now, this is all I have. I don't have anymore energy or tears to put into this article. The next piece will have more supernatural occurrences that are so unexplainable that it blows my mind. I'm writing it all down in my composition book.

This is the greatest loss of my entire life. My greatest fear as a kid to an adult was losing Mom. And now, I have to face that fear head on.

I do ask for your prayers, as I continue my journey without her. I'm kind of scared.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!