Love You Forever...

Since the beginning of October, I have been so sick with bronchitis. I've been in and out of doctor's office doing breathing treatments, inhalers, antibiotics, and now, steroids -- it's been relentless. I even had to go on my one week vacation to the shore with my partner. We were both sick and on top of that, we both had pink eye. We stayed indoors, sometimes going outside to watch the ocean, but mainly gazing at the waves and white caps through our deck windows with a pile of tissues and cough medicine. Backtrack to the beginning of June. My mom and I were sitting in the living room discussing the beach house that we were going to rent out for our next vacation. We always paid for her to come with us. She's so much fun. But she was really declining at this point. I said to Mom, "You're definitely coming with us, right? Even if you feel sick, what better place to be than by the ocean!" She said, "Only if I can pay this time!"

"NO!" I said.

"Then I'm not coming," she said as she turned her head away. She was so upset that I declined her offer. In fact, she gave the silent treatment for a while.

So, I caved in and said, "Ok, ok, ok, you can pay for the trip," but not really meaning it. June 30th came and well, she had plans to a better place. There was a lot of mishmash that were scattered in her room, and one of them said, "To Debs," in a small envelope. It was the vacation money.

October arrived. It was perfect weather, 80 degrees and sunny most of the week. We paid in full. It felt so strange that we were going on vacation without Mom this year. My little dog didn't have her traveling buddy anymore. She had to be put in a crate, instead of lying on a big pillow with Mom as they both napped the entire time. Mom loved that dog more than anything. Lola worshipped the ground my mom walked on.

With a heavy heart, we unloaded the suitcases inside the house. Usually, Mom and I would book it to the deck or near the ocean just to have a glass of wine by the shore. But this time, when I walked in, I felt a little faint because I had a 102 fever and was starting to get a panic attack. The house was very cozy and beautifully decorated. The staircase was a very steep wrought iron spiral stairway, that was more like a ladder. Getting up was kind of challenging, especially if you had a suitcase to bring up. It shook as you climbed it -- making it seem less sturdy. I'm scared of heights, and the fact that I was able to see the floor while climbing freaked me out.  I could hear Mom's exact words, "One too many drinks and PLOP!" I giggled to myself as I vividly remembered her sense of humor. So I stayed downstairs for a little while longer until I could muster up the courage to climb back upstairs. All the bedrooms were upstairs.

I knew where Mom would've stayed. She'd stay downstairs in the cozy area, with the beautiful bathroom that had a step in shower with a seat. It was as if I could hear her in my mind. "This would be where I'd stay and I have the kitchen right next to me so I could make coffee." Another funny thing about my mom was, she loved down to earth people -- everyday working class people. Right next door there was a private fisherman's club -- I mean RIGHT next door. The parking lot was on the side of our house (which wasn't told in the description of the home online.) No big deal. It was like one of those VFWs -- every single night, a bunch of older drunk clientele would swing out of the club stumbling back to their homes or cars. The community itself was a little questionable -- some homes were old that needed some work, while others had an extra lot with a trailer home parked out in front. Some folks would sit outside on their porch steps with their drinks. The people were funny, the neighbors all said hello while they hid their beer in a paper bag. The community was 99.9% white --- no cultural influences whatsoever. Big pick up trucks with MAGA flags and guys walking around with no shirts with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths.

Mom loved 'real' people. She would've had a blast people watching for sure.

Our home was the only 'well kept' place on the entire street -- an oddity. It had an unground pool that overlooked the ocean. The property itself was ok, but the walkway to the beach made it perfect. Our bedroom overlooked the entire sea, but every time I opened the door, I smelled something funky. I was supposed to smell clean ocean air, but instead, I was taking in the smells of five nearby dumpsters from the private fisherman's club.

Upstairs had five bedrooms. The only reason why we get these larger homes is because they're sometimes cheaper than these small homes located in other places. We bring our family when they can come, but this year everyone was busy. So we had four other bedrooms available. One room had a throw pillow that said, "Love you forever" in my mother's handwriting. If you've ever seen my mom's handwriting, it's very small and bubbly. Mom always said, "Love you forever!" Or she would say, "Love you, love you!" I knew that was a hello from her.

The next morning, I went out onto the deck to watch the waves crash onto the shore. Madelene went downstairs to make some coffee and breakfast, but I heard her mumbling about something. She sounded frustrated. She then came upstairs and said, "I can't find the carafe for the coffee!" She was so upset over this. My mother was the queen of finding everything in a new vacation home. Mom would master the coffee pot and have it made before we even woke up. It was her main job! I climbed down that awful ladder of a stairwell and went into the kitchen. I said out loud, "Mom, do your thing. Where is it?" And just like that, I heard her say, "It's over there in the dishwasher all clean!" And there it was, all ready to use! It was less than 10 seconds I found it. I told Mad what happened and she could not believe it. She was down there for 45 minutes searching.  Strange things kept happening. I kept hearing Mom's voice throughout that vacation, like trivial things she would say. Maybe my mind went into some nostalgic warp to find Mom's words flooding back to me once again. One evening, my fever rose to 103. We were ready to go to bed, so I went into a spare bedroom to just cool off and relieve my anxiety about it. I kept thinking, "Please God! Don't let this be a vacation where I have to run to the ER because I'm too sick!" My bronchioles were tightening up and I was afraid of the inevitable. So, I went into the spare room, shut the door behind me and prayed. I heard God tell me to not fear anything. In fact, He said, "Even if every side of the world was on fire and closing in on you, do not be afraid!" And then I heard Mom's voice. "Just get through this night and I promise you, tomorrow will be better. Your fever is making you better. Trust me, mommy." My mother would call me "mommy" -- she called all of her daughters that as well. It's a term of endearment, just as Latinas use, "mama" or "ma" -- same concept.

That night, I slept like a baby. When I woke up, Lola jumped on me to bring me outside on the deck where we could watch the ocean. It was sunny, 80 degrees and just beautiful out. She was playing with her toys and trying to get me to roughhouse with her. I never saw my dog this happy before. Something was different. My fever went down and I felt like a new person. I looked to my side, and our older neighbors waved hello while they were having coffee and breakfast outside on their ocean view patio. (They were really spying for their friends who rented out the home to us.)  I could hear my mom again. "See?" Like, "I told you!" I made coffee and breakfast and surprised Mad with a beautiful spread. We both took the dog out for a long stroll on the beach. We needed the air. Later that night, we found a fish shack delivery restaurant that sold lump crab cakes -- my favorite! Mom turned me onto them. During dinner, we both had one drink. We clinked our glasses together and thanked Mom for the beautiful vacation she treated us to. All these years being graced with Mom's presence on vacation, it felt weird not to have her apart of our trip. But there she was, in the midst of everything, and even giving her two cents on many things! I can hear her! Or maybe, I can just hear the timeless residual persona? Whatever it was, she was there in spirit and it comforted me a great deal.

Sometimes, the loss of someone we loved makes us lose ourselves in a way. I couldn't even imagine the thought of Mom not being in my life. I refused to even entertain the thought, even though I watched her struggle and battle with this awful disease. But I promise you, they're not gone at all. They're in our hearts. They're in a place that's far far away from pain, agony, depression and diseases. If we can hold onto the fact that there is no better care in the world than the arms of God, then we can get through any loss. Yesterday, we had quite a rainstorm and flooding in our area. Mom and I loved rainstorms. My heart was heavy all day long. I felt her here with me and tapped into the beautiful memories of she and I having storm parties or just sitting outside watching the rain fall while we sat under the canopy of the house. Simple things like that can be reminders of little "I love yous" while you reminisce about the happy times and forget about the end of their life, the struggle and pain. Remember the smile, the laughter, the joy that this one person gave to you. And that's how I'm going to choose to remember Mom: healthy, laughing, joyful, sarcastic, loving, forgiving and compassionate.

Until then, I love you forever, Mom...

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