Well, as many of you know, my mom passed away almost two weeks ago, on a Tuesday. For the past twenty-two years she has been battling MS, which eventually bound her to a wheelchair and she lost all ability to control any movement of her body. As a result of that, her body just became weak, especially in her lungs. So, when she came down with pneumonia, her body wasn't strong enough to fight it. Ironically enough, I just wrote about my mom and our relationship on her birthday about 1 1/2 months ago, here. However, I am going to write some more about the last couple of weeks. I use this as sort of a journal so it's a little detailed and a little personal. You are warned.
I actually didn't know my mom was sick until Sunday night. I called her house and my stepdad, Rik, told me she didn't go to church or to my grandma's for dinner. That's how I knew she was REALLY sick, because she never misses either of those unless it's absolutely necessary. I asked Rik if I should be concerned and he said no. For the record, my mom has gotten sick like this in the past and has always managed to pull through. So anyway, I was surprised to get a phone call from my brother on Monday telling me that she was in the hospital. Her friends came to see her and she wasn't doing well at all. So they had her really good friend, who is a nurse, come to evaluate her and she said she needed to go in. So they took her. I, of course, was freaking out since I wasn't there to see or be with her myself. I wondered if I needed to come down but talking to a couple of my brothers and my stepdad, they all said they thought she'd be fine and I didn't need to worry. So, when I found out early Tuesday morning that she had taken a turn for the worse, I was really surprised. We all were, actually. And everyone said that yes, I needed to come. Panicked, Nate and I booked flights, packed bags, and sent me and the girls off. Worst. Flight. Ever. I was worried about my mom, Lyla was a terror, and I couldn't put Ruby down. As soon as the plane landed, I called my brother and he informed me that she had passed at 5:25pm. It was 6:05. He said everyone was at the hospital waiting for me to get there so I could still see her and say my goodbye's. I wasn't as disappointed as I thought I'd be that I didn't make it. I do wish I could have been there. But I truly think that she tried her darndest to hang on until I got there and that's as much as I could have asked of her. I'll spare you the details of the hospital but I am SO grateful that everyone stayed until I got there and that I got to see her, hold her hand, stroke her hair, talk to her, and say my goodbyes. I know she wasn't alive, but it still felt like she was there. Maybe she was. It was really good closure for me.
That night and the rest of the week was all funeral planning. I am so glad I came down when I did because I was able to be really involved in the planning and executing of the funeral. I felt so lucky to be able to do that for my mom. She really was such a great woman. Here is the display at the funeral...
This was when my mom did some modeling. I think she was a freshman in High School, but I could be wrong. She was a hottie with some KILLER legs! I didn't look like that. I was 4 inches shorter and overweight.
The display was supposed to represent her and her life. On the left is her wheelchair that went with her handicapped accessible van. That wheelchair made so many things possible for her. And on the right is her "blue chair". She spent most of every single day in this chair. She had so many friends who would come to visit and exercise her while they just talked and talked about life for the past 14 years or so. The "blue chair" holds MANY secrets!
And the rest of the display, minus a picture of the Newport Beach Temple that my mom loved. Our good friends at Griffiths Printing blew up these pictures for us and they turned out BEAUTIFULLY! The collage is actually one we made for her 50th birthday party. And the quilt is a "Friendship Quilt" that the Relief Society made for my mom where each woman made a heart square. My mom's is the yellow and blue one in the middle and she had just picked out the purple border for the quilt a couple of weeks before she died. So weird.
The funeral went really well. The only request my mom ever said about her funeral was that she wanted all 5 of her kids to speak. So we did. We decided not to do a eulogy and decided to just talk about memories we've had with her instead, which I think turned out really nicely. I think she would have been very pleased.
Lyla putting flowers on Grandma Dana's casket with cousins Ryann and Riley.
My mom's 5 kids. Everyone keeps asking Nate when he's going to get the "family haircut" :)
When we were down last Christmas, we finally had the WHOLE family together and we were able to take family pictures. These were taken less than a month before my mom actually passed. These pictures will forever be close to our hearts because they are the last with mom. Thanks Michelle for taking such beautiful pictures!!
Mom, Rik, and all the immediate kids minus Randy.
Anyway, I stayed until Thursday after the funeral and was able to be with family and to go through some of my mom's things. And I got to experience the amazingness of my family playing "Just Dance" on the Wii. HILARIOUS! Anyway, I'm hoping to go back in March to continue going through some of mom's things since there is so much of it. Luckily, Rik is saving it for me so I can do that next time I am there. It's good for me.
Like my brother in his post about mom, I wanted to thank all those who have helped my mom over the years. Women have been coming over for the past 14 years or so to do physical therapy, feed her lunch, help her get to the restroom. People have come over to just talk to her, take her out to lunch, bring her flowers, candy or ice cream. Everyone would make sure she had rides to bridal or baby showers, church activities, etc. She had temple buddies who went with her to the temple at least once a month. All in all, she was able to go to the temple twice a month... which is more than a lot of people. People have donated their time, money, and other resources to provide her with a handicapped accessible shower, her "blue chair", new carpet, straps for her wheelchair to keep her from falling out, a microphone so her voice could be heard, help with a new kitchen, and countless other things to make her life and her home easier and more beautiful for her. People have even flown me out to visit my mom and family because they knew how much my mom missed me. And everyone has done this so willingly and without needing much thanks at all. I just feel so blessed to have grown up in a home where I could see true acts of loving and selfless service every single day. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And I must mention Rik. There are not many men who would marry a woman with 5 kids and a debilitating disease, knowing she would eventually be in a wheelchair and do it so lovingly. Never in their over 16 years of marriage have I ever heard Rik make my mom feel like he had something better to do than to care for her. Nor had he ever made her feel bad that he was missing out on the things he used to love to do. He loved her and he showed it every single day. And he loved us kids as he loved his own and treated us as such, which I am truly, truly grateful for. I could not have asked for a better stepfather and a better example of what love and marriage is all about. Love you Rik and I always will! And even though these two words are inadequate for how grateful I am for you... thank you!
I really miss my mom. I never thought I'd be 24 when I'd lose her. I feel like I just started my young family and there is still so much of my life that she is going to miss. I guess I knew my mom would go earlier than most, but I didn't think it'd be this early. But even if I did know, I don't think I could have ever been prepared for it. A lot of people say they are glad she is free of her body and able to walk and things like that. And I am happy for her too. But I am also selfish and wish that she could have made it a few more years. My mom and I were really hoping Nate could get into UCLA and we could live there and I could take care of her and the house and have dinner ready for them all every night. We talked about that possibility every time we talked on the phone. So I am sad that isn't going to happen. Anyway, I think I am doing okay with everything now. Everyone who has been through a loss similar to this says the sadness comes in waves. And I have definitely found that to be true. Sometimes I still feel like I can just call her up and talk or that I'll see her next time I go down to California. So I have to keep reminding myself that isn't going to happen. But I think my head is in the right place; I don't have any regrets, I don't feel depressed, I'm sad in the right moments, and I'm still able to focus on my family and have a good time. And I have a new-found desire to be awesome, just like my mom was. So I guess that's good. And if any of you are still reading my forever long post, thanks for sticking through. It's been sort of therapeutic for me.
Oh, and on a side, and maybe inappropriate note for this post (don't judge me)...
A couple of people had told me and my family that they had dreams of my mom a couple weeks before she passed or the night before they found out she was in the hospital where she just looked good. She was healthy, her body worked, and she just looked good and happy. I LOVED hearing these stories and I have really been hoping that I could have a similar dream like theirs. In fact, I've even prayed to have a dream like that.
Instead, I dreamed about Justin Bieber. Why? I have no clue. I don't listen to his music, I don't consider myself a fan, and he's just a little kid. It might have been because he was on Leno the night before. I don't know. But Justin and I were friends hanging out at East Lake (in YL, Cali) and we were talking about life and about he and his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and then the paparazzi came and started taking pictures of us and I looked like crap and my mom had just died and I was just thinking "Great, everyone's going to want to know about the ugly mystery girl he's with". At least it gave me a good laugh when I woke up. Life can be pretty funny... and weird.