Daughter's Last Words

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Again, I know that my blogs are stroke focused, but having a stroke doesn’t mean life stops. You will be faced with the good, bad and ugly. It’s hard for stroke victims to process difficult information because we must be cognizant to spawn another stroke.

As much as I wish I could make this a combo of something else with stroke, death is something not talked about often. I understand why because it’s difficult for me to even admit that my mom is no longer with me. I’m sick to my stomach and I feel like I’m a shell of a person moving along with the motions so I don’t worry people. Inside, my heart is frozen.

I struggle to not scream at the top of my lungs or let out a hard cry to avoid a vessel rupture. I need it though. I need to exhaust myself to the point of point 0 to work myself back up.

I have written and talked about the grief cycle numerous times. For my own stroke, each cycle hit one at a time in orderly fashion. I anticipated this would work the same after the loss of my mother. Well, the grief cycle doesn’t work the same with death. I felt every bad part of the cycle minute by minute like I was on a cruel spinning ride that wouldn’t let me off. I’m uncomfortable, sorrowful, angry, not in the moment, bargaining, my body doesn’t want to move and my heart feels like it wants to give up. I still want to believe that this is a bad dream and eventually I will wake up and call my mom and hear her voice.

I have a lot of support in my corner giving me a shoulder to lean on, a place to vent and some urging me to take my emergency medication (low dose Xanxax) to help me. I took some the day it happened and the day of the funeral. The days in between, I told myself as horrendous as this is going to be, I have to go through the grieving process. I can’t dull the pain because dull pain is a band aid that will eventually fall off and your wound will be exposed so that you will have to deal with it.

I will be honest, there were a couple moments where I felt like I was on the cusp of another brain aneursym. I felt it near the area of the vessel that ruptured.

The night before my mom’s service, I felt drunk but I didn't drink. I didn’t take my emergency medication that night. The dizzy feeling was intense and at the moment, I thought this is it- I didn’t care. However, I must emphasize that’s not the way to think. It doesn’t solve your problems. It piles more horror on your family. These thoughts are normal, but they are completely wrong to act out and not seek medical care. Eventually after listening to music and crying softly I feel asleep to wake up for the second worst day of my life.

The day of the service, we pulled up and I didn’t want to get out of the car. It was dreary, cold, raining and windy. I sat there unable to think and unable to gather strength. I knew the moment I got out of the car this was the moment it was real. A fire truck was parked right by the entrance. This was for my father, who was a fireman, but still teaches and hangs out with his old department. I felt comforted to see them at the door waiting for us. I saw a table with my mom’s collectables and pictures. I wanted to vomit and needed to sit down. I went into the service room and saw my mother’s coffin and I can’t even put into words what that did to me. As I type this, tears are pouring down my face. I wanted to collapse. I immediately turned out and stood by the coat room crying in my husband’s arms until I heard my dad had arrived. This is when I had to wipe my tears because I am now fiercely protective of my father. I sat next to him and I could feel him shake as he was crying. When the photos started to display he pounded his fist on the altar. I wrapped my arms around my father tight. Soon people came in to greet us. A ton of firefighters and first responders came up to my dad. The amount of support for my family, especially my father, was overwhelming and I told him he has an army of love surrounding him.

When I saw the pictures of my mother and I, I began to lose it. That face, that bond. Shattered into a million little pieces. I can only hear her speak in my head, and hold onto the memories.

There are six kids in the family. The second oldest, took the reins to do the difficult task along with my sister to plan the funeral. He started the service with words about loss. My oldest brother got up and spoke and he struggled with his words that he had to walk away. My turn was next. I didn’t have the strength to do it, but for my mother, I had to make sure the words expressed how much she meant to us all. I cried at parts, but I felt something whisper, you can do it. When I was finished, I sat down and my dad said, “I don’t know how you did that”. I said, “I don’t know either”. My brother 2 years younger than me got up and spoke. You could see the pain in his face. I wanted to get up and give him a hug. My second oldest brother talked about some of his memories and then spoke on behalf of my father and two younger siblings.

When the service was over, the men went over to grab my mom’s coffin. My friend immediately ushered me out so I didn’t have to witness it. We went back to our cars to drive to the cemetery. A place that has haunted me my whole life because it represents pain, the end. Due to the weather, we went to a mossalim to sit in peace with my mother. I cried more. When it was time for us to depart, I did the one thing I didn’t want to do but did it because I didn’t want to regret and touched her coffin and said “I love you” and grabbed two flowers from her casket.

Afterwards, the family headed over to my brothers to eat. While I was grateful to my brother and his wife for feeding the family and creating an environment to remember the good, a massive part of me didn’t want to go. I did anyway despite having no room for food nor any words to say. I sat like a zombie far apart from everyone. When I found out that my dad wasn’t coming because he wanted the house to himself to grieve, I felt that it was time for my husband and I to go home so I could crash.

I crashed hard and woke up with that sick feeling in my stomach. Since I crashed early, I didn’t go to bed until close to 4am. I was filled with anxiety occupied by the thinking of her, and scared to sleep because of the nightmares. No matter what they were both horrible options. When I finally felt myself tired I jumped into bed and woke up at 2pm. A habit I have picked up since last Thursday. I don’t know how I will adjust to normal hours when I start work on Monday. I don’t even know how I will do my first day back. A part of me thinks working is going to be a good distraction.

Friday, my husband and I were supposed to find something to do to occupy time. Since I woke up late we sat on the sofa and watched TV. I told my husband out of guilt that I won’t always be this way. He understands. This is still fresh and he knows I’m doing the right steps by seeking grief counseling. As we watched a show, I decided to look at my calendar for doctor appointments because I forgot to cancel some that I had last week. I noticed something marked in green on a Thursday and not even clicking, I pressed on the date to see what it was- Thanksgiving. I felt sheer panic. Holidays aren’t EVER going to be the same. This year my father and I are boycotting the holidays. I don’t want to hear a single Christmas song or commercial. Thank God for streaming and DVR. I don’t want to look at a single decoration. My mom was the essence of holidays. By now I would have my mom asking me to submit my Christmas list. I always reminded her not to go crazy because the gift is the Christmas Eve dinner and morning that were special. It was her touch.

Next year, as we get stronger, my sister and I plan to take over my mother’s traditions and host the holidays at our homes (crossing fingers I have a home by then). This is something my mom would want and something our family needs. This year, it’s a hard pass.

Again, I know this is heavy and not stroke related, but in a way it is. We will be faced with more obstacles, the worse death of a loved one. We can’t lose our minds like everyone else because we have to safeguard our blood pressure. We also can’t turn to normal vices that people turn to numb their pain. We have to face the music head on. So, I’m being transparent about my pain just in case someone is having a hard time right now with a loss, or a manual for someone to turn to if something does happen.

My advice: be gentle with your emotions but don’t suppress them. If you had a hard time processing your stroke, then make sure you know your support network just in case something like this happens. They will be the ones to ground you. Seek professional help when you are ready. They are someone that you don’t have to worry about saying your truth, and can give solid advice or exercises to do. For me, I’m waiting three weeks so I know what areas I’m struggling with before I seek counsel. If I get worse, I will make a call.

With that, this was my eulogy for my mother’s service:

A full week of complete shock. A full week of horrendous, aching, life shattering feelings. A full week of trying to process the new reality for myself and my family. I feel like I was shot in the heart, and the doctor said, that bullet that hurt your heart will be with you forever.

I did not foresee this untimely passing of my mother. I pictured myself later in life watching my parents in their old age, and myself taking over the parent role to take care of them. I pictured more memories, conversations with my mother. Myself and my family, especially my father, were robbed. Words that will get easier in time don’t seem real. How is it going to get easy?

I called my mom every single day to talk to her for hours. She was the first person called for any news. She was the first person I vented to. She was the first person I asked for advice. I can’t call her anymore, so I ponder the statement, this will get easier when I just want to pick my phone up and call her. Trust me, I have reached for my phone by habit to call her. For once, I have good news, I couldn’t let her know. I ache to hear her voice, laugh, and advice.

Our bond to one another was very tight and we relied on one another often. While we are bonded beyond life, it still hurts. I wish there was someone I could place blame on and become vengeful for my mother. There is no one to blame. The words are written, the feeling is true- I have been robbed. So I cry, I scream, I shut down and plead to whatever spiritual power to be if my mother and I can trade places. More people depend on my mother and need her.

In 2020, I suffered a deadly ruptured brain aneurysm and stroke. Now for any person, the first number they would dial is 911. I called my mom first because she was the face I wanted to see when I got to the hospital. While I was there, knowing that something wasn’t right, she reached her hands over mine and soothed me. When I was transported downtown and endured two brain surgeries, scared out of my mind, my mother did not leave my side. When I was wheeled off for my first surgery and I didn’t know if I would make it, she leaned over and said “I love you”.

She stayed with me during my recovery when I was back home. Even under bad circumstances, I had several weeks hearing my mom say, “I’m here”, walk up to the stairs, ask if I need anything and sit with me. We talked for hours. When I started working again, she was released from babysitting duty. My dogs still waited for her to come. What I would give to extend my time off to spend more one-on-one time with her. I know my mom didn’t want to give up the babysitting duty either, but my mom was happy to sleep-in since our family is a bunch of vampires that stay up all night. The first week alone, I sent videos of my dogs waiting for their grandma to come over. It made her laugh. If I could go back in time, I would sell my soul.

As her first daughter, she was extra protective of me and instilled what a strong woman should be. She told me to never back down on my convictions, never take no for an answer and never submit to anything. Well it worked. Perhaps it got me in trouble in school arguing with teachers, but it transformed me into a hard working independent woman. My ethics and thirst to go above and beyond come from her, and I also credit my father. My mom saw something in me that I refuse to acknowledge- that I was destined for greatness and purpose. Now, I don’t have her encouraging words moving forward, but the memory of what she has told me in the past.

My mom was an amazing woman, wife, friend, and mother. So, let me list a few of her talents and quirks. If I listed them all we would be here for days.

My mom was a severe weather enthusiast. She was giddy when thunderstorms and tornadoes would pop up. She had 12 or more alarms set to let her know if a tornado was spotted. What was funny to me, most of those tornadoes were not in our state. She followed the storm chasers live feed. When I called and something was going on with the weather, she wasn’t listening to me. She gave me live updates. She passed this love to her children, as each one of us loves a good thunderstorm.

When the severe storm season is over, my mother enjoyed every season. She would talk about the beautiful leaves changing color, the fresh flowers blooming, and the cold weather with snow. I don’t understand the cold weather because she was always cold. For her, it was the changing season no matter the temperature that gave her joy. For me, I would be content on a beach with warm weather- this I get from my father.

My mother was a gifted artist. I remember one day she showed me a children’s book she wrote and illustrated. I told her she should turn it in. She said no, it’s just for me. She made beautiful jewelry, she did paintings via iPad, but they were from scratch. Each one she did the more elaborate and beautiful they were. Again, I begged her to share it on Facebook. She said no because she was humble and wanted to keep it to herself.

My mom was a tomboy. My mother grew up playing with her brothers, picking up bugs, and getting dirty. She wasn’t afraid to tackle a snake, deal with wasps, which frightened me to the core. A couple months ago I accused her of harboring these evil bugs in her home. She laughed- god to hear her laugh again. My mother enjoyed fishing, kayaking, riding bicycles, then transitioned to riding motorcycles with my dad. I remember when she would be proud that she would speed past my dad. She was a daredevil.

Flipping back to fishing, this was something my mom and dad did together and continued to the end. They passed the love of fishing to their children. We spent several summers at Table Rock lake with my mom and dad and four of the six kids packed on a bass boat. We would leave the dock and fish until the sun came down. While my poor father was busy cutting fishing lines caught in the tree, my mom and I, who were on the back part of the boat, would make jokes. The fishing journey with my family could be a book with all the mishaps that happened that make me chuckle. I thank god for those memories.

My mom liked to make people laugh. She was a joker with silly jokes and puns. I think she enjoyed her puns more than anything. We would sit there and roll our eyes as she tried to point it out. I remember when she thought she was funny with the movie Gladiator. She loved that movie and watched it every single time it was on. When I moved back in for a brief period it drove me nuts. I had a habit of falling asleep on the living room sofa, so my mom made sure before she went to bed that the TV was set for Gladiator to be on when I woke up. I would tell her the next day that I did not like that and she giggled.

My mother loved to shop. Again my mother LOVED to shop. She loved collecting items and made each room into a theme. She could spend hours in the mall. I remember one day my sister and I went shopping with her. We spent hours circle shopping looking at each piece of clothing on the rack. I couldn’t take it. I had to call my dad to pick me up. I thought it was insane how she could look at everything. Thankfully, she had my sister to enjoy the mall with. For me, I’m like my father and I’m in and out. However, the love of fashion, clothes, jewelry passed on to myself and my sister. My closet is a tribute to her. My mom doesn’t like the color black, but knew I did. She didn’t get it, but she would find dresses on Zulliy that were plack with some color and send it to me to look at. She knew my taste was Jackie O. I remember when they went on vacation, I would ask my mom if Zulliy reached out to her to check on her because there wasn’t any activity.

My mom, who could not help it, cursed the family. When she said be careful because x,y,z will happen- it happened. At first we thought it was a coincidence, but as the years went on we understood the curse was real. Each one of us has experienced something that my mom predicted. We eventually told her before we left for trips to not say anything. God- I wish for that back.

My mother adored the holidays. Each one, she would summon my father to bring up the ever growing boxes of holiday decorations. She loved it all. She even put a clown up, so I told her I will see her in November. It didn’t stop her from sending a video of the clown. She transitioned to beautiful fall decorations for Thanksgiving and then Christmas which was perhaps special to her and everyone in the family. She made the holidays special with her special touch, her food and so much more that I couldn’t wait for the seasons to come. Now, we are robbed. Holidays will never be the same, and I shudder to think of what they will be for the years beyond. For me, the holidays are my mom.

The best- my mom was a caretaker. When we were sick, we needed mom. Even at 39, working in healthcare for almost 20 years and knowing the answer, I still called my mom because I wanted to hear her voice the advice. She was the best therapist for each of her kids. When we went through hard patches, she is the one we called. Now, that’s gone.

Overall, she loved her children but she really loved her husband, my father. A huge chunk of our heart has been removed because we are lost without her. For my father, it’s his whole world removed.

I will say, this journey is not going to be easy, which is what happens when you love someone. I feel robbed and don’t know how to move forward. If I smile for a moment, I feel guilty. I know that my mom wouldn’t want any of her kids, nor her husband to stop living life. Well, right now, this is the first time it’s hard to hear my mom say move one, because my mom was my world and I just ache to touch her, hear her voice, laugh, say I love you. I ache and ache. I was blessed with a wonderful mother.

I was fortunate to see her the week she passed and say I love you. I was fortunate as well. My advice to everyone- make sure your last words to someone are meaningful and loving. You never know what the next day holds, and you don’t want to live in regret.

I finish with lyrics that have played to me for a month and I didn’t realize how important they were until now.

I really need talk to you lord

Since the last time we talked, the walk has been hard

Now I know you haven’t left me but I feel like I’m alone

I’m a big girl now, but I’m still not grown

Soakin’ up trouble like rain the dirt

And I know, I can only stop the rain

I will know no pain, from the light to the dark.

Devil I rebuke you, for what you put me through

But all that stops right her

And I know only I can stop the rain

Devil, I rebuke you, for what I go through

Been trying to make me do what I used to

But all that stops right here

I will know no pain from the light to the dark

I will show no shame, spit it right from the heart

Cause it's right from the start, you held me down

And ain't nothing they can tell me now

Lord, give me a sign!

Keep it real with us now, I wanna feel, show me how

Let me take your hand, guide me

I'll walk slow, but stay right beside me

Devil's trying to find me

Hide me! Hold up, I take that back

Protect me and give me the strength to fight back

Life or death, live or die

I will never live a lie

I'm going there because I try

I won't give in till I die

I'm gon' make it, wrong or right

Make it through the darkest night

When the morning comes you'll see

All I have is God in me