I never knew true heartbreak until the day my mother died. Today marks the first anniversary of her death and is the last of the firsts since she passed. Even though we knew the day was coming for over two years, I still was not prepared for the gravity of her death on my life, or my heart. This is a tribute to her, and for the final gift she gave my sister and I, for her final journey home.
My mother died of stage four pancreatic cancer. She faced a certain death, and yet she remained optimistic throughout her illness. For two years she withstood chemotherapy, blood clots, pneumonia, hospitalizations, and constant pain. Yet, she refused to give up hope.
Even though my sister and I moved in with mom to take care of her during her final months, my mother refused to discuss her final wishes. Perhaps, she felt as if she gave them a voice, it would seal her fate. About a month before her death, and before dementia took her mind, the three of us were sitting around and having a “girls’ night.” We all dyed our hair and did our nails. Then mom slowly opened and had the difficult conversation about what type of funeral she would like to have. It was her first and only moment of acceptance.
Our mother asked us to take her ashes on a trip to all her favorite places we had been stationed at during the time my father served in the Air Force. To the happy places we spent as a family and made lifelong memories. Our journey would include Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, and finally home, to Iowa.
I included photos of the places we visited in honor of my mom. So that, her memory will live on. So, there is a record of her daughters’ dedication to honor her. I have often thought about writing a complete journal with all the details of our trip, but that felt like oversharing. But I will say that each stop, my sister played a song, and said a prayer, and recalled memories of our mother and our childhood. This journey not only brought my sister and I closer together (which helped with the healing), It brought us closer to mom, nature, and God, too. I miss you, Mama. Rest well.
For my sister, Kristen, thank you for holding my hand through this difficult journey.
She’s a beacon, a harbor
A lighthouse, your armor….
She’s your motherMother by Sugarland