As simple as this statement is, elementary rather…there are certain moments in your life that this becomes more profound than others or when you truly really are met with this concept. And its life changing when you realize this.
Reading this makes me immediately think of the little girl who REALLYHATED dresses and REALLY LOVED farm animals, cowboy boots, Glen Campbell, riding in Dad’s tractor stuck up inside the tiny corner behind his seat, playing football and riding my motorcycle.
And then I think of the determined little girl who became a fiercely determined young lady on a mission to prove everyone wrong, who packed what I owned and headed North to what would become some of the best days of my life, who broke her back and with that lost every single solitary sense of who she had become or wanted to be, and headed home where it all began to help take care of her Mom who got violently ill after her own Mother had passed and who would spend the better part of the next 18 years taking care of this sick Mom.
And then I think of the becoming. Who I am destined to be now. Where she is going to go now.? What will become of her now? It is with great trepidation, fear and excitement that I head out on this journey. We do not always like what we learn about ourselves along the way. But here I go…
This past March my Mom left my world. She quietly disappeared before my eyes. Barely speaking, barely bestowing any final words of wisdom with which to live whatever would be left of my own life. Shortly before she left the hospital for the very last time, I drove down first thing in the morning to be with her so I could have some one on one time with her. Without her husband, without her Dr, without nurses, social workers, my siblings, her siblings, without anyone. Just us. I clearly did not know that moment would be one of the last moments we would have together alone. She asked me if I was happy, if Kristina and I were OK. She asked me to be more understanding of the boys and this stage of their lives, (different when you are the parent versus the grandparent I guess.) She asked me to find a job that made me happy instead of angry all the time. She told me she was not scared of dying, she was scared of leaving us. She asked me if she got on Hospice could she still go and do things if she had the energy. She recited her bucket list of places she wanted to see before she left, “the lake” being at the top and Bella’s wedding. She asked if she would be in pain, what would happen, how it would happen, to which I had no answers, I had never done this before either. I remember telling her maybe she would feel better if she could get off of all of these drugs. I said that I had no idea how I would live without her. She said I would, that I would just know to get on with my life. That she would be with me always and that she would go on all of our trips with us whether we wanted her to go or not and she would be right on top of here…pointing to my head. She said I had been her angel here on Earth…how lucky she was to have had one. And that she would be mine in Heaven…she owed me that much. That is was OK to go and take care of myself now, my work here was done.
I did not remember this moment we shared until recently. It is funny how much grief takes from you, memories are usually the first thing. They come back if you give them time. They return if you give them space. They show up when you are ready.
The beginning of the first week of hospice was a piece of cake. Later in the week was the “turn.” A grief counselor visited the first week, my Sister and Aunts also present. She visited with Mom briefly, but Mom was very weak and very tired and had a hard time opening her eyes but was listening very intently. I had expectations of how this whole process was going to go. And it went nothing like that. None of the brochures they gave me prepared me, nor did the guidance of others who had been through it themselves. It did not prepare me because my Mom did not follow “the script.” She did everything in the brochure that said would take days, sometimes in one day. She spoke very little. But on the day the counselor visited she asked my Mom what she wanted her legacy to be. Mom rocked back and forth in her chair and simply said kind. I want them to be kind. To show kindness.
When I was a little girl and I judged someone or something for whatever reason, probably out of jealousy, my Mom would simply say, “walk a mile in their moccasins Tiffany.” And of course the first time she said it, I envisioned real moccasins, and thought this was a silly concept. And she explained, (to a youth who was really not understanding) but clearly I was listening because I can recall the conversation as if it just happened. I giggled and said no one wears moccasins Mom. And she said, that is what you think. One day Tiffany you will understand. You will understand that we have no idea what someone is carrying, how heavy that load or that burden is, or just because you think you see what someone has, it does not mean they got it easily, that they deserved it or even wanted it. She said that statement a lot throughout my life. Walk a mile in their moccasins Tiffany. I was much older when I realized what that actually meant…put yourself in their shoes and walk their journey if you want to understand. It would be the secret to learning how to truly be kind.
While the only journey I can walk is my own, I do know that without this lesson I do not believe I would have understood what she really wanted her legacy to be. How I could truly honor her life, in life and in death. I could do this by simply walking a mile in her moccasins. My Mom’s life was filled to the brim. Her cup runneth over. There was joy, there was peace, there was harmony, there was enormous pain, self doubt, fear, loathing and debilitating anxiety. Despite all of that, there was always kindness. To everyone. Never herself. But to everyone else.
In order to understand my Mom’s life, I have to first take a really deep hard look into my own, because after all, without her, there is no Me. That is what this page, this blog, this journey is about. Finding me. While walking a mile in her moccasins.
My deepest hope is that by sharing this I can begin to heal. Not just from this profound loss, but a lot of other things as well. I can learn how to be kind to the most important person in my life. Me. And maybe just maybe it will help someone else on the way.