Seven years ago today I said good-bye to Mom. She was 53.
She had smoked for 35 years. Cancer spread from her lungs to her breast to her brain. Chemotherapy almost killed her. She fought back from ICU, left the hospital and went to a nursing home with a tube down her throat. She fought there, too. Doctors ordered the tube removed and she breathed on her own.
I watched these scenes from her bedside and from thousands of miles away. I fought to keep her alive and comfortable. I became her advocate, massaging her legs and feet, bringing care packages, working through the week and flying up on weekends. I called and met with her doctors, arranged for Hospice, planned her funeral. I punctuated the end of our conversations with the same three words: I love you. Any one of those conversations could be our last and I wanted there to be no doubt where she stood in my life.
She knew. I know she knew. Still, I failed her. I did not call the night before she died. I was not at her tiny apartment when she fell ill. I did not call 911 or follow the ambulance to the hospital. I was not there.
What is worse, I did not fulfill a dream she had. Mom lived life hard, did more in 53 years than many people do in a lifetime. Only one thing was left on her list of things to do: Be a grandmother.
She did not meet Simone and Nadia. She did not hold them, sing to them, rock them to sleep. I missed her the most in the early months of their lives. I needed to hear the stories of my eating habits, my silly mannerisms, how she coped in the early days. All of those memories and history were buried with her the day I sprinkled her grave with my tears. I wish it were not so. I wish I could pick up the phone, tell her about Simone and Nadia and hear her crack up as I tell her about my parenting missteps. I can only wish.