Yesterday marked the 1 year "anniversary" of the day my mother died.
She had been diagnosed with non-hodgskins lymphoma about four years prior, and was (we thought) in remission. The week before she passed my husband, three sons and I were in Disney World. We go just about every year, and we had been counting down the days to this trip for the past nine months. After about our second day there Iwas filled with so much dread and a weird "sadness" almost. How can you be in the "happiest place on earth" and be sad?! That feeling stayed with me the entire trip and more than anything I wanted to stop time and not come back. I soon found out why.
I knew that mom was sick and hadn't been feeling well while we were gone. We thought she had some sort of virus or flu, as did her doctor. When I spoke to her early in our trip she was okay. When I talked to her the night we returned I knew it was more serious. I could hear the "fluid" in her lungs bubbling and popping as she breathed just while talking with her on the phone. We went round and round about going to the hospital that night, which she refused. She was scheduled for an xray the next day so we agreed to wait until then. Next day, xray was strangely clear, she was no better, but being stubborn. I made a deal with her and gave her through the next day. No improvement and I was taking her to the ER. You can see where this all ends. The ER trip turned into her being admitted to the hospital at 3 am. That lead to tests, procedures to try to remove the fluid from her lungs, doctors, doctors and more doctors over the course of the next 5 or so days. I skipped my brokerage's regional awards gala (I was a managing broker at the time for 2 local offices), and switched off most of my time between the hospital and the office. The experience felt like a runaway train that was slowly picking up speed until it was completely out of control. I kept seeing glimpses that life was never going to be the same again. After a couple days in the hospital mom told me that she had some bills that needed to be paid (she took care of all of the finances for her and my dad). It was hard for her to talk, as she struggled more and more to breathe and became more and more tired. She was able to give me her log in information for her bank and online bill pay and dad brought me the bag of bills from home. I went home that night and said to my hussband that everything was changing and I could see the writing on the wall of a new kind of life.
The next day I headed to the hospital before work as I had a full afternoon of meetings and appointments. When I pulled up I sat in the car for few minuutes dreading going in, when my aunt (who had spent the night at the hospital) calls to tell me the doctor had just walked in. I ran upstairs. Her oncologist was on one side holding her hand and the doctor in charge of the ICU was on her other side. They were transferring her to the ICU. They wanted to try another procedure to remove fluid as soon as they could get her more stable, and just before her oncologist walks out of the room he says to her, "we may lose you". He kisses her on the head and walks out.
My mom struggled her whole life with depression, bi-polar disorder, worry, fear, and a lack of confidence. I could see the shock and fear on her face. As I move up to her bedside to talk to her and comfort her I hear my aunt (my mother's sister, who had no children of her own and has always been like my second mother) on the other side of the room (we had the curtain between beds slightly pulled) quietly calling my name and I keep telling her to hold on a minute. Then a nurse comes in who was going to prep mom for her trip to the ICU and starts yelling for help. Apparently my aunt became so distressed by the news her blood pressure totally bottomed out. I look over and she is shaking in the chair, eyes rolled back in her head, foam starting to come out of her mouth.
Well. Our room filled with 10-15 doctors and nurses and as I stood there in the middle of the room I've never felt so alone in all my life. My mother on one side who is literally dying and my "other mother" on the other side unconscious and being tended to by medical staff. It was like something out of a bad movie. After a few minutes I could feel myself losing control and went into the bathroom and cried and cried. Finally, my aunt regained consciousness and insisted she was fine. I made them take her down to the ER while they prep mom for the ICU then start calling my husband, my uncle, my dad, my brother to get everyone to come to the hospital.
I called the owner of my company, who is wonderful by the way, got all of my appointments covered or cancelled and spent the day bouncing back and forth between the ER and the ICU. While my dad and my brother sat with her, my husband took me home to change into more comfortable clothes, and I spent a good part of the evening in the ICU. I fed her yogurt. Wiped down her head and feet with a cool washcloth (she was always hot) and helped her to reposition over and over again. My aunt was finally released from the ER (she was fine) and visited for a few minutes. Finally, mom encouraged me to go home to take care of my kids. She thanked me for everything. I went home. A few hours later I woke up at midnight. She was calling me from her cell phone confused, wanted to know what time it was. I could hear the machines beeping in the background. We talked for not even a minute, said I would see her in the morning and we went back to sleep. I knew that was it. Around 4 am the doctor called. They were trying to resuscitate her and that I needed to come. I had enough medical backround to know that there was no coming out of it and raced to the hospital, calling family while I'm on the way to get them there too.
Again, it was like a scene from a bad movie. The hospital doors are locked, I can't figure out how to get in. Finally get in through the ER but only a security guard can escort me to the ICU. It takes forever for the guard to show up then I'm trying to run and he is walking as slow as slow can be. Finally, I get upstairs and she was gone. I spoke to the doctor who was so kind. He sweetly prepared her for me to visit, covering her with a beautiful floral blanket. I only spent a minute, told her she did a good job, kissed her on the head and went out to wait for my dad (my brother was bringing him). And then, alone again. Waiting, waiting, waiting for them to get there. Keeping it together so I can tell dad and be strong for him. Climbed up on a chair to change the time on a wall clock that hadn't been adjusted for daily savings time. Finally they arrived. As you can imagine that conversation was awful, painful, sad as can be.
And with that, the switch had flipped and my life would never be the same again. In the span of a few days, hours, minutes, the things that had been so important to me before were completely and utterly meaningless. As the reality of my "new life" took hold things I was willing to tolerate and do before I was no longer willing to put up with. It was suddenly clear that the hours and effort and SO MUCH WORK I put in to trying to help, please, support those who would never be satisfied with anything I did was not only a waste of my time but was taking from precious moments and time with my family. Those who would do nothing but find fault, false reasonings and intentions, who would accuse and cut me down behind the scenes would never be satisfied no matter how hard I worked or what I did. Those people, those situations, that environment was suddenly physically painful for me.
Being a managing broker was enjoyable. I had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful, wonderful people. I worked HARD. Harder and longer than I had ever worked as an agent (or do now as an agent), and even though I was making less, there were rewards that I had thought were worth it. I had spent 10 years as an agent in charge of myself, my life, my schedule. The 2 1/2 years managing I was a facilitator of someone else's plan. The face out front in the line of fire while the decisions I executed were made for me. There are lots of jobs that are called "thankless" and in my experience, being a managing broker was one of them. (Side note: Thank your broker today! Chances are, they work harder than you know, care more than you realize, and would probably really benefit from one of those personal handwritten notes they are always telling you to write.) My life feels like a distinct before and after. Before March 19, 2015 and after. Before: stressed, struggling to please, unsettled, naive. After: designing my own life, focused on those that matter, letting go.
So what is the point of my long and drawn out story? At some point we will all go through something (maybe even more than once) that changes us, and it's okay. Don't let anyone try to make you feel bad about changes you need to make. It is your life, your experience, not theirs. Pick your path, you know the right one, and don't apologize for it. When your life changes you, don't fight the change and try to still be who you were. It's okay to be a new version of you. It's okay to create a new life for yourself. It's okay to embrace your new normal, even when it hurts.