What's the big deal, you say? Well, grab the Kleenex, and I'll explain..
I'm the youngest of three kids, the baby in the family, the only girl. My Dad died when I was 24, and my brothers had already left home. It was just my Mom and me. I had just been accepted to two top graduate schools (Columbia, MO and Auburn) when he died. There was no way I was going away to school and leaving Mom alone. How would we pay for it? What would she do alone? So I got a job and we muddled through. I needed her as much as I thought she needed me.
Long story short, I met a great guy (Uncle Lynn, the Popr's King) and we got married. Moved away and had two kids. My brother had children too. She was a Grandma. She retired. Life was good. Not perfect, but good.
Mom had four sisters, and a brother. Her brother died of a brain tumor in his thirties. There was cancer in her family. One spring day, we got the news that Mom's oldest sister had it. She died a few months later. The next spring, the next sister was diagnosed. She moved home from Atlanta to live with Mom, and she also died shortly after. Summer turned to winter, then to spring.
In the middle of a party for my birthday, on March 11, 1986, my brother called. He never called. I said "Hey! You remembered my birthday! Why this year?"
The pause was eternal. He said "Oh. It's your birthday. Never mind. I'll call you tomorrow."
Another long pause, and I remember saying something like "Oh my God. It's Mom, isn't it?"
Kidney cancer. I spent the next months during the week with her, and on Saturdays, I'd drive 3 hours across the state to go home and do grocery shopping and laundry for my husband and kids, and the next day I'd go back to Mom's. My husband's Aunt Mable moved from Milwaukee, in with us, to take care of the kids. We got along that way for months.
Then one night, in the middle of the night, things changed. Mom's sister was with us, and so was Mom's friend Alice, from California. They had been in nursing school together, and had remained close all that time! They took my brother and me aside, and said it was time to take her to the hospital. We called an ambulance.
I drove alone, and followed the ambulance. About half way there, the light came on in the back, and I saw her sit up on her elbows and wave to me!
Later, my aunt told me that my Mom knew I was behind them, and she didn't want me to worry. So she summoned up her strength, and made the most unselfish gesture ever. She had the driver turn on the light so I could see, and she waved to me.
She only lived another day or two, and died Labor Day Weekend. I don't know, don't want to know, the exact date. It's been 23 years. But I have not forgotten anything about that night. It was all she could give me at the time, and it was everything. I'll never forget it. And I'll never be able to follow an ambulance again ever, without sobbing, as long as I live.
And that's OK. I love you, Mom.