September 5th, just two days after I held her warm hand while she took her last breath, my brother asked me to write our mother's obituary and I was nervous. How do you even begin to describe the most important person in your life in just a few sentences? In the end I nailed it, merely in one. "She was a selfless, loving, beautiful soul with a huge heart, bright eyes and brilliant personality."
That was our mom.
She was always ready to ask about our day, without mention of her own. Her ocean blue eyes never missed anything and she could read people so well; I could have sworn her to be a mind reader. She had an infectious laugh and in her final two years, I was lucky enough to hear it daily, even more so during her favorite I Love Lucy re-runs.
My mother was disabled and needed a bit of assistance with shopping, cleaning and cooking and she had made it quite clear that she never wanted to live in a nursing home; especially at the "embarrassingly" young age of 53. I told her, semi-jokingly, as long as she could shower on her own and wipe her own ass, she could live with me as long as she liked.
My mother had many health problems. To list just a few: hypertension, diabetes, emphysema, C.O.P.D., insomnia, depression, anxiety, a hernia, and chronic back pain (caused by the hernia). If you did not know my mom, and perhaps even more so if you did, she was actually a very sad sight. She had a hernia in her stomach that she had surgery on many times, but it always prevailed and by the time she was 45 she looked eight months pregnant with a lopsided, lumpy baby. The hernia worsened as my mother became overweight and it pulled her down toward the earth and curved her spine, like a sad, helpless house plant someone forgot to water. She used a walker, for her body could barely support the weight of the hernia. On top of all of that, she was on oxygen 24/7 and her clear cord snaked behind her wherever she went, except when she went outside; to smoke a cigarette.
It was not until I learned I was pregnant that I, myself quit smoking and after I had my son that my mother finally quit smoking, but for her it was too late and in the three months we spent in the hospital preceding her death, I realized my purpose.
When I was sixteen, my mother found my pack of "reds" in my Marilyn Monroe hand bag. When she calmly confronted me, she simply said, "This is the worst mistake you'll ever make in your life." At the time, I thought she was a hypocrite since she smoked ever since she was a teen, but in hindsight she knew the reality of what I was up against.
I smoked for ten years before I quit; cold turkey. Once I learned I was pregnant, it was easy because it was not about me anymore.
Nine months later, In April, I had my son and he was magical. So magical, that he got my mother to quit smoking after forty years of failed attempts. Suddenly, holding him was more important than holding a cigarette and she loved him more than anything. She got to hold him, kiss his little pink cheeks, calm his tiny cries, sing him to sleep, and be an amazing grandma for three unforgettable, short months. In July, my mom fell ill and was admitted into the intensive care unit with a severe case of pneumonia and from there her lung function stabilized and declined in stages but never improved.
We took turns sleeping upright next to her hospital bed until we got a feel for the nurses. Some of the nurses were amazing and others were downright terrible. There was one in particular, who did not know his own strength, hurt my mom when he moved her, and did not seem to care. My brother and I called him Lurch because he was large, stiff, and lacked personality. We were always on edge when he was around. Only