Mama's Last Mother's Day

Have you ever had such a vidid dream (or nightmare) that you just couldn't shake years later? I remember when I was about 8 years old or so, I had this dream where I was at my mom's funeral. I remember every single person who attended and even recall people carrying her casket inside this small funeral parlor. When I woke up from that dream, I couldn't stop crying. Mom came into my room to wake me up for school and saw how upset I was. I told her I had a nightmare, but I wouldn't tell her what it was. She asked again, but I was afraid that if I told her, that it would somehow come true. During that time, Mom had a really bad blood infection and had to go into the hospital for a while. They had to give her a hysterectomy. While she was in the hospital, I remember my grandmother taking care of me. As she was cleaning up after dinner, I saw grandma sobbing as she wiped the table down. I knew something was wrong. My fear kicked in and I couldn't stop crying out of fear. Luckily, Mom came home and I took care of her. I made her tuna fish sandwiches with instant chicken noodle soup. I actually made it pretty good! I used to watch Mom cook and make stuff all the time.

Walking into Mom's funeral service was the worst day of my life. I tried to stay inside the room where everyone gathered, but my chest started to hurt and I found it hard to breathe. I walked over to the secondary little living room area and had myself a real "ugly cry." I couldn't go back in there. I know all of my friends came by to pay their respects and send their condolences to me, which was so nice of them, but I had to hide. They understood, thankfully. As time went by, the room was packed with me and all of my friends and my in laws. They stayed with me. They knew I couldn't bear to go out there any longer. I did go back out into the hallway, but I just couldn't be in that room. No. I can't. I couldn't handle it. I would've had a heart attack. 

Our precious cargo on our way to the shore!
During these dark times, you truly see who is there for you, and who isn't. I feel so fortunate to have had my sister-in-law stay with us for a couple of weeks. It wasn't only to console me, but to also help Madelene out because she was grieving too. Hey, my mom was her mom too. They were so close. Even my mother-in-law loved my mom. We had gone on vacation to the Jersey Shore on the week of Mother's Day. It was Mom, Madelene, my mother-in-law and her husband, and my sister-in-law. Madelene and I would pack the car and Mom and Lola would ride in the back seat together -- it was so adorable as you can see in the photo. All of us had such a good time at this beautiful beach house right on the ocean. I also invited all of my sisters, but they were only able to stay on Mother's Day due to their busy schedules, which was great! At least they were there! I had a feeling that this was going to be Mom's last Mother's Day with us. I saw her declining and I knew how important this trip was. As we arrived at this beautiful home right on the ocean, we were able to give Mom the best spot in the house: a suite with her own bedroom and bathroom and a sliding glass window to walk over to the ocean. She said, "Debbie, I never want to leave this house! I don't wanna go home!" I never heard her say that before with the other places we visited. This meant the world to me that she was happy and felt comfortable. 

On Mother's Day, my two sisters and their kids came over in the morning so they could spend the day with us. I rocked the kitchen and BBQ like you've never seen before. From steamed clams, filet mignons, porterhouse steaks, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, asparagus, garlic broccoli rabe with linguini, potato salad, cold slaw, wine, beer, or anything in between. We all had Mother's Day dinner out on the deck that faced the ocean. It was supposed to be cloudy and cool that day -- but it turned out to be 80 degrees and sunny. I couldn't believe it. It was the perfect day! Everyone hung out, the kids went out on the dock to go crab fishing and kayaking -- they all had a really good time. There was even a pool table inside if people wanted to hang out indoors. 

I'll never forget what Mom said to me.

"This was the best Mother's Day of my life!" 

Whenever I would wake up, I would walk downstairs to her area and sit with her. We both stared out into the ocean and had our coffee together. Sometimes, her pain would get to her, so she would lay down and wait for the pain medication to kick in as she nodded off. I stayed with her until she fell asleep. She would always fall asleep facing the ocean. She looked like a sweet angel sleeping. I would pray while she slept, hoping that this vacation would heal her. There had to be some way Mom could get better. I couldn't lose my best friend -- my vacation buddy. I never wanted to go without her! She made it fun! She had her own little routine and it was so incredibly adorable. At night, I would sit with her in her bedroom and we would talk for an hour or so before she went to sleep. She'd play with my dog Lola and even had a little nightcap with me. 

Mom & I sharing a glass of wine before bedtime.
Mom was so happy to be with her family during this time and I'm so glad my sister's and their kids made it down to see her. I can't stress enough how important this particular trip was. She had already knew she was terminal. I however, did not. I just felt she was. I just knew. She kept her "6 month doomsday" a secret from me, but we're so connected that there was no way I could not know. I saw her pain. I saw her personality change as the pain took hold of her. She couldn't do this any longer. I remember one evening while sitting outside by the ocean with my mom, she decided to go back inside. So as I let her hold onto me as we walked toward the house, there was a small step to get inside. She didn't have the strength to take that small step. I had to literally pick her up carefully, hoping not to break a rib in order to get her back into her suite. When we got inside, I set her up in her bedroom while Lola hopped up on her bed to lay down with her. Madelene came downstairs to give her a glass of ice water and a snack. We always watched TV together in her bedroom before I headed up to go to sleep myself. I enjoyed staying with her. I enjoyed every second with her because she was just a fascinating woman with all of her stories and funniness. I miss her so much. We were such a great team.

Here are some short video clips from Instagram.

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So where was I before I started talking about our awesome trip to the shore? Ah, the funeral. I will say this... The days after a loved one's funeral makes it "official" -- your loved one is gone forever. It's nothing like seeing them for the last time in the hospital. This somehow was different for me. It was the funeral that sparked the initial intense grieving process. I'm already afflicted with GAD - generalized anxiety disorder. When someone who has anxiety disorder goes through the stages of mourning, the anxiety can heighten a great deal. I started to develop all these new phobias and habits. I had to go back on my regular dosage of Ativan to keep me calm, but one day, I missed a dose and it sent me into a whirlwind of withdrawals like I've never seen before. The first day of a benzodiazepine  withdrawal is heightened anxiety attacks, heart palpitations and twitches. If it reaches day 2 -- it can go into complete seizures. I didn't even realize I had forgotten to take the morning dosage because my mind was in a fog. Madelene was really concerned because she has never seen me this extreme before. I was shaking and crying -- I didn't know how to help myself. I had to stop drinking due to my stomach bleeding, so I thought something was terribly wrong with me -- as most anxiety sufferers do. They start in with their hypochondria and then the mind races to the worst case scenario. It wasn't too long before I started to say, "I wanna go home with Mom." And I meant it with every fiber of my being. Later that night, I took my nightly dosage of Ativan, and realized on my phone in the notes section where I log in the times of when I take the medicine...there was no morning dose. Not even 10 minutes later, I was calm as a clam.

Here's the thing with anxiety disorder: it. cannot. be. fixed. The only thing that can be done is developing a good and strong coping mechanism. I have tried every single antidepressant out there, however all the SSRI's that I have tried increased my anxiety where I started having strange jolts and small mini seizures. My doctor informed me that some people with anxiety disorder are "sensitive" to SSRI's which is why they tend to go for the anti-anxiety meds, like Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin. People don't seem to realize that an anti-DEPRESSANT is not meant for someone with ANXIETY disorder. Big pharma used the tactic of, "Well, anxiety and depression go hand in hand."  Yeah, maybe, but if the person is more of a high strung anxiety-ridden chihuahua, you might wanna throw them a benzo! I was actually invited to speak about this topic on the Dr. Oz show. I graciously declined, because I didn't want to inform people who truly need the medication who are not sensitive to it. I was afraid that there would be people who have mental illness that would reject any help given. If you're an avid reader of mine, you remember that story and how badly I wanted to go on his panel. You can read more about it here.

Grief itself can bring on anxiety and depression, even if the person never had an issue with it before. It can also trigger PTSD in some people. There's also complicated grief, which is basically someone never getting over their loved one and not moving on. My whole thought on people like me who suffer with anxiety, especially when a tragic loss occurs like mine is this: never judge the way somebody grieves. If they ask you for help, either say yes or no, but never make that person feel bad about coming to you. If you're going to say, "Oh I'll always be here for you," then do so, or don't ever let those words come out of your mouth. Giving unsolicited advice is overstepping one's boundaries. Make sure the advice is asked for, not some sermon on what you did to get better or how you would handle it. Just be an ear and or just be present. As long as they see a professional, you do not have to act like one for them. The worst thing to say to someone who suffers with anxiety disorder is, "You gotta do this." because in most cases, they've already tried this that and the other thing. You're just doing more damage, and potentially ruining whatever relationship you have left with that person. They may not ever want to communicate with you again, in fear of being humiliated or judged.

Losing a loved one can make you lose your mind. The heaviness of the loss itself changes you into a different person, possibly with different views on life. What I've come to realize is that nobody can tell somebody how to grieve or how long you 'should' grieve for. This is a personal journey which should be respected. When people make fun of you because you have a cross to bear, like dealing with anxiety or depression, it can wreak havoc on your psyche, making you think that you're batshit crazy. But remember, the people who put you down saying you're "not grieving right" or that "you're out of control" are the ones who have either never experienced a loss like this, or those who are still in the anger phase of their own grieving period. Don't allow anyone to make you a target of their unresolved anger.

But I digress. I can honestly say that I have zero regrets with Mom. We did everything we wanted to do. She was my vacation buddy and I was more than honored to be with her on Mother's Day just to spoil her rotten! I'm so glad my other sisters came down to share the most amazing day with us. When I think back on a good memory, that day comes to mind because it was as if Mom wasn't sick at all! She had a fairly good day. My prayers were answered. It was like the most beautiful 'send off' -- a tribute to the most amazing woman of my life.

I'm so thankful Mom decided to take that trip.

Thank you, Mom.

Love you, love you, as we used to always say.

We'll get to watch another sunset together one day. I know it. But for now, thank you for all the wonderful memories you have given me. 

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