Memories, Prayers & Healing

If you suffer with anxiety or depression and/or experiencing grief and loss, you already know that feeling -- like a sense of impending doom -- or a heavy sense of dread that seems to overtake you. Sometimes, it's all you can do to get out of bed, while other times, you have a little bit of fight left in you. And that's all you need. I got a phone call at 8am the other morning asking for mother. I'm no longer being super polite, muttering out, "I'm sorry, she's deceased. How can I help you?' These days, I just say two words: "She's dead," just so I can hear the awkward silence on the other end of the phone. I'm just fed up with the amount of calls I get asking for her -- mostly from scammers trying to prey on the elderly. Then there are the calls about our ancestral home, which kind of tugs at my heart a little. I thought we'd be in a better place financially, so that we could pay off the reverse mortgage my father took out on the home, but unfortunately, it looks like we'll either run the course of our stay to save money or just rent an apartment or buy a townhouse somewhere. The uncertainty of my living arrangement sometimes scares me. But honestly, I'm grateful for any home I end up with (unless it's some weird money pit.) I have had so many people slip into my mailbox these letters asking if they can buy my home. They usually lowball you because they already know what's owed on the house.

What's more unsettling is waking up without making coffee, bacon and eggs for Mom. She liked her toast to have melted butter on it and cut into little triangles. She preferred Coffee-mate, this powdery creamer that tastes like crap. No sugar. Whenever we'd go shopping, she would use a cart whether she knew she was buying things or not. She grabbed a cart only because it was hard for her to walk without one. She would curse you off if you even mentioned using a walker. When she put her carts away, I would lock arms with her so she could walk back over to the car that was parked nearby. She couldn't stand the fact that she was getting sick. She didn't want anyone to know she was sick for that matter. She didn't even want me to know the extent of her illness. Her last couple of years here, she preferred going to smaller supermarkets. She used to love Shoprite -- but it was too overwhelming for her. She used to get excited when I used to bring her to this Korean farm market down the road. Even though they're like ten times more expensive than a regular supermarket, it was small and she found most produce and fish that she needed. Little by little, her world became smaller. I started ordering Shoprite home delivery service. Although she hated the idea of it, because she needed to feel and squeeze every single thing she bought -- she realized how convenient this all was. Till this day, I still get Shoprite's home delivery service. For an extra $16 bucks, someone shops for you and brings it right into your kitchen. Sold.

A typical day included doing some work in the morning, taking care of Mom and then cleaning. Sometimes I'd make her a special dinner. We have two kitchens -- one upstairs and one downstairs. She'd always say, "Oh cook downstairs! I feel better knowing you're here and smelling the good food." So I always did, unless she was with my sisters or didn't want to eat, then I'd cook upstairs. She'd lay down on the sofa watching Grey's Anatomy in her big comfy blanket. When 5:30 hit -- we'd both make a drink together while dinner was simmering and if she was feeling well enough, we'd sit outside. She'd come alive after a few sips of her vodka and club. We'd talk about her childhood and all the things she and her sister used to do -- couple of troublemakers. Her entire face would light up talking about the good ol days. I used to make her talk about her past all the time for a couple of reasons. 1. It sharpens her memory and 2. It was fricken funny and interesting! I've never heard such stories coming from someone who was about to turn 80 years old! My mom lived quite a life -- a wild one at that. But when she settled down, she kept her fun sense of self, even while caring for a large family and a demanding (and loving) husband. During my childhood, the only nights she didn't cook was Fridays. It was takeout night. When people say, "Oh you're turning into your mother," ----GOOD! I'm glad! That's a huge compliment, because I would love to just be a fraction of the woman she was.

I feel pretty lucky to have spent over 43 years with this amazing woman. Some people don't even get that much time. Another thing that I am so grateful for is, I got to say goodbye to both my parents -- even before they knew they were dying. I had these strange moments with each parent. With my dad, we held hands when he was sick and he looked over at me and said, "I love you, Debbie," as I said it back. He thanked me for coming back home when I found out he was sick. My mother said her goodbyes to me on the final night she left home to stay at the hospital for good. She hugged me so tightly -- didn't know she had that much strength! Then she said, "I love you, Debbie," and I said it back. Then she said, "I'm so worried about you," as I said, "I'm worried about me too, Ma," and we both laughed and kept hugging for a long time. It was as if her spirit knew she was leaving me for good. As much as I 'wish her back' --- I could never go through watching her suffer again. Sometimes, it was all she could do to finish her dinner at the table. She'd get angry, punching the table saying, "No! I'm enjoying this! No," when her pain kicked in. I told her to sit on the sofa, take the medication and I would bring the dinner over to her. She said, "NO! I want to eat at the table!" Eventually, her face would end up in the mashed potatoes and I would have to sometimes carry her back inside her bedroom....defeated. I never want to see that again. If I ever had the chance to get her back again, it would be the healthy, happy-go-lucky mom who loved to laugh and stay up for coffee outside on the patio as the sun went down. That's what I choose to remember.

Last week, I sought out a new therapist from this group of social workers who dealt with grief, anxiety and depression -- all sorts of mental health related symptoms. I needed help coping with my grief.  First they called me up and said, "Well, I think that maybe you're better suited with this counselor instead of the one you chose." I chose one who dealt with anxiety, depression and grief, so I'm not sure how I went wrong there. Anyway, they set me up with another counselor who was also a female. As I walked inside, she greeted me with a cold fish handshake. I'm big on introductions, especially the handshake. It tells me how confident you are about what you're doing. She looked to be 18 years old -- I am not even exaggerating. Upon first sight, she looked and reminded me of my niece. How is my niece going to help me? I decided to give it a shot, but any time she would speak, she sounded exactly like that Asian girl, Lilly Onakuramara from Pitch Perfect. And if you haven't seen the movies, she speaks so low that you can barely make out one word she's saying. To me, that's another sign of, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing." I walked out of there disappointed. She looked dazed and confused, like an 8 year old waiting to get out of class. I found myself venturing off to my favorite restaurant alone to sit at the bar to receive better therapy and medication (wine.)

So going back to what I was saying in my first paragraph -- I woke up this morning with this sense of dread. I had nightmares all night and barely slept a wink in 3 days. I got up, made some strong coffee and a little breakfast, and then went into my prayer room -- "The Deb Cave." I prayed my gratitude prayer, brought my petitions before the Lord and laid out all my burdens. It's the only thing that takes away that fearfulness -- the dread -- the anxiety. I also wasn't feeling so well. My stomach was off all night. So I do this prayer with anointing oil, and I swear by this -- it truly works. Even though I have ups and downs, I've been having more ups than anything. But I have to be consistent with my prayers, and be consistent with the daily maintenance of meditating on God alone -- giving Him at least a couple of hours out of the day. Sometimes, I find that talk therapy makes things worse. It makes you relive things in a way that makes you take two steps back. Some find that healing, while I find it disturbing. Writing it all out sometimes helps me, as I'm doing right now -- but the talk therapy for some reason makes me feel infuriated. So now, I just bring all my burdens to God, instead of a therapist. I have one psychiatrist who helps me once a month, but that's about it. But as far as talk therapy and rehashing events over and over -- I'm done with it. Especially with this last therapist, how can someone 20 years younger have the same experiences as I have? I realize everyone has their own crosses to bear, but how could her manager set me up with someone who could be my own child?

This week I'm not watching any TV. I can't stand the ads for Mother's Day. Last year, I knew that it would be Mom's last Mother's Day, and I tried to make it as magical as possible. We brought her to a beach house and had a huge BBQ on a beautiful 80 degree day right on the shore. Most of our family were there to celebrate it with her. It's the one day I will never forget. She said to me, "This is the best Mother's Day of my entire life!" It was one of the best days I ever had actually. She even hung out later that night to watch the sunset over the bay. I'm so happy she was "okay" enough to have went with us, because she was really beginning to become weak, and she had already received her approximate "expiration date" by her doctor. The next month following that vacation, she passed away. Maybe this is a trigger month for me, because we knew what we were heading in for, or thought we knew. Even if you're prepared to see a loved one cross over, you're never truly ready for it. I'm still not ready, but I'm forced to be.

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