Life will bring us storms. Some are minor but others are like hurricanes and tornadoes. Leaving a trail of devastation that has us gasping for breath and wondering how we will ever pick up the pieces left in the wake.
Everyone suffers these storms and weather them differently. And when the storm hit me and our family, it was horrifying. At first, I climbed within myself and didn’t really let anyone in, including my husband. But after awhile, I realized that I had children to take care of and a husband who loved me so much. And so I chose to “dance”. Now, if you’ve ever met me you know that I love to dance, but I’m not very good at it. Of course, I don’t mean I danced in the literal sense. But I did choose to “dance” in the emotional sense.
My dance began by realizing that my children and husband were the most important thing in my life. My family was there and they needed me. You see, I had just lost both of my parents within a month of each other. My dad first and then my mom. It left a whole that was so large, I was sure I wouldn’t recover.
My relationship with my father was not typical. He and mom had divorced when I was 9, and I saw him rarely. After our eldest was born, he came around quite a bit and our relationship began to grow and blossom. But then, and I don’t know what, but something changed and he stopped calling or visiting. I was mad and I was hurt. My baby was hurt too, she loved her Grandad. We would see him once in awhile but it was always awkward and painful. I never stopped loving him and always desired a good relationship but it was always so hard. He always seemed to connect easily to those that he wasn’t related to by blood. My step mother tried to reunite us but she too was unable to keep the bond alive.
When he moved closer to me, I thought this could be it. This could be my chance to connect with him. He was getting older and his health wasn’t the best so I knew that the time had come to ” get past myself” and begin again. But the moment never presented itself. He was in the hospital. He was sick and he was failing. I went to see him and I could see this sad man, this very sick man, my dad….and it wasn’t good. I kissed him. I told him I loved him. And he told me that he loved me too. He choked up and told me to tell my eldest that he loved her and that she was beautiful. This had never happened before. I had never seen him get choked up over anything.
Little did I know that would be the last time I would talk to him. The last words we spoke are now precious to me. A picture I have of the two of us, is one of my treasures. But the hole that he left remains. I’ve been told I didn’t know him. I’ve been told that, since we weren’t close, I shouldn’t be this upset. Well, I was. I am.
He’s gone. I can never again be mad at him. I can’t ever fix anything. I can’t say I’m sorry.
He will never know my children and be able to share in their joys and growth. This breaks my heart.
My mother is a whole different story. She was my best friend. My rock. My idol. I adored her and she adored me. She was always there for me. She was one of the hardest working women I have ever met and if anyone was greeted by Jesus it was my mom. After the divorce she went to work for the first time in 23 years. She worked in a bar, which was funny since she didn’t drink. Then she became a waitress and that was her passion. She loved people and she loved them through food. She kind of did the same thing with her family. It was not a family gathering without food.
She would always make sure that I had what I needed long before she would get herself anything. She never had much money and to this day I will never understand why or how we stayed off welfare, but it was not something we ever had (that I know of). I never had the best of anything or the coolest items but she did her best to take care of me.
She was the primary care giver for all four of my babies and they all have such precious memories of her. Their Grammy was THE BEST. And my mother adored them. She adored all her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Even those she rarely saw. She had the largest place in her heart for her family and she would do anything for us and often did.
When she moved into her last home, a large 5th wheel trailer, she was the happiest I had seen her in awhile. But her health was failing. She wasn’t as spry as she once was. She was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and she required in home oxygen. All the years of smoking had finally caught up to her. Once the oxygen was started, she perked up a bit and we started talking about taking a few trips here and there. She moved up to our property so I could keep an eye on her and she loved it. She was able to take in some beautiful views, play with the children she adored, and she wasn’t so alone. But then everything changed. She suffered a devastating heart attack and I had to rush her to the hospital. We were there for over a week and were given the horrible news that her heart was beyond repair. The heart that had loved and given us so much for so many years wasn’t strong enough to keep her with us any longer. We moved her closer to home (we had been an hour away at the hospital) and it was the last trip momma would take. She passed away as I wept on her chest and I was able to witness my mother draw her last breath and leave this earth. It was the worst moment of my life. My heart was shattered and I didn’t know what to do.
How could this be? How could my mom be gone? I didn’t get enough time with her and I still had so much to say, so much to learn and so many things to talk about. It was not fair! And I didn’t think I could ever dance again. Or smile, or be truly happy.
It’s been three years since Dad and Momma left and I have started to dance again. And it’s because of them. Because I can hear my mother’s voice, telling me that my children need me. Telling me that my husband is there if I start to fall apart. That she is there in spirit and holding me up with the help of Jesus. I’ve spoken to dad and I’ve found peace with our relationship and I can still cry at the drop of a hat at the memory of him…..of them. My dance is starting out slow but it’s gaining speed.
We lost six loved ones that year including my folks. It was a really tough year but we made it through by holding each other up, praying together as a family and letting the memories flow down our cheeks. My parents, through the love they had, created a strong family. They left 24 of us to mourn them and to feel their absence. To keep their memory alive we will share their stories to those who come after.
And one day we will meet again and I will dance with joy.
***In 2015 we lost our great niece in a car accident, she was 6. Our great Aunt from a cardiac event, my mother in law from COPD, both my parents, and my husbands best friend. It was the hardest year of our lives and the memories of everyone we lost still make us cry. The mourning never ceases. Hug those you love while you can, because tomorrow is not promised.