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I have spent my life subscribing to the philosophy of Alfred Lord Tennyson;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all”

Telling myself this has gotten me through some very, very difficult times. I have espoused this same quote to my children, to people close to me  trying to make sense of the loss of a loved one and, also, to friends that were going through very difficult break-ups.

This Mother’s Day morning, I woke up and was hit with such a huge wave of sadness and despair. It’s Mother’s Day, I have no mother. She was taken from me at the way too young age of 66. I no longer have a grandmother, who really helped to raise me when my mother was sick with cancer for the first time. I was only an infant. This was my fourth year that I haven’t had either one of them on this day. I know it’s supposed to get easier and I suppose someday it will but, today, when I got up, it hurt like hell.

It’s really not fair to get a good gauge on how well I’m “moving on”. Back in January, I lost my cousin suddenly (the closest one to my age and, for that fact, probably my closest cousin).  We have been close my whole lie. We grew up together. Just a short day and a half later, my daddy passed away. He was a great man, dad and husband. Of course, I was devastated by both of these losses but, to be honest, I was not really able to grieve them properly. The reason for this is my beautiful cousin, Amy.

I call Amy my cousin because that’s what she was to me. She started dating my cousin, Neal, when they were in college so; I have known her for almost 30 years. We have spent countless hours together; at my house, at family weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, holidays, etc. Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer that had already advanced about two years ago.

Naturally, because of my history of breast cancer, I had a very active role in Amy’s life dealing wither her own diagnosis. I went with her to pick out her wig, before she started chemotherapy, spent hours upon hours talking to her and texting her and Neal; about treatment options, how they were feeling emotionally, how to treat each other and be there for each other during one of the hardest times that they will ever have in their lives, the best way to recover from the surgeries, and about just about every other thing you need to start fighting this devious disease.

Unfortunately for Amy, she had a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. One of the most aggressive and one of the hardest to treat. Amy, my love, had to treat almost constantly for the two years she battled. And battle she did. The treatments were brutal, as were the surgeries. She ended up with almost every side effect one can get from chemotherapy, including a very painful condition called neuropathy. When standard chemotherapy wasn’t working, we were all excited when she started a promising trial, only to find that that didn’t work, either. By the end, she was both emotionally and physically exhausted, in an extreme amount of pain, unable to breathe because the cancer had spread primarily to the lung and because of her very low immune system, brought on by the chemotherapy, was having problems with fluid in the lungs. Nothing about the entire ordeal was peaceful and there was no silver lining.

And, let’s not forget, in the midst of all of this, when she could barely walk across a room without needing oxygen, she lost her husband and her uncle (who she was very close to), within a day of each other. Being Amy, there she was, at both services and funerals, sitting with the utmost in grace and dignity, all the while most likely thinking that there was a very good chance that the next time she attended a funeral she would most likely be the one in the casket.

The hardest thing for me to witness during the whole awful week of deaths, funerals and tears was when we went to my cousin’s final resting spot at the Locust Valley Cemetery. I knew that just about a week earlier, Amy had picked this plot for herself – made all of the arrangements. I cannot imagine being 44 and knowing that I was so close to the end of my life that I had to make “final arrangements”. The very thought of it makes me shudder.

At Neal and my father’s services, quite a few people came up to me to tell me how great Amy looked. You see, Amy was a gorgeous woman by anyone’s standards, and even with the extreme pain and breathlessness she was experiencing, and being there to bury her beloved husband and an uncle she loved so very much, she still looked beautiful. I however, having known Amy for so long, could tell that she didn’t look like “herself” but, looked very, very sick.

So, my grief had, in a way, been put off. Placed on the back burner, if you will, due to the worry over Amy’s health, my steadfast promise to be there for her every step of the way, along with my participation in fundraisers for her treatment (which was not covered by insurance), etc.

Well, my beloved Amy passed away at 3:10 in the afternoon this Thursday. Now she is gone. When I woke up this morning it really hit me that they are all gone. I will never get another big bear hug from Neal (he was the best hugger), I will never be able to hear my father’s booming voice and I will never again see Amy’s beautiful smile and hear her lovely chuckle. Never. Ever. Never again. It is now a trifecta of grief and it hurts. It really hurts.

Even more tragic is the fact that my Aunt Angela loved Amy as her own. She was the daughter that she never had. They talked 2-3 times a day, every day. I used to make fun of them because they started to look alike and sound alike. They even had the same mannerisms. For all intents and purposes, my Aunt lost two children in the span of 4 months. Think about that for a minute. I cannot even imagine the pain and the absolute devastation of her heart. I speak with her every day. Every day she makes me so proud. Instead of lying in bed with the covers pulled all the way up, she is working, she is preparing for the birth of yet another grandchild this Wednesday and she is spending time with her family. She is crying – a lot, of course but, she is living. She is so incredibly strong. Then again, she is my mother’s sister. My mother happens to have been the strongest women I have ever known. I come from a long line of strong, courageous women.

And, of course, I was thinking of Amy’s mother today. She lost her little girl. Although she has a son, she does not have another little girl. Amy and Neal were not able to have children and, so, there is not even a little piece of Amy in the form of a grandchild for Amy’s mother to cling to and give her hope. The pain she is feeling is enormous. The huge hole in her heart as a result of Amy’s death will never be filled. My heart aches for her, in a primitive, real and raw way. I pray to God that somehow she is able to find some joy in the rest of her life. After watching her poor daughter suffer and pass away before her eyes will, no doubt, make this very difficult.

As painful as it was for me upon waking this morning, I can’t imagine the pain either of these lovely ladies felt when they opened their eyes. How does one feel when they wake up on Mother’s Day after just losing a child/children? There are no words in the English language to describe it. The really aren’t.

I was looking through some old photo albums for older pictures of Amy so that I could use them to post a status update about her passing. The digital pictures I have are all of Amy in her thirties and early forties, for the most part. I wanted to find some of her with her big eighties hair, with my babies, when she was in her twenties. I was successful in finding what I was looking for. While going through the albums, I came across the pictures from each Christmas spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  There are scores of us, sitting around three tables that had to be pushed together to fit us all. Looking at these pictures, a thought struck me like a bullet through the heart. Six of these beautiful souls were now gone from this earth. They were here, the asked us to pass the gravy, they handed out the presents they had gotten for everyone, they loved, they laughed, they cried, they felt joy and happiness and sadness and they had hopes and dreams for their futures. With the exception of my grandparents, who were in their eighties when they passed, they were far too young to leave us. They had so much more life to live, so many more laughs to have, so many more tears to shed. And, no matter how hard I try, I am having a hard time making sense of it all. There are days that I really feel my faith being tested, like today.

But in looking at the pictures of us all around the table(s), I also saw the faces of all of the wonderful people I still have in my life. Would I give up the love of even one of them so that I will not have to suffer if I lose them?

The answer is a big, resounding NO.

Tragic things will always occur in life. Of that we can be sure. Tragic things will happen no matter how many people I love and accept love from. And, when those tragic things happen, it will be the people I love whose arms I will run to. It will be those people I will cry with and pour my heart out to.

And, it are these people I love – my family and friends – who inspire me, who make me laugh until my stomach hurts and tears are running down my cheeks. They are who I will share my hopes, dreams and fears with. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I even dare say that without them, it is possible I wouldn’t still be on this earth. Their constant support and love are what helped me through my heath ordeals.  Like the song said, they loved me through it.

So, at the end of this Mother’s Day, which was so incredibly difficult for not only me, my aunt, Amy’s mother and the far too many women I know who spent their days without a mother, a grandmother, their children, and a woman who was like a mother to them, I say I am so very sorry for your loss and I wish their was something – anything – I could do to take even a small amount of your pain away. 

At the end of this Mother’s Day, my biggest hope is that you spent a beautiful day with your mother, the mother of your children, your grandmother, your aunts, your God Mothers and your God Children. But, not only do I hope that you spent the day with them, I hope that you took in every moment, that you hugged them and kissed them and that you told them how much you loved them. Because tragic things happen, and the truth is you never know what life will throw at you – they could be gone sooner than you think. If you didn’t do that today, it’s not too late. Tomorrow is another day. Just make sure that you do it because remember;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

xoxo

 

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