I was asleep, curled up in my covers, pregnant with Wes having a strange dream. My phone rang, shaking me from my sleep. It kept ringing, wouldn’t stop.. forcing me to wake up to a reality I wasn’t prepared for. My dad was on the other end of that phone call informing me that my mom had passed away.
Let me say here that Mom had bad health. A whole list of things that didn’t work the way they were supposed to. Her death was something that was unexpected in a few ways. Yes, she had health problems but none of us figured or thought that they were actually enough to cause her to die. My mom always seemed so full of life and like she had everything under control. The news was a complete shock. Numbing, hurting, strangely calm, deep gut wrenching sobs I felt it all.
The most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced was walking back to the emergency room bay where she was to see her one last time. I didn’t want to but I knew I had to. My brain did not want to process what I was looking at. Yes, it was her body, but it was just not her.
Sitting around discussing when to have her funeral, remembering her wishes and trying to honor those with family was both kind and stressful. In the middle of everything we had the gender and health ultrasound for Wes that day. Greg and I chose to keep the appt. All I can remember is when we walked into the office and the receptionist or tech would talk to us I just wanted to blurt out “my mom died today” so that they could understand why my smile didn’t quite reach my eyes. Greg and I were delighted to find out we were having a boy, there would finally be a grandchild to carry on the Smith name ! But our happiness was short lived.
After finding that out the next week was a blur. We had to finalize plans for her celebration of life, find pictures, ask people to speak, take care of bills to help dad, BE there for Dad and Sam and in the middle of it all try not to throw up. Pregnancy hormones and grief do not go together well.
I have never known an exhaustion like I did the day we finally had her celebration of life. When we were finished all I wanted to do was snuggle Illa and sleep. Yes, mom and I had had our issues, what mother and daughter don’t? But I never imagined she’d be gone.. and that I wouldn’t have her around to talk to, to drive me crazy or to give me advice.
Her memory lives on in our family. In her recipes, telling stories and our Christmas traditions. I talk to Illa and Wes about her all the time. They make it easier to not be too sad about her passing. They constantly ask me “why is your mom in heaven?” And ” I’m sorry she isn’t here anymore”.
I’m a firm believer that little kids can see and hear things from the other side that we can’t. The day before Wes was born I was busy in the kitchen making a dinner for a family that needed it and Illa was on the counter helping me when out of the blue she says ” mama? Mama Juju is proud of you!” In her little almost 3 year old voice . It surprised me, those were big words for her and not what I was expecting. So I asked her what she said and she repeated it again perfectly ” mama juju is proud of you!” I scooped her up in a hug and cried . How would a 2 1/2 year old know to say that? She wouldn’t thats how, she was told. I heard ya mama. I heard you.
Life has been different since she’s passed. The first year was a blur, I was really good at keeping myself busy and not letting myself deal with the feelings. Year 2 was very rough. I finally started to process the feelings of being sad that she was gone but feeling guilty about wondering if this was what was best for her because of her health before she passed. I felt guilty because I missed her like crazy during the holidays but also felt a sense of relief at not having to deal with family drama over not spending enough time for Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Grief, guilt and hindsight all go hand in hand. That’s one thing I’ve definitely learned. In the years since she’s passed I’ve learned more about myself, how strong I am and where I stand on things. I’ve really come into my own as a mom and as a woman. I owe much of that to her. Julie was a determined woman. She was brave, headstrong, kind, a little manipulative, funny, passionate, beautiful and compassionate. Her memory did not die with her, she will always be with us, of this I’m certain.
Till next time