Last week, I stayed overnight at my parents’ house in Milaca. The next morning, I woke up, and feeling exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before, went downstairs into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I turned on the Keurig, and immediately the digital display flashed the message: NOT READY. To which I replied, out loud, “Me, neither!”
This was the day after my dear mother suddenly passed away at home, due to a cardiac arrest. She was 72, but enjoying relatively good health. She had a few medical issues, but they were well managed by her doctors. It came as a shock to me and all of my family. I actually called her that afternoon, trying to make plans to pay a visit before the summer was over; little did I know we would be visiting Milaca for an entirely different reason. Still, it brought me comfort that I was able to speak to her on the same day, right before this happened.
“Not ready” is what I am sure everyone says when they lose a loved one; even after a long battle with an illness, it is still hard to picture life going forward and fill the void left behind. Vicki was the matriarch of our family, she was the one planning our holiday gatherings with the input of her three children; she also planned vacations and road trips for her and Dad in their retirement. She was still active in book club, bridge club, and her church up until the very end, which is truly a blessing–but that void is even more keenly sensed by those left behind. She lived a very full life, but we were simply not prepared for the abrupt ending.
Vicki was always fearful of developing dementia, given our family history of Alzheimer’s, and was worried she’d need a long stay in a nursing home. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the truth. She went suddenly and painlessly, from her favorite recliner in the living room to the glory of heaven above. What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of ending for her, but many years down the road. We recently had conversations about Mom and Dad moving in with us when the time came. Instead, the planning shifted to the memorial service, and what will follow. I am thankful to have Phil, my sister Lisa, and my brother Tony helping with these decisions and providing such strong support. We are all grieving, but the love and the family bond is sustaining us, which comes directly from Vicki’s legacy. Faith and family were her top priorities, and she truly held the ten of us together, including our spouses and her two grandchildren. It’s a direct result of this bond that we are coping so well. That, and knowing she is with Jesus.
Last weekend, interspersed with waves of grief and random intermittent crying, the nine of us remaining still had pockets of joy. We played a round of bridge, with my sister in law Kasey as the fourth player, and my brother in law Joe played games with my teenagers Sam and Lydia. I heard peals of laughter coming from the family room upstairs as they attempted to learn a new interactive game. We enjoyed many meals together, and shared stories and memories. All of this because that’s what Mom would have wanted; for us to connect and stay close, despite her absence.
Moving forward will not be easy, as I am sure anyone who has lost their Mom can relate; it is likely something you never get over and never stop thinking about. For those left behind, another life lesson is to cherish the times we do have with our friends and family, and to make the most of it. Every day is a gift; we simply do not know what the future holds. And while I believe Mom’s passing is God’s timing, I have still echoed this phrase in my mind time and again since that Saturday morning: