I began writing my mom a letter while she was still alive. Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in 2013 and she lived almost 3 years after her diagnosis. All the research and stats said she would only live about 6 months with treatment. My mom had a strong spirit and will to live, they need to re-write the Medical data on late stage small cell lung cancer!
It’s been a little over 2 years since I lost my mom, my best friend and it seems like yesterday, especially when holidays like, Mothers day are just around the corner- such a reminder of the love we shared and how much she is still missed.
My letter was written in stages and I wanted to share it with my mom before she passed. Mom never wanted to talk about her cancer or death and dying. I never found an opportunity to share my deepest thoughts/feelings with mom before she passed, so I read what I wrote to mom at her Memorial.
Today marks one year since my mother passed away. It still seems as though it was yesterday. I know that the sadness will pass it just takes time. I wrote a letter to my mom before she passed but she always wanted to stay focused on the day in front of her. She didn’t want to talk about her illness much and I was never able to share my words with mom. So, I shared them at her memorial and in honor of mom today, I will share them again.
In early August 2015, I told you that we understand completely if you are unable to make it to our daughter’s (your granddaughter’s) wedding and you replied, “Oh, I will be there, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” You were already so weak when we talked about this at the beginning of August.
August 29th, 2015
Mom, you drove 3 hours with our Stepdad to see your granddaughter marry the love of her life. You hadn’t spent more than 50 minutes in a car over the past 2 years but, you made it mom! Mom, I’m so happy you were able to see your entire family at such a happy event. You even got to see your great grandson’s who with mom and dad flew in from Colorado. You were happy mom and we were blessed beyond words to have you there.
In July you made it to not one but two family events. Your youngest grandson graduated from High School and you made it to his open house because you insisted you would never miss it. You also planned a family party for your stepdaughter who flew in with her family from California to see you and her father. Even though you had been weak and having a hard time walking, something gave you the energy to be present at these family events. You’re a strong woman mom and I know you always hate it when people tell you that but you never gave yourself enough credit for the amazing woman you are! That’s OK, I get it but now I’m sharing it with the world mom, your one amazing, strong willed woman. I admire you so much and what you’ve taught me through your living is invaluable.
It could be worse
You never complain mom, you always said when asked, “It could be worse and believe me, there are many people who have it worse than me.” That is the core of your being mom- you always put others ahead of yourself and would give the shirt off your back even if you had to go without one. OK, that’s not the visual I was trying to create (smile).
Your love was unwavering
You shared your home for over eight years with your daughter (my sister) and her children, because she was ill. Your unconditional love for family did not waiver. You were a positive influence in your granddaughter’s lives and it’s because of you mom, they were all able to transition in a healthy manner to their own home.
After you retired mom, you never took the many trips you dreamed of doing because you always put your family first. Life got in the way but you always reiterated that it was ok and you were already doing what you loved. I’d like to whisper in your ear that I wish you would have been able to see Maine for one but you had to cancel that trip a few months before your diagnosis. I knew you were ok with your choice mom but I always felt sad that you weren’t able to do more just for yourself. I’m glad you and dad were able to take trips to California to see his girls (your stepdaughters and grandchildren). I know those were fond memories you carried in your heart, we saw the excitement! And, you shared so many stories of the great times you all had together, that made me happy!
Mom, the holidays at your home are memories that will last a lifetime for me, my children and all of your children/grandchildren. You would begin cooking 2–3 days in advance of the holidays along with making homemade gifts for all your grown children. You had a gift when it came to sewing, crocheting, painting and even using wood cutting tools. You were always a gifted cook too. At least I can say I have one of your gifts, cooking!
You insisted over the past 2 years since your diagnosis of cancer and going through many treatments of Chemo and 2 rounds of radiation that we were still having our Holiday dinners at your home even though you weren’t feeling your best. You sure put on a good face and seemed to relish in the togetherness we all shared. Again, I have to say, you’re an amazing woman Mom!
Your strength and determination
I believe the deep intensity of the love you have for your entire family gave you the strength and determination to keep going. The stats said most people only live 4–6 months when diagnosed and treated for small cell lung cancer- I guess you proved the Scholars wrong, you lived 2.5 years after your diagnosis! Love kept you going.
Update November 2015
Mom as weak as you have been you still insisted we have Thanksgiving at your home, even though the smell of food makes you nauseated, you have been excited to spend time with all of us again. Today you fell and broke your humerus bone, tonight you are resting in the hospital. My heart is aching for you as I write this. Your love has touched me in ways I will never be able to put into words. I love you mom~to the moon and back~ When mom was discharged from the hospital she was bedridden until she passed. But we still shared Thanksgiving and Christmas together in 2015.
- You taught all of us to never go to bed angry- we didn’t.
- You taught us to work things out with each other and reinforced over and over that once your gone, we, your children, will be all we have.
- You taught us to respect each other and the world around us.
- You taught us unconditional love through your living.
- You succeeded mom, all 5 of your children are best friends. We can speak openly with each other and know that even if we do disagree, our love trumps any disagreements.
- We value and respect not only each other but those we’ve met along our own journey.
Mom, after dad died you took care of 5 children on a very limited income. We never went without food on the table, we never felt as though we were a family struggling because love always triumphs over struggles. You worked hard to provide for us without being a martyr. Mom, It’s ok to stop worrying about us and take it easy now (I SO wanted to tell her this when she became bedridden). You have left your children with so many useful tools that will be passed on to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with more to spare.
Mom, you’ve been our rock and now I want you to pass the torch and let us be your rock (again, another thought I wanted to share but there was never the right time).
Mom did pass the torch to her husband and all of her children prior to passing. Her light will always shine bright through all of us. when we look to the sky and see the brightest star, it will always be a reminder that mom is never far from us: it will always be a reminder that mom lives within each of us. Mom will always be our rock when we may need reminders. Mom will never be forgotten, never!
July 2015, Mom after finishing 2 rounds of Chemo and 2 rounds of Radiation of brain, happy to be at my nephew’s Graduation Party. Mom sure was one strong woman who I will always admire and love.
Harmony and Love (after her passing)
We won’t let you down Mom because we all know that your highest priority in life was harmony and love. May the love we all have for each other put a smile on your face. May the love we all share always make you proud Mom.
I will end this as I have ended my conversations with mom over the past 2.5 years- Mom, I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK~ Until we meet again.
Photo’s courtesy of Lisa Gallagher: All rights reserved
A similar version of this article was originally posted on beBee.com