The experiences and events that take place in your life help form who you are as a person, so the people in your life. I didn’t have an easy childhood but I had someone step up and help me live a life that was deserving to live.
As I sat in a closet in a Children’s home at eleven, crying softly, I knew what I wanted more than anything in my life was a home and a family. Later that year, I was blessed with a couple named Sue and Jerry. We went to court and they petitioned the state to be my legal guardians with no compensation from the state. It was granted. I had a home to go home to and a mother and father I would call my “Ma and Pa.” That first Christmas with them was wonderful, as I never really experienced a large decorated tree with shining bulbs and tinsel. Although the tinsel didn’t last long. Coco, our Siamese cat, loved tinsel and it was often the funniest sight to see that cat run around with tinsel strands out her butt! Too much information, I know, but it probably made you smile. In case you were wondering, tinsel is very harmful to cats so we had to remove it from the tree. It was such a memorable magical Christmas in that I got what I wanted most, a family and a home.
Fast forward years down the road, My Ma and Pa divorced after I went away to college, butI remained close to my Ma. She even moved to Nevada to be close to me while I was a dental hygienist in Las Vegas. As a nurse, she worked in long-term care facilities. If you have never been in one, go. It takes a special breed of nurses and caregivers, and I am proud to say my Ma was one of them but she wasn’t a good nurse to herself.
In 2007 around Thanksgiving she had an infected spot on her leg that would not heal. It progressively got worse. What I didn’t know is that she had diabetes and it was out of control. In February the next year, I received a call that she was in the hospital. When I arrived, the doctors told me she had only 10% function of her kidneys and she would have to be put on dialysis. The wound on her leg has festered tremendously. Over the next year and a half, she was in and out of about 9 hospitals with varying stays. She was on dialysis three times a week. The infection in her leg grew worse and she eventually had to have her right leg amputated and the other leg not looking promising either. It was a downhill spiral that just could not be controlled.
Then the day came that no one wishes for. The call came from her significant other while I was in route to attend a dental meeting late July 2009. As I was driving onto the entrance ramp to the highway, her significant other says “I tried to save her, but she didn’t make it.” I was like “What?!” and I pulled over immediately. He proceeded to tell me she had a heart attack and fell off the bed while she was at home. CPR didn’t save her. I couldn’t save her. I was devastated by the loss of this woman who saved me and saved my life. I was helpless.
Per her wishes, she was cremated. I had to honor her. Her significant other moved back to Illinois and took her ashes with him. It was so hard for me to have him be the caretaker of her ashes, after all she was my Mom, my best friend, a gift to me when no one else wanted me. She didn’t want a funeral, but the following month, I hosted a celebration of life event back in Illinois. Her life had meaning and everyone needed to know that.
When I cleaned out her house and her things, it was one of the hardest things in life that I have had to do. But there is a blessing in disguise in that ordeal. When I opened up her dryer and saw the last load of laundry, I decided to fold it. It was then I pulled out a shirt and burst into tears. Over the years, my Ma had a saying to me. I have always been a motivated person looking to achieve goals to prove to everyone “I can do it.” She told me over and over to “live for now, Trish because happiness can be found in the present moment.” As I pulled this pink t-shirt from the dryer the writing on the front said “Live for Now” in script writing. I took it as sign from her to me to slow down and enjoy the day. Take in the moments because all you have is now. It is because of that I decided I didn’t want an only child, thus, I had my son at the age of 38 in honor of my Ma. He joins my daughter who is 8 years older. Every day I look at him, I am reminded to thank my Ma, and to appreciate the now.
I have to admit, I haven’t kept much in touch with her significant other over the years. He was busy working and all. Then my cousin called me in July of this year, letting me know her significant other died from an apparent heart attack. His son now had my ashes of my Ma as he didn’t want any of her family to have them. I now live in Texas and spoke to him several times requesting to have my Ma’s ashes returned to me. With his busy life running a business, he had good intentions of sending them but never got around to it. I finally called the local funeral home, which ironically, my friend who went to Dental Hygiene school after me works now. This amazing funeral home is a family business for over 40 years and I don’t blame my friend for wanting to take care of healthy smiles instead of sad ones although she ended up working in the family business after all.
I called the son and asked him to drop off my Ma’s ashes at the funeral home and I would take care of any expense to get her to me. Months pass and I don’t hear anything… I call the son and he says “oh yeah, I dropped her off at the funeral home so they could take some ashes out so I could put them with my fathers.” I called the funeral home and my Ma’s ashes have been there for a while as no one has followed up. My heart sinks. This is my Ma. Arrangements were made to have her shipped to me. I received Ma’s ashes via USPS, today, as I write this blog. The emotions I feel are sadness to happiness to relief knowing she is here with me, although I know she has always been here with me in spirit, in memories and traditions.
I have longed for closure for so long and for the opportunity to be reunited with the woman who took me in and helped me grow into the woman I am. Closure is never easy and definitely not fast. The heart always aches for the loss of a loved one. I am so elated to have my Ma “home for the holidays.” It is the best present ever.
As the saying goes, the past is gone, the future is unknown, today is your gift. Live for now my friends and cherish the memories and traditions. Embrace the moments for what they truly are and put a smile on your face and happiness in your heart. Welcome home, Ma.