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lonely, sick and tired

grieving is lonely. i am home alone a lot. i rarely get phone calls during the day cause no one checks in on me and i am not going out for lunch or tea or coffee or drinks with anyone. it kinda sucks. so i feel like i *should* go out and do something but when i have even 1 plan for the day, i often feel overwhelmed, like it takes a lot of energy to go out to do one thing. it’s confusing. i am agitated staying home and agitated going out. i wish friends would call or someone would ask me about my mom once in a while but then when someone actually calls, i may or may not answer the phone, depending on how tired or sick i am feeling at that moment. i am still not eating regularly. i am not sleeping well, or enough (last night i went to sleep at 1am, woke up at 4:30am, i couldn’t get back to sleep, i listened to a meditation cd and got back to sleep by 6 but my alarm was set for 7:30am). i’ve been sick for a solid 3 weeks now and have been trying to address it by taking olive leaf extract (via kelly’s advice), i’m making copious batches of raspberry leaf, nettle, elderberry and rosehip tea (via beth barbeau), i’m megadosing with emergen-C. i saw a homeopathic dr so i am taking ignacia (remedy) and star of bethlehem (flower essence). i have some coughing syrup with codeine fro the traditional doc but it makes me feel hung over the next day so i am not taking that. i cannot sleep but listen to a meditative CD to help, when i remember. i just signed up for a yoga class but i have not been to ceramics in 3 weeks because i have been too sick…and i love ceramics! and on monday, when i called beth barclay, i realized how alone i feel in all this. my friends are all caught up in their own lives. i guess i am saying all of this to say that i just felt like complaining. blah. ugh. ick. pa-tooey.

carcinogenic paranoia

I could not sleep last night. I am haunted by cancer. Just because my mom died very quickly from cancer doesn’t mean it stops. Four months before my mom’s diagnosis, Dara died of cancer at the age of 40 (one week before I turned 40). The week before my mom died, Johnny’s dad died of cancer even though he got a bone marrow transplant while my mom was in chemo. The day after my mom died, John’s dad died of cancer. At the reception following my mom’s memorial, I found out that Rodrigo was diagnosed with testicular cancer and was having surgery 3 days later. And during our visit a week ago, I found out that Andy’s dad was just diagnosed with leukemia. And my 13 year old student’s mom has cancer and is in treatment for cancer and she recently told me the chemo isn’t working anymore. So last night, I had a night like I had while my mom was still alive, where I was vaguely thinking about and scared of cancer all night long. It is too much. It touches too many people. And it scares me.

Ever since my mom was diagnosed, I have been paranoid that everything is a carcinogenic, especially for the kids. If Paloma wants me to buy her some super cheap lipstick, I immediately imagine the chemicals and toxins that she would literally eat because she’d be smearing them directly on her lips. I got rid of all the plastic plates and bowls and cups for the kids. I see the world through a cancer lens now because it just keeps going on and on and on.

What probably did not help matters last night is that I went back to the cholangiocarcinoma forum last night. Cholangiocarcinoma is the rare type of cancer my mom likely had and the forum has very nice and supportive people who are also touched by this type of cancer. I haven’t gone back there in a month and there was something strangely comforting about seeing the same people writing about their same loved ones or still struggling through treatments themselves. Like everything did not stop when my mom died but then I was drawn to the “In Remembrance”section where I saw people post about who has recently died, and I was really struck by this one woman’s post because she lost her very young husband from this cancer, leaving behind his two daughters. The memorial was the day before and it was devastating to imagine losing your partner and even more so, the girls losing their father (I get the impression they are young). Why do young people have to get cancer? And then that led me to the next section in the forum – “Introductions”. I remember posting my first post in the Introductions section too, not that long ago, and feeling scared and overwhelmed and also happy to find people who knew what I was going through. And last night, this section was perhaps the most depressing of all. It had maybe 5 or 6 new introductions within this month alone of people or loved ones being diagnosed with this rare type of cancer. There were a couple of young healthy women who were moms, one to teenagers and one to very young children, ages 3 and 6. Can you imagine being a mom to young children and having this diagnosis, and going through treatments with young children, and being scared of your future?  Oh lord, I am too too empathetic sometimes. I feel it too deeply. I don;t know how to keep it all at arm’s length, and so I did not sleep last night.

It feels like a new thing that so many people are getting cancer now and it makes me think we are doing something very wrong in our food systems, in our environment, in our products, and it is surprising that the causes of cancer are not crystal clear by now. Clearly there are environmental factors that are giving so many more people cancer than ever before. There are clear poisons in our food, past (I remember reading in one part of “Diet for a New America” that if you were growing up in Michigan in the 1970s, there was a chemical additive given tot he dairy cows so if you drank milk, you were exposed to this potentially carcinogenic chemical) and present (I get really really adamant every time Rodolfo buys crappy sugar cereal filled with sugars and syrups and colorings and surely, carcinogenics for the kids)  There are clearly too many chemicals in the products we use, in the water or air or soil in our environment. I know, I know, I am starting to sound paranoid but when there are this many people getting cancer all around me, in my little tiny corner of southeast Michigan, and I am only 40 years old, then is it paranoia or is it truth?

Fuck cancer. Fuck cancer. Fuck cancer. FUCK CANCER!!!!!


strange. this time after losing a parent, a mother, is strange.

week 1 after her death: i was extremely busy planning her memorial ad reception and seeing friends and family and it was just busy.

week 2: i crashed. i was so tired form all the work and people so i stayed home, slept a lot, rested, did ceramics, that’s about it. there may have been 1 or 2 good days when i went grocery shopping, only because suzanne called me and talked with me the whole time i was at meijer. there was a day that i had energy and cooked a healthy meal.i got up the nerve this week to go to little lake and pick up the kids and see all the students and parents. but that might have been it.

week 3: is a blur. i am looking at my calendar for clues about what i did and there are none. i think i lost that week. i do have on there the u of m football game. it was the first game since my mom died and my dad asked me to go with him. it was kinda fun but also pretty sad. my mom and dad had season tickets to they know all the people around them and all the people knew my mom died but they hand;t seen my dad yet so they gave him hugs, they said they were sorry, they told him how great my mom was. i was entirely ignored, which felt weird. i didn’t know them but still felt like i wanted acknowledgment that i also lost my mother. it rained through my coat so somewhere in the second quarter, we left and went to knights and it was the same thing there. people saw my dad, gave him hugs, said they were sorry, told him how great my mom was. i felt kinda bad for him, like he doesn’t get to go anywhere without everyone around him hugging him and reminding him of what he lost. that’s all i can gather from that week. the rest is a blur.

week 4, last week: all the grief settled into my body. my sacrum locked up and all the muscles in and around my pelvis felt agitated. i found out that this part of our body is the area of security and safety. it is also our root chakra that is associated with our parents, and children. so it makes sense this area would be agitated. i got a head cold, well, more accurately it was a throat cold. tightness only in my throat and i feel pretty confident that i do, in fact, have a head cold but that it is also associated with the loss of my mother. i have never in my life had a locked sacrum or a tight throat for days on end. i had/have insomnia, i am not eating well, i am still extremely forgetful and flakey, and my senses are overly sensitive. it felt like all the grief and emotions just settled right into my body. my wise friends helped me see that this is just part of my grieving process and that while it is uncomfortable, i should not fight it or judge it or rush it away. at the same time, i did not want to sit in it or get stuck in it so i started calling all these professionals. my therapist recommended i treat these symptoms with a plan, because to treat them individually would be chaotic and clearly my body was already in a chaotic state. so i was looking for a holistic plan, something to address my symptoms mind, body and soul. i called a chiropractor but quickly realized that’s not what i want because they might realign my sacrum or other parts of my body but i am clearly out of alignment because of my grief and emotions. i called a cranial sacral person but last wednesday, she happened to be at a grief support group that i was trying out and i did not love her energy. i also did not love the grief support group because while i appreciated being around people who assured me that yes, my mother’s death was so extremely recent, and yes, they understand what i am feeling and experiencing, the facilitator did not seem comfortable with emotions and changed the subject quickly after stating a cliche about healing. so i want to find another group to try. i called a homeopath and talked him down from his usual $140 to $70 for a consultation and that is finally happening tomorrow. i went to my neighbor’s alternative health store and bought herbs to make a tea to treat my head cold. and then when i took a day off and went to women’s group and listed all the professionals i contacted and realized how chaotic that all felt, i slowed down again. i cancelled the cranial sacral person and the chiropractor and backed away for some perspective.

week 4 and 1/2: my mom’s 1 month anniversary of dying was 4 days ago and it feels like a time warp…like it was a couple days ago that she died. i am realizing that the tightness in my throat is around unspoken words that i need to express. i think i’ll write my mother a long, long letter and when i am ready, i will go in the back and burn it, letting the wind carry the ashes away. i have a woodpecker that visits my house everyday now, and not pecking away at a hidden corner or protected space. right in the middle of the wall, right next to my sofa where i am often resting or reading. i tried to speak to it today but it flew away. i think it has something to do with my mother. and i saw my therapist again today and told her i have something stuck in my throat and after i spoke about my anger towards my mother, my anger that she drank and smoked and when i was a child i threw away her cigarettes and when i was a teenager i confronted her about her drinking and she didn’t listen and now i wonder if she could’ve been with me longer if she quit and i feel mad. and after i expressed that out loud, the pain in my throat moved down to my chest. i felt a tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing. it became so bad that i went to the doctor and got a chest xray and she doesn’t think i have pneumonia and i don’t either. i think my grief shifted to my heart and i feel it lodged in my chest like a tightly wound ball.

week 4 and a half sucks. i a realizing i have been trying to do too much too soon. i started to read a book about losing a parent and it is already so interesting. people who have lost a parent know that your life will never be the same, that you change with the loss, and that your entire year just might be gobbled up from the grief. people who do not know often think yeah, two weeks should do it. they should feel sad and lay around and then two weeks later, be back to normal. but i keep thinking that mourning is a lot like birthing. it takes an emotional and a physical toll on you and no one tells you what to expect. i was shocked that after amaru was born, i was in a fog for over a month. i was exhausted and my emotions were unpredictable. i didn’t know what day it was or what time it was. i didn’t eat except when i was hungry but that was certainly not during traditional meal times. i didn’t shower as much. i was often in my pajamas for days. and slowly, after 5 or 6 weeks, i want to say, the fog lifted a little each day until i felt a little more like myself. and that’s from a birth. why is mourning a death so different? our pathetic country gives 3 months off for a birth but no time off for a death. people come around and offer support in the beginning but then you are left alone to figure the rest out. same with a death. i am learning just how much time it takes. well no, i actually have no idea how much time it takes to mourn, to start to slowly feel like yourself again. i just know that it is longer than anyone would think. and i need to remember that and take it easy. because of my cold, i have not gone to ceramics class, i have not answered the phone, i have skipped and rescheduled staff meetings, and even now, 4 and a half weeks later, i feel like i need to slow down even more. i need to give myself permission to do even less. it’s not easy with rodolfo working 7 days a week for 3 weeks in a row now. i am judging myself with parenting, worried that the kids are not eating healthy enough because i have only gone grocery shopping once in 4 and a half weeks. but just like with my mom’s cancer, i need to realize that the grieving process is not tidy, it does not follow a schedule, it is not incrementally positive, and it might be more like a marathon, an endurance sport that needs attention over time. time – i still need more time.

not ready

this is really hard. i am still very tired and very forgetful and flakey and i keep feeling like i want to lay around when the kids go to school and rest and watch shows on my computer and read trashy books. this is what i want to doa nd i what i need to do. but at the same time, people around me (people who haven’t lost their mothers) are acting like they expect me to be getting over this soon. suzanne just told me she didn’t go back to work for 3 months when her mom died and that made me exhale, like look, it’s not just me. i want to know what other cultures do, how much time they give the grieving. i want time and space. i want to wear the armband or all black that says to people, “back off. don’t need anything from me for a long long time. i am off limits unless you want to come sweep my floors, take out my recycling or bring me food”. i feel agitated that my phone rings all day and i don’t answer it but i am annoyed that it is ringing. i feel rushed here and i don’t like it.

it’s not getting any easier. not at all. i went to the cottage to see my dad 2 days ago and he looked so so tired and i worried about him too. i helped him winterize some stuff. i sat quietly and watched the tigers game with him. and then i went upstairs to the bedroom and was totally taken aback. there was all my mom’s stuff exactly how it was the morning she had the stroke. beige tank top rolled inside the darker beige tshirt on the bed. meds and a half drunken water bottle on the bedside table. hazardous box with top still open from her lovenox syringes. the depends that i bought her the thursday before her stroke opened and next to the bed- a handful taken out and ready to put on. it visually overwhelmed me and i just stood there, kind of in shock. people came right after my mom died and cleaned up the main floor but no one had gone upstairs yet. so i instinctively knew i had to get that stuff out of there so my dad didn’t have to do it. i got a bag and started putting all her meds and the syringe box in it to take home and deal with later. i moved her tank top and shirt over to the clothes basket by the wall. i stopped when i saw the commode that my dad bought for my mom just 3 days before her stroke because in the middle of the night, she had a hard time getting to the bathroom on time. i skipped a beat and then kept going. i found a canvas bag with her clothes in it and unfortunately, there were also some saltines and 2 protein bars and because of the food, the mice got in it and opened the crackers and gnawed through the bars and there were crumbs and mouse poop and i was sad when i saw that it was the sweater we bought for her last christmas. i like it and i might even wear it someday but 2 days ago, and even now, i don;t want to see it. i just wanted it out of the room so i could protect my dad a little bit. i took it all and put it in the car and brought it home. yesterday i was reading on the sofa and kept glimpsing the depends and the bag with her meds and it made my stomach tense every time. fortunately, when i was sitting with sonia, i mentioned how haunting it all is and how quickly you can get the wind knocked out of you by reminders and she said, “oh, do you want me to throw them away?” and i was like, “yes!” and she asserted “let’s do it” and i was like “now? yes! let’s get that out of here right now” and because she was willing to get up and help right that minute, i went inside, got a plastic bag and started throwing away my mom’s meds. of course i was looking at which ones they were as i was placing them into the garbage and when i saw “nexavar” i stopped again, breath stopped again, and i felt deeply sad again because that’s the chemo pill that didn’t work. it might even have been the chemo pill that caused the stroke. and i quickly threw it away. sonia took the depends to diane’s so she could donate them to arbor hospice but an hour later, when diane got home she said they cannot take donations but she could make sure they are donated. 

so yeah, the shit creeps in and i am aware of the fact that my dad needs help with his laundry, probably ASAP, and i walk into bedrooms with no signs of change since she had the stroke and died, and i know that we have to actually go through ALL of my mom’s stuff at some point, and i am not ready for normal life. 

i am wearing a black hoodie today. i am not answering the phone. i am not ready yet y’all.

the day after

Last week, I was so busy planning and getting ready for the memorial, I never gave much thought to the day after the memorial. Or the day after that. And to be honest, this week has been the hardest week yet. All the work to prepare for the memorial (music, food, flowers, dress, service, venues, etc) kept me busy and preoccupied. Overwhelming sad feelings crept in or spewed out in short bursts but I had to keep it together because there was just so much to do. And all the work leading up to the actual memorial was nothing compared to being fully present and talking for 12 hours last Saturday. And then Sunday I woke up and didn’t have anything I had to do anymore. Everything leading up to April 12th was relatively normal and then in one day, with one piece of news of cancer, everything changes. You get busy. You stay busy. It’s nearly impossible to find balance within that news. Then you manage (pretty sloppily) and create a new normal. Then my mom had a stroke and the level of stress and keeping busy amplifies beyond belief. Then time becomes even more warped and you are living hour to hour, and then minute to minute, and finally breath to breath until your mom dies and then it doesn’t quite stop. The first thing you have to consider is where her body is going, which business will you chose for cremation. And then all the another details flood in and you stay busy. Time really is fucked up with disease and crisis and death.

And then there’s the day after. For 5 months and 5 days, you are in crisis mode and can never fully relax. And then it’s over. On Sunday, you are supposed to wake up and do what? People all around you are going outside to socialize, posting about what they cooked for breakfast on facebook, weeding gardens and going on with their lives, like yep, the memorial was yesterday – check that off my list of things to do, now back to normal life. But on Sunday, I organized a brunch, a gathering of my best friends at Caryn’s lovely farmhouse. They plopped me on the sofa, wrapped me in a quilt, Aimee prepared a foot bath, a bowl of warm water, herbs, oils and flowers, Caryn rubbing oil on my temples and salve over my heart, Kary rubbing my leg, Court snuggling up to me and Lizzie cooking in the kitchen. And I exhaled and cried – a lot. I was letting go of some of the tension and stress of the past 5 months and I reflected how important it felt to have intentional support on the day after. I would have never known but now I do. Five months of culminating, growing, crescendo-ing worry all ends one day with a death and a memorial and then what?

This week has been harder. I found a piece of paper with notes on it yesterday, notes I took at a second opinion appointment we had in Grosse Pointe and the first line was “Extrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer” and I immediately started crying because it immediately reminded me that I don’t have to research or fight or meet any new doctors about cancer anymore because my mom is dead. I longed for the fight because it meant we were still trying and now it feels so final and sad.

After a delicious and nourishing brunch, surrounded by beautiful, nurturing friends, after crying and crying and crying, we went outside and it was another gorgeous fall day and I felt so deeply tired I had to go home to sleep. That was Sunday, an important day in my healing. A day that will forever be a part of me and my mom’s story as a day that I was taken care of and was surrounded by friends who love me. I feel so grateful.

Then it was Monday and Tuesday and today is Wednesday and it is not getting easier. It is getting more real. Not distracted by the work of planning a memorial, I am left to sit here, exhaling, trying to heal.


I’m so tired. Still. It has been 5 months of tension, worry, fear, research, driving, buying, emailing, calling, and trying to care for my mom and my family and myself. It happened so fast. If the doctors had said she had 6 months to live, it wouldn’t even have been true. She died 5 months after her diagnosis. Just 5 months. And she seemed sick. She got worse during chemo. But I always heard of people fighting cancer for years. All these people would cheerfully say to me, “Oh, my (fill-in-the-blank) had cancer and they beat it and they’ve been cancer free for 5 or 10 or 15 years.” and to them, I very half-heartedly smiled and felt happy for them but immediately sad for me because I knew my mom would not beat this. It was stage III liver cancer when they found it. It had already spread. She already had a tumor the size of a softball on her liver. It was inoperable. The chemo didn’t work. The radiology team said that my mom was not a good candidate for radiology. So we were settling into the new knowledge that she was going to die from this. But everything about this was so fast. Just as this was dawning on us. Just as I was trying to brace myself for the worst. Just as I was learning that dementia is a side effect of liver cancer because your body gets poisoned as your liver cannot detox so you lose your bodily functions, you cannot keep food down, and you become paranoid and lose your mind, my mom had a massive stroke.

I’d like to think it was her exit plan. That she had some bodily wisdom that would spare her from the worst of it. The pain and suffering and fear that was inevitably to come. And selfishly, I wanted more time with her but not at her expense. If it meant more suffering for her, then I choose the stroke. The easier of the ways out of a horrible disease.

But I miss her. A lot. And these words look so simple, and cliche and expected but really with all of me I miss her. I kept thinking she was at the reception after the memorial. It was at the U of M golf course clubhouse with all of her family and friends and she loved parties so I kept thinking she was just over there, right around the corner, just out of sight. Someone told me they think they walked by her on the stairs. And someone else said that she was there (like in the spiritual sense). But I just want my mom….in the real sense. The cliches and optimistic tones don’t help. It’s going to keep settling in over and over, everyday a little more and I don’t like it.

The week leading up to the memorial was intense. I was speaking with my brother all day throughout the day trying to plan the memorial service and reception, reserve musicians and flowers and food and drinks, writing obituaries, gathering and scanning photos for the slide shows, emailing people back thanking them for their well wishes, writing the poem I wanted to read at the memorial, buying Paloma’s dress and buying my own, planning the weekend (Friday evening dinner with family coming in from out of town, Saturday morning brunch with immediate family before the ashes, then ashes, then memorial, then reception, then families’ house for family to eat dinner and wind down, then brunch with friends on Sunday morning, then life as usual starting today). And that’s how it happened but as the week was going on, I was getting more tired from all the work, I had horrible insomnia every night, as friends and family came in from out of town I felt more obligated to do stuff with them (and am thankful that Court just laid in bed with me when she came to town and watched sitcoms on my computer all day). I was depleted and exhausted and nervous as Saturday approached. Then a shift happened. On Saturday morning, I woke up and felt at peace and full of love. I imagined all the hundreds of people who were getting ready to come to my mom’s memorial, who were taking time out of their Saturday to remember how she touched them and celebrate her life. I felt like it was truly a celebration and I wasn’t nervous anymore.

I got ready. Kary drove all the way from Ithaca and helped Paloma get ready. We went to brunch and it was lively and we were hungry and it was lovely. We walked on this gorgeous crisp sunny Fall day to the church. We buried most of my mom’s ashes and afterwards, Paloma and Amaru picked flowers and decorated her spot. Then Paloma took rose petals, kissed them and rubbed them on top of the names of my Uncle Mike, grandpa and GG.

Then we greeted people as they arrived. We tried to gather ourselves for the service. We were escorted in and I took a deep breath and it started. Kim read a scripture, then Alex and Damion read another. We sang a hymnal. Then the remembrances started. Aunt Mary remembered the week leading up to my mom’s wedding and how she tried to make her own wedding dress but caved and 2 days before, she bought a $35 dress that fit her perfectly. My Uncle Pete improvised and told of what he loved about my mom. Rodolfo read the Hopi prayer. I read my poem and I had practiced enough and I knew I would cry but what I didn’t know is when I stood up at the podium, and looked out at a packed church and even saw overflow into the balcony, that I felt overwhelmed with all the love that everyone had for my mom in that moment. I took a breath and started to read. When I got to the part where I always started crying during my rehearsals, when I remembered that I almost called her but remembered that she will never pick up and we can’t talk about nothing special anymore, I started to cry and then the next unexpected thing happened – Paloma ran up on stage and hugged me and started to rub my back. She gave me so much strength and joy in that moment, it was beautiful. Then my brother spoke and read something so touching and beautiful and I was really proud of him. Then we saw the slide show as the string trio played Vivaldi and then we sang Amazing Grace and then it was over.

We were escorted out, drove to the reception and inhaled again, ready for the next step – three and a half hours of talking and remembering and greeting. I am an introvert so this part was hard for me to anticipate. But as people started arriving, started hugging me and sharing stories of my mom, and as I was surrounded by my best friends in the world, I felt ok. I tried to sit down once in a while and that did not happen. I saw Geoff Cost, my ex-boyfriend who loved my mom (and she loved him too!). I saw Nicole Stanbridge, my old best friend, college roommate, best woman at my wedding. I saw Wendy and Susie from Touchstone. I saw Bethany, Aimee, Jeremiah, Keleigh, Johanna, Terry, Pam. I saw my best friends in the whole world sitting in a semi-circle around me – Kary, Lizzie, Courtney, Cia and I saw them cry, smile, hug and question Stephanie, my birth mom. I saw all my brother’s old friends from high school (Lovalvo, Eric Hansen, Sweeney, Mark Pincheon, Derek Schaeffer, Kurt, Frank Quinn, and of course Damion). They drinking and watching the MSU game and laughing and telling stories and it reminded me so vividly of my childhood. Those guys were crazy in high school and I have a lot of memories of them being drunk, being naked, riding dirt bikes into my pond, teasing me and of course they still all call me Bubba. And even though they are in their mid-40s and grown up and were acting like they were in high school again, they pulled me aside one by one and shared these tender and hilarious memories of my mom with me. I will always be their surrogate little sister Bubba.

I saw my friends and neighbors, my mom’s old friends and new neighbors, my birth mother, and they all shared stories and told me how special and wonderful my mom was. It was really a celebration. It really was beautiful.

I am tired of writing now, but I want to write about the specific stories people shared later, and also about the most magical Sunday brunch I could ever imagined. But not now…

I Remember

I Remember

By Melissa Palma

I remember a wild childhood

barefoot, exploring flowers, insects and rocks on the grass, in the sun, up close

finding possums on our nature trail

swimming hanging on to wolfie’s fur

listening for woodpeckers and killdeer

crossing the country road to gather eggs from the coop and visit the piglets

eating a regular dose of ipecac with every new poisonous plant I consumed

being barefoot and happy and free

I remember mom talking to everyone around her, like at her recent appointments at the cancer center-

“I like your pin. Is that a chickadee? Have you seen any blue birds this summer? We got babies this year. Do your Baltimore oriels prefer orange slices or grape jelly? Oh yeah? You live off Huron River Drive? You must know the Finley’s. They live over there too. Your maiden name is Struble? So is mine. We must be cousins.”

and on and on and on like this, with everyone

I remember an open door

never locked

no one knocked

our house was open to anyone, a refuge from the trouble in their life

our mom was the cool mom because she let you be you

always accepting and never judging

you could be fully yourself

I remember how special she made us all feel

I remember her adventurous spirit

taking us to Mexico to ride horses on the beach

Hawaii to explore volcanoes

Chile to try native fish head soup

and just one year ago, St. John to snorkel

and mom probably had cancer but we didn’t know it yet

and we handled the hurricane with grace

fully embracing our time together

I remember talking to mom almost every day for the last 40 years

talking about plans for the day, nothing special

and how I almost called her today, forgetting for a moment that she won’t ever answer

that we can’t talk about nothing special anymore

I remember my mom’s spunk, her feistiness

her boundless energy that inevitably inspired awe

she never sat still –

not until the very end

I remember her warm smile

her dry, biting, smart ass sense of humor that she inherited from my barber grandfather

and how every summer, we went to Bois Blanc where mom and I sat with our feet dangling

out the back of the rusted red truck, driving down the one dirt road, singing-

        Down by the old (not the new but the old)

        Mill stream (not the river but the stream)

        Where I first (not the second but the first)

        Met you (not me but you)

I remember being so proud of my mom

she was an incredible phys. ed. teacher

she bought sneakers in all sizes for the kids who didn’t have any

she walked around the cafeteria using reverse psychology, just daring kids to try their broccoli

and not love it

she had a library in her gym of women, physically challenged and minority athletes and when

students read a book, she gave them a U of M cup

I remember my mom on the ground, in the dirt, in the garden

humming silly songs in the kitchen as she made homemade spatzen to go with the sauerkraut

deadheading flowers as she walked down Main Street

teaching me, my friends, my children,

anyone near her was a beneficiary of her endless love of teaching

and I remember the expanse of her love of her grandchildren

and their love of her as they bound to her excitedly exclaiming “Nana! Nana! Guess what?” as

they jump into her lap, snuggle in and feel the loving warmth enveloping their little bodies

My mom was giving, loving, caring

compassionate, laughing, sharing

I remember loving her deeply

caressing her forehead

telling her to relax, that it’d be ok

and now it is, for her

she is free from pain and fear and for that I am grateful

but right now

it doesn’t feel ok for me

I miss her

I’m sad I have to remember

wanting the past to be present

wishing for a future tense with my mom

Hopi Prayer

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star’s that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.


I am in a haze. It is unbelievable that my mother is gone and like my cousin, Cailin, wrote to me, the world just doesn’t make sense without our mothers in it. I don’t know what day it is, what time it is, what meal I ate or should have been eating. I accomplish very little and I know that is ok, it is just strange. Like on September 20th, the day after my mom died, I ate a meal, I wrote the obituary with the help of Suzanne, I went to my brother’s for dinner so my dad wouldn’t have to be alone and that’s it. The day after, I tried to go out to do some pampering things with Suzanne (we had brunch at Cafe Zola, we went to Falling Water and got 2 matching bird houses, one for my house and one for the memorial garden at the church where some of my mom’s ashes will be), I went to Crazy Wisdom and bought myself a big stone heart from Haiti to put in my garden and Suzanne bought me a salt lamp. And then I had to go home because I had the worst headache I can remembering ever having. I bought some pain reliever and then had to go home and I think I watched a movie but can’t remember which one now. Then Suzanne drove me to see Kelly, my very sweet massage therapist and it went by too fast. My body was so sore and tense and achy. I was shivering at the hospital from nerves and found myself completely clenched and tense. And my lower back started to hurt a lot because I stood so much for 3 days and didn’t sleep well so it felt like my muscles never really relaxed. And Kelly said my forearms were both so tense and I said that it was probably because I was reaching over the bed rails to hold my mom’s hand or rub her feet or caress her forehead. Almost one week ago, I woke up and felt really refreshed and ready to start the week. I sat on my sofa and started doing my work until my brother called me around 11am to say that mom had been found unconscious. And since then, my body has not felt relaxed, except for that one hour massage. But then Kelly went on a much needed vacation with her daughter so she is gone now until October 10th. On whatever day that was, that is all I did except we met my dad for dinner at Paradise. Since then, I have found a picture for my mom’s obituary, I submitted the obituary and not much else. Today Cia picked me up (because I am not driving right now, because I don’t trust that I am alert enough and I know I’d be too distracted to be safe) so Cia picked me up and took me to get coffee and soup to drop off for my dad since he has no food in the house and he doesn’t know how to cook anyways. We dropped off the food, I went to Shadigian’s self care room finally and I laid on some jade massaging bed and it was weird but good. Then she dropped me back off at my dad’s house so we could go to the cottage. He just wanted to go check it out but I could tell he was nervous about going. So we went together and when we got there, we saw that a neighbor and friend of my mom’s (the same woman who found my mom unconscious last Monday morning) cleaned up the cottage a lot. It was good to not see how it looked exactly how my mom left it. Meaning that last week, when my mom was in the hospital, my dad and I went to the cottage for a minute for him to get his medication and clothes and it was weird to see how my mom had left it. To think that just earlier that day, she fell and hit her right cheek on something that cut and bruised it and to look at clues as to where she was sitting, that she poured her coffee but had not drunk it all yet and that her banana still sat on the counter uneaten. To not see it like that was good today. And I could tell my dad didn’t really want to spend time there but rather get out as fast as possible. We threw away all the open bags of chips and I took out all the Boost and Ensure and Scandishake high calorie high protein drinks. When we left, I asked if it was hard being there and he said, “Well, it’s hard being everywhere right now”, which was astute and really sad. We went to the grocery store together and he bought bread, blueberries, orange juice, creamer and 2 bottles of wine. That’s all I tried to get him to consider buying more food but that’s all he wanted. When he dropped me off, he helped me carry stuff in (like my mom’s chemo bag with the fuzzy blue blanket we brought in, the playing cards, nail polish, novel and the sewing project we started together and also all the supplements I gave her but which she never took so now I have B12, grape seed extract, probiotics, ginger tea, emergence and all the things Rodolfo said he didn’t want to associate with my mom but rather, he’s just try to think of them as products I brought home, unattached to my mom). And tomorrow we go to the church and talk with the pastor about my mom and how we want the memorial service to go and then we’ll go to the U of M golf club to see how we want it to look for her memorial reception. It’s all so fucking heavy and so much work. Yesterday I never left the house and today I did too much. And tomorrow there’s more to do. Ugh. It’s all so unbelievable and really, I just miss my mom.


My mother passed last night at 10:45pm. Once we took the oxygen off at 8pm, her breathing became more and more labored and there was a lot of mucus that was blocking her airway. We tried suctioning but it wasn’t helping because it was lower down in her lungs. And we knew that her respiratory issues were the main concern and it is what caused her to pass.

She was only diagnosed 5 months ago with cholangiocarcinoma or liver cancer (they never really knew). She did not respond to the chemo and she had multiple blood clots throughout the months and on Monday morning, she had a massive stroke. I sat with her and spoke with her and held her hand and caressed her forehead for almost 50 of the 60 hours she was at the hospital and I know she could feel our love enveloping her. My dad stayed the second night, my brother was there for the majority of the days, friends and family visited – she wasn’t alone for a moment.

I wanted more time with her and wanted my kids to grow up surrounded by her love and support. I wanted her to see them graduate high school, get married and to meet her great grandchildren. I wanted another 20 years with her, but the next few months or even longer would have been filled with so much suffering due to her cancer so I believe this was the most compassionate and humane way she could have passed away. I will miss her so much. I feel her absence already.

Now I need to try to somehow muster the strength to write her an obituary today.