Finding your Summit
Finding your Summit
By: Katherine S. Seda-Edgerton
Most of us are content with our daily routines, schedules, career, family, marriage and lifestyle. Key word content, (satisfied, adequately happy or just willing). As this contentment rears its ugly head we find ourselves re-evaluating our accomplishments against time.
For me it all began when I turned thirty-seven now nearly turning thirty-nine I find myself in a dark place, searching deep for answers and inspiration. Anticipating finding my own light, one that will voyage me to the next level of existence. In life we take expeditions in all that we do from time to time it may mean a marriage or career, perhaps raising children. For me it was mostly raising my two daughters and my marriage, this became my livelihood. This is where the contentment came into play I have beat all probability, still have a strong loving marriage. Married nineteen years and looking back at the road once crossed it was quite the expedition.
“I, (Katherine/Danny), take you Katherine/Danny), to be my (wife/husband), to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.” These vows were spoken nineteen years ago before the justice of peace in City Hall, New York City. A nineteen year old girl and a twenty-two year old boy were joined to share and live one life as a couple. Ignorant to the true meaning of these vows, I set out to explore my very first expedition in life “marriage”. With every expedition you should be prepared with back pack in hand flashlights, and gear for any kind of weather for us it was climb or fall and sink or swim. We basically climbed in the beginning, when our first daughter was born we took a couple of levels down. Fear kicked in and we realized there was a greater responsibility at risk. I wanted to conquer my fear and take flight again, pour my instincts and intuitions not only into my marriage now it was “motherhood”. I had two people in my life I felt responsible for my husband and daughter, leaving myself last. The start of my career was to see that they were happy and follow through with their ambitions. Every since I could remember I was always worried about the well being of others, so confident in myself that it didn’t matter to me what I wanted or needed. I was driven to celebrate another year of marriage, for me it meant I accomplished something. The turbulence came as well as the bad weather, but unprepared for that I found shelter “pride” the summit of which I was raised upon. It was clear that I had to prepare myself to continue on this expedition. With warrior instincts and weapons of destruction in hand I began this journey. Why weapons? To demolish anyone who tried to cause a war on my territory “my family”.
Our second daughter was born and we were still climbing, it came as a surprise but I never let the fear defeat me. I stood watch not only for two people but three now. Gaining strength from my experiences, the light was strong inside of me. I watched from a distance in silence pushed my husband to reach higher levels of the summit and my children joined him. There was not one rock left unturned I was sure to cover our path. “Anyone can be a mother but it takes courage to be a parent”, this became my anthem the very words spoken to me as a child by my father.
Growing up I would say I was blessed with two parents who sheltered their lives around us. I have five other brothers and sisters whom I keep in touch with to this very day. We share each other’s triumphs and disappointments without judgment of one another. Expressing our feelings to each other is our strong point. Each call is ended with an “I love you”, almost unimaginable but true. It is the pride we were taught and given as children to never let these three words go unsaid even in the hardest of times. It was either a commemorate experience or full blown out war when we gathered together. Each time was memorable even when we were together in grief. My life began to rotate that way either it was at its highest peak or at its lowest point. I have fallen into the dark within myself and sort out the light from others around me. Watching my daughters grow healthy, strong and ambitious meant I was responsible for that. My husband establishing a career in the Coffee Industry meant I was succeeding along the way. Honoring those very vows and holding my anthem close to heart I felt I was climbing. Pushing my daughters and husband to reach higher, swim longer while I held the harness and life jackets if they started to fall or sink. Such great ambition I had to not fail them to celebrate in their achievements, to protect them and love them with all that I had. Don’t get me wrong I had something to gain the reputation of perfection.
When the girls were young we took trips back and forth to Florida to visit my parents who decided late in life to move out of New York City. I had a flight attendant ask me once “how do you keep your children so quiet”? That was a defining moment of my personal success it was my preparedness of my expedition. I looked down at parents who could not control their children it was my pride a reflection of my control. I would pack more than we probably needed but I took intimate pride in what the girls needed. I had everything from their favorite snack to their favorite toy at their disposal. Making sure I could maintain control of every environment, emotion, set back or event on this expedition. For years my family teased me I was often called a “bitch” when I came into town. And for me it was the highest honor it meant I held the standards for everyone else very high. For little that I knew those standards were going to shut me emotionally down one day. It was great to see my parents and siblings shortly during time all of my brothers and sisters eventually left New York City, and followed my parents to Florida. My trips then began to put a strain on me jealousy reared its ugly head I wasn’t getting the attention I wanted I felt it wasn’t fair they shared their lives with my parents I was far away. When I went to go visit I wanted it to be about me I wanted to be the drama but instead I became a spectator not how I wanted to spend my vacation. Eventually I stopped traveling to Florida shut the doors to that opportunity. Back home I kept on pushing my family to climb higher. Needing a change as the girls were becoming more independent and my husband more successful decided to find work.
Content in a Health Care environmental position I set out to succeed. Working hard as an Administrative Assistant for a Pharmaceutical company who provided Home Health Care supplies to patients with Cancer, HIV/Aids or other infectious Diseases. I was thrilled to get out in the world meet people especially people in need of something to make their lives feel better. I was making my own money and making more decisions for myself. This became a solo expedition one that began to give me a perspective of what I wanted to do outside of my family life. My pride persevered and I began to become more knowledgeable of the business. Having the time and flexibility to still manage my family I was climbing along the side of them. Taking flight to a higher level and began thinking about going back to school I started researching the benefits and became enthusiastic about setting this goal into motion. Little that I knew my husband had his own career change in the works I determined to make my marriage work went with the plan.
It came as a surprise but also became a solution to let go of the past and start over. My husband was offered a great job in Houston, TX for an upcoming Coffee Company. Yes he did discuss it with me and as he was hesitant to take it I really felt there was no other option. He worked for a smaller company that had been very good to him for many years and opened several doors for him. Time was just not on our side if he didn’t take this job other options were not explored which made me panic cause I need control. So it was decided or should I say I decided he took this job and moved us to Houston, TX. The excitement became less as the months strolled by, feeling lost and talk about the dark it was so dark for me I felt blind. Worried my girls were not going to fit in gave me great anxiety I didn’t know how to drive and didn’t have a car so I gradually felt as if I was plummeting down. I t was hard to adjust I was lonely I needed the city, diversity, opportunity and mourned the life I had just started back home. My solo expedition became a distant memory all of my hard work letting go a little giving a little time to myself was gone. I then realized I had to move on go back to the family expedition and marriage had to keep them climbing now had to focus on them. That’s when I needed my family as an attempted to redeem myself I took a trip to Florida with the girls. A little more humbled and trying so hard to cover my failure and be strong I took flight again. Just smiling and saying how wonderful Houston was but deep inside I was lost and was afraid I wasn’t going to recover from this set back. Anyone who knows me best knows I don’t do well with change I feel out of my element lost not in control. The years rapidly started to pass and my mother would come down and visit me. It became a routine her visits were my little openings of light I had her to myself I was able to show her what she meant to me and how much I missed her. It was great I wasn’t that kid jumping on the trampoline for her attention there was no competition it was all me and my girls. I embraced those moments of light and she helped me connect to my marriage again she reminded me of the choices and sacrifices’ my husband has made as well. She was always kind to my husband I guess she knew me best anyone who could stay standing in my storm is there till the end. My husband and I would take small trips when she came down just the two of us while she watched the girls. Along this rough road my mother helped me find the very first path that I started for my family, she took me back to my first expedition
Things were going well now the girls were settled my husband was working and I was still pushing them. I pushed so hard that we took a great expedition we brought a house. This was a great moment in our early thirties embarking on something many people do way into their forties or so. I still wasn’t content until I sold my older sister on the idea. I remember being her cheerleader I wanted her to buy a home I needed someone else to come along this trip with me. I wanted someone else to experience owning something you work so hard for and watching it make you happy. And she did I could remember the moment she told me “I did it, we brought a house”; I was feeling like a parent again. It made me feel whole I felt I just helped someone move up one step closer to the summit. Watching the girls roll around in an empty house laughing and playing took me to a higher level on this expedition. Still wanting more for them we got a dog a chocolate lab and named her Java to connect to my husband’s business in coffee. Just eight weeks old she was bringing heights of enjoyment to our little family. Still not driving or having a car I set out to get involved in my children’s school I knew it would be long before I had another solo expedition so I concentrated in the house and the girl’s education. I was climbing as the girls were becoming involved in sports and making friends. Our house became a home it was my driven pride to overcome the obstacles of not being mobility independent.
The visit, if this is what reaching the top of the summit feels like then I was there my sister came to visit me I had great respect for her. Growing up she was eight years older than me and she was always there for the rest of us I can’t remember a time I went without sharing something with her. I wanted her to feel proud, but my anxiety got the best of me and that trip was a tumble close to the bottom. I had everything prepared but what I have ignored for the past few years since we moved here has come to set me back. A car I had no car didn’t even have a license. Pride struck like a lightning bolt taking me down from the summit. I couldn’t get past that fact and acted very crude and impatient with her, knowing it would devastate me later when she was gone. Hence the “bitch” was back, although this time it was not my intention it just reared its ugly head. Have I known then what I know now I would have just been myself she would have been proud of me anyway. When I said setting the bar to high was going to later come back and haunt me this would be one of those times. Feeling guilty and defeated by the last day of her vacation I tried to redeem myself but I could tell in her eyes she didn’t understand she just knew what she saw. As we said goodbye in the airport I sweltered in tears didn’t know if I have driven her away, if she would ever see me for me. I knew my girls would be disappointed as they lived with me and knew my reactions when my pride got in the way.
The ultimatum bags packed by the door desperate attempted to push my husband to his highest peak but not the summit yet. I was about to break the very vows I lived for the very words that kept me striving for every wedding anniversary. “I am leaving”, how could this be what could be wrong everyone is happy just as I promised to keep them, but I didn’t see it that way. My girls could not be happy I wanted more for them I wanted to take them to school I wanted to go to the supermarket myself. I needed mobility independence. Well I conquered that ultimatum and a red 2004 Ford Focus was in my drive way the very next week. I did this not to control the situation but to find balance in what I needed to get done and what I have already accomplished. But the real test was placed before me and my husband illustrated it that way. Remember when I said I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a valid license just a New York State drivers permit. As karma has it wasn’t due to expire till 2008. Well that little permit carried me to the next level where I found myself climbing harder and higher.
Car keys in hand girls by my side and no trace of my husband around, I knew this was a test one that I had to pass. I delegated and negotiated everything I believed in to get this now was not the time to turn back or paddle downstream. I had an expedition unlike all the others this time I had to teach myself how to survive. As I turned on the car you could only imagine how I was studying all of the components in this vehicle. Destination was to my younger daughter’s school for a parent teacher organization meeting also known as PTO. It was raining and well after five pm. On a winter night so it was nearing dark by the time we left the house. My first time behind the wheel with precious cargo my daughters the very beings who depended on me. The reason this whole tantrum with my husband was for but I could see in their little eyes a light that would get me to the school the confidence in their faces and trust was a moment that took me back to that summit. My oldest daughter has always been very opinionated as long as I could remember there was never a battle she would walk away from without the last word. Knowing this made me feel more confident it was as if I could thrive through her strengths I knew that she had those strengths because of me. She guided the way and gave me encouraging words we even had a moment of laughter, but I tried to remain serious for my knees shook uncontrollable and my eyes weakened from the dark road and rain hitting the window shield. I remember praying in silence asking god to get us their safely and I also needed to prove a point to my husband who was later going to meet us at the school. Driven by pride we arrived slowly but surely my legs settled down and my eye sight became clear. I thought for a moment what kind of man does this what kind of husband puts his family in a situation like this is he crazy or just spiteful. I got over it quickly cause then I later realized he had more trust and confidence in me than I had for myself. We all met at the school and shortly it was time to leave again this time the rain tapered down but it was dark and the road was a curved road one that scared me when he drove on it many times before I guess it scared me because I knew I had no control as a passenger. This time I could control from the driver’s side but I was still scared because I had no experience and only done this road once that was to get to the school but now it was time to go back home. This time I was prepared to build myself up and get through this I knew my husband would be following me and it made a difference what he thought I could not make a mistake or fail. I remember him asking the girls to go with him he wanted to leave me alone at that point I figured his confidence has dropped he wanted to give them an alternative. As I was prepared for them both to leave with him I figured if they had an alternative they should take it I could not live with myself knowing I could have done something to save them. My oldest daughter insisted on staying with me she wouldn’t let me drive alone. At that moment I knew I was a parent my daughter put her trust in me and took a leap of faith to climb the summit with me. I understood my younger daughter she always went with the flow never combatable so when she opted to go with her father I knew it was just her way had nothing to do with her confidence or trust in me. My daughter navigated me she encouraged me with her great words of confidence “don’t worry mom your doing fine, you can do this there is nothing you can’t do”. I still hear those words even as I write this story I hear my daughter cheering me on giving me the courage and confidence to meet her at that summit.
Me and Faith I named my little Focus Faith I guess it was the faith that we all had that day that made me overcome a huge obstacle and that was an expedition taken with my oldest daughter. I began to take charge of my destinations navigating my way through another expedition. I traded my paddle and began hiking I started climbing higher I was itinerant gaining my independence. Little that I knew Faith was going to carry me through some hard times. With my new independence and the girls acclimating to their suburban life I began to realize I needed to find work. My husband was traveling more with this new company and feeling the strain of his new responsibilities I could see that he was having a career crisis. As part of my vow I wanted to help him out I wanted him to have a choice and with me not employed it didn’t leave him many so I set out on another expedition. Resume in hand and faith leading the way I knew I was bound to land a job. I started working for a Psychological Institute, I was an Office Assistant the pay was decent and the hours allowed me to continue keeping my family happy. I was able to pick the girls up from school and be home by four o’clock I was finding my way back from this expedition feeling comfortable coasting near the summit. I began to find my work interesting and challenging this was no ordinary Psychological Institute it was where sex offenders were sent as part of their probation. All my life I tried to protect my children and keep them from such harm. Here I was in complete contact with this venom but drawn to find answers and study why they harmed these precious children taken their innocence and what could I do to prevent this from becoming my story. I was happy with my work schedule but felt a little out of place my boss was somewhat of a tyrant a lot like me wanting everything perfect unable to accept his or her mistakes. It was a paycheck and it allowed my husband to explore some career options although I could not carry us financially I was contributing something to the table. Emotionally the job played an important part in my daily routine I viewed the world differently as I had seen documents of the confessions of these sex offenders my whole view became distorted. I began to closely watch neighbors, friends and even the average Joe in the supermarket. It was an obsession it had me wondering what was in that persons mind thinking they could be watching one of my daughters. Unlike the other job where I was helping people who were unfortunate and just got a bad break when stricken with a debilitating disease this was not the same. I started to get a sick feeling inside asking why are they still able to walk amongst us questioning my faith in god and why weren’t these children protected. I wanted to know where there were angels who were keeping them safe. I knew I couldn’t do this forever but I did it and like everything else I did it with pride. Never took short cuts or a discriminatorily attitude. It became routine and I learned to separate it from what I held dear my family life.
The phone call I was coming home from work one day and my older sister calls me she was hesitant to speak she asked and spoke simple questions. I knew from the tone of her voice something was wrong. Earlier in that week my mother was going to see the Dr. for a persistent pain she had in her arm that had been caused by a bruised she had sustained. This pain was a dark cloud above her head for several months; she had come to visit us in Texas like she always had but this time showed me something weird on her breast. I told her she should get it checked out and if she liked I would take her here, but as stubborn as she was assured me it was nothing and said when she went back to Florida she would have it checked. This day has come and I pleaded with my sister to just tell me she insisted I call her back when I arrive home but I was not going to wait. I knew something was wrong and I needed to prepare for another expedition this time I knew it was going to take all of my knowledge and strength. I can’t recall exactly how she told me so I won’t quote it but my mom was just diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My mom had just normalized her life after receiving some other health issues along with the separation of my parents after thirty –two years. I remember the devastation she was in how much hurt she felt and how she had to pick herself back up and start all over again. During her decline in health I was her advocate did all my research kept in touch with all her health care providers. I knew her medicine schedule from the dose to the milligrams every Dr. She saw every test she took. And did this over the phone I couldn’t fly down to see her when she first became ill this was a trying time in my life we were purchasing our home which should have been the happiest moment and was but also sad for my mom. That was the time I was reaching my lowest point but never let it show I stayed up late and talked on the phone with my mom till the sun came up. I remembered one particular night she called me crying in so much pain her legs were hurting she suffered from RLS (restless leg syndrome) during this time she had shingles. I could hear her giving up wanting to sleep and not wake I kept her on the phone and pleaded with her to be strong I told her stories and made her relive some of our best memories. It was me being a parent to my parent I wanted so bad to cradle her in my arms and tell her its ok but distance was between us and all I could do was speak. We did this for several months and we both made it to the summit after long hours of phone conversations sleepless nights and endless cups of coffee to keep awake just so I could be on the other line if she needed me. She was in a good place and now this Cancer it seemed as if this little lady couldn’t get a break I couldn’t do this again over the phone I have to be there. I remember booking a flight for the very next day explained to my boss and kept details to a minimum with my girls. I was off straight to her first appointment with her Oncologist in Florida there I would meet with my other two sisters and aunt. I went in like a lion protecting her cub there was no time for emotion I was all business. I was never the emotional one or that’s what I thought I always needed answers and asked questions I was more like the family attorney. “Stage three, Inflammatory Breast Cancer”, my heart stopped for a moment and I felt overwhelmed I turned to look at my mother’s fragile face and deep within her eyes I saw life she wanted her life no Dr. was going to give her a death sentence. That’s when I firmed up and had to be strong I needed to hold her up on her summit to be sure she would not fall back down. I needed a game plan for this expedition I needed a team I can’t do this alone I wanted the best warriors to fight beside me to conquer this drop I have fallen so far down I needed a team to help me climb back up. But there was no one I could count on I knew that when I left to come back home all I had was the phone I didn’t know if my husband could even understand what was happening if he could hold me up the way I held my mother. I depended on me and I exhausted myself I never allowed one moment to think of a different outcome I believed if I asked questions and did my research everything was going to be ok. There was no room for error it was all or nothing. As I was packed and left for home I couldn’t help but feel I had left my heart behind I felt alone and helpless. I remember the first day she started Chemotherapy it was Halloween so while my kids were getting all dressed and ready to go trick or treat I had to muster the courage to smile. I had spoken to her earlier over the phone wanting to know how she felt and if she was ok. At this time I really wished I was closer able to take her to her appointments prepare her something high in protein nurture her I needed to be close but circumstances didn’t allow. I relied on my mom to tell me the truth let me know when she was in pain or needed something I needed to feel close and the only way I could do that was through our phone relationship. My daughters began to see me less and I was always on the phone either talking to my mom or her Doctors it seemed as if nothing else existed except for this disease. I would inform my sisters and brothers about her progress and inform them as much as I could. Although they were there it was just the way it was. I stood up late at night praying the phone would not ring I was so tired at times all I wanted to do was sleep but if it didn’t ring I was also scared she was alone. Bouts of Chemotherapy massive mastectomy and radiation were all over. During this time I had not seen her just heard her voice and fought for her to get the best care possible. As time was approaching and she was conquering her battle for she had not been defeated things were looking better. I was gradually climbing up again. The girls were adjusting and keeping positive they hadn’t seen their grandma in a long time they could not picture her physical state. I was honest with them and I never imagined her physical state as well I held on to my last memory of how she looked before I left her. We were getting excited all her test were coming back good but in the back of my head I was afraid her other ailments were going to compromise her progress.
Come home I wanted my mom to come live with us after her last dose of radiation. I wanted whatever time she had left to be with me. I didn’t feel selfish about it I felt I earned it I needed my mom. I wanted to have at least one Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Birthday, Mothers Day with her and my daughters. I never spent a holiday with my mom I had plans I wanted to give her the best adventure I could I was ready for a new expedition take care of mom it was a mission to see her get strong and take care of her. It would take a lot of convincing with some of my other siblings it would be hard for them to part from my mom as they always had her around she was the babysitter and a home away from home. At this point in my life I felt I needed memories I needed to open up and share my life with my mom. I sheltered my daughters they knew they had their father and me but I needed them to know they had their grandma I felt for whatever time she had left I wanted her to be part of my life not over the phone anymore. I knew that the Doctors could not perform miracles that only god could and in my heart I silently mourned I need to hold her share my bed with her, close my eyes to sleep and wake up and see her face. It was complicated though my mom had a younger son my brother who was only eight months older than my oldest after sixteen years she had my baby brother during this time I was pregnant of our first daughter. That pregnancy was complicated but I was by her side with my own belly. I remember when my brother was born he was a premature baby weighing less than three pounds. I would visit him in the neonatal room at the hospital he fit in the palm of my hand I watched his fragile body take in air for the first time he was breathing on his own. His fingers were so tiny that a baby carrot was larger than them. I truly felt sad for my brother he was far too young to let her go to see her go through all this pain and understand that god had a plan. What was his plan hasn’t this little boy been through enough it wasn’t fair I couldn’t face him if something wasn’t done to keep her alive so as a last attempt I wanted to take care of her. She decided to stay with us and bring my little brother along I never thought for a second that she would leave him I wouldn’t expect that I could never leave my daughters behind he was still young and needed his mom. I could remember it as if it were just yesterday; my husband and I flew down to Florida together. I was going to stay for a week while he and my little brother were going to head back to Texas earlier. They were going to drive the moving van and my mom and I were flying back I wanted her to have time to say her goodbye’s and wanted to make sure she was strong enough to fly. The day we arrived was the first time I had seen my mom since being diagnosed with Stage Three Breast Cancer. I knew she would be thin and maybe aged a bit but hadn’t prepared myself for what I was about to see. There she stood slumped over in a soft pink house coat, thinning gray hair and as thin as a rail. So hesitant to hug her for I didn’t want to feel her bones or hurt her I gently embraced her and with all that I had held my tears making sure not to show her how horrible I thought she looked. I have seen my mother thin before and sick but I have never seen her look so old it freighted me as a child you always say “mom I never want you to get old”, and there she was. I felt guilt I blamed myself I thought if I were there to take care of her she wouldn’t have looked like this. I remember going into her bedroom with my husband and just crying he held me and we both began to cry it was as if we were seeing someone else for the first time. I remember my younger brother telling me something he was the middle son and he was a mama’s boy very close to her but never wanted to accept her illness or be part of it. I understood we all did but his words killed me inside the day before my mom and I were to leave he took me in the room and told me “If she dies it will be your fault”, I looked at him and had nothing to say I just wondered if he knew what he had just professed to me. I had no control of the outcome but I wanted to try to keep her alive take care of her and get her back to a healthier state. I knew he said that because he didn’t want her to leave with me he would miss her too much and for him her leaving with me was as if she were dead. Had he understood that I was not taking her away to hurt him I was inviting her into my home to care for her? It was my mother’s choice I never pressured her to come stay with me nor did I sell her the hopes that she would die if she didn’t. I had no idea what the outcome would be all I knew was she could count on me and I let her know that. Perhaps he never meant to say that I will never know but what I do know is that each day I take a breath I ask myself if I am responsible for the breaths she took.
Our Journey home I made arrangements to sit as close as we could to the front entrance of the plane. I wanted my mom to be comfortable she was always frightened of planes and elevators she would have an anxiety attack. I was not sure how she would react so I was skeptical about the flight. I remember packing her a bag for the plane with magazines, snacks, pictures and her medicines. Just like I used to when I flew with my daughters I wanted her to have whatever she needed to make her feel more comfortable. I sat her in her chair wrapped a blanket over her and gave a small pillow. We held hands and closed our eyes when we were ready to take off while my eyes were closed I remember asking god to please let this not be her last time as I promised all my brothers and sisters I would take her down to see them in a few months. I asked my mom if she was okay and she held my hand and said yes she was fine and told me to stop worrying she was ready for her new life. I never saw my mom so calm before she sat in that chair on the plane and looked so angelic that I could not believe she was not scarred. I took out a little bowl I packed with fresh fruit and a couple of pieces of cheese and gave it to her a little after she took her medicine. At that moment I realized that this is how the rest of my life was going to be I began to smile because it was an honor to take care of her as long as I had her I was going to take care of her. And for anyone who really knew my mom she was stubborn, bold and could be very cold never really knew how to be affectionate. She had a way of pushing people away she was crude at times she turned her nose up in the air when she didn’t want to be bothered. I used to feel she regretted having all of us but it wasn’t that way she loved each and every one of us in her own way. She knew when one child needed her more and that was misjudged for favoritism for years. Watching her sit on this plane with me I knew exactly what she was thinking I saw it in her eyes. I saw regret she wanted more time to let us know that she was sorry for the times she might have made one of us feel bad she didn’t do because she felt it was her right as a parent. She also was afraid she would be left alone not because no one wanted to care for her but because it would be hard to see her in this way helpless and fragile. She never thought that we would not take care of her what she was afraid of was hurting us making us choose. My mother knew I saw it in her eyes she never told me nor did she have to but she knew I could be strong if I had to. Arriving home the truck was parked out front with all that she had and wanted to bring I was in Florida with her when my husband got home so I was unable to prepare her room before our arrival. She settled in and I took her upstairs to rest in my oldest daughter’s room I knew that she could not go up and down the stairs so I set out to prepare her room while she rested. It was one of the hottest days in June and I was unpacking a truck lugging things in and out setting up bed frames unpacking all the special things I wanted her to have in her room to make her feel at home. My mom had many pictures of her grandchildren and I wanted all of them to be displayed in her room I was afraid she was going to miss them so much and get ill I was not taking any chances. It took my several hours while she was asleep and I finally finished her room all was in its place and linens were on the bed and curtains on the windows this would be her room. She came down and we all told her we had a surprise and took her to her room which was on the ground floor with a bathroom right next door. Her eyes opened wide and she was pleased it was priceless to see her face she was happy and hugged me and said thank you. At that moment I than knew that she was home I wanted her to feel like she had a place and that she didn’t have to worry about anything just get strong and be the princess she was.
She stood up late watching television for as long as I could remember my mom loved to watch movies at night and sleep in late the next morning so without a doubt we replaces her 12 inch screen for a 27 inch and she had one in her room. I would lay on the edge of her bed almost every night watching television with her until she fell asleep even if I was tired I wouldn’t leave until I knew she was fast asleep. After she fell asleep I would turn the television off and turn her radio on low with soft classical music like a lullaby because that is what she always did when she went to sleep before she became ill. I would kiss her gently on her forehead making sure not to wake her place a glass of water by her bed and say goodnight. I did this for several weeks until one day she didn’t look well and I asked her if she was ok she told me she was fine I wasn’t convinced but let her be for a couple of hours. When my mom arrived to Texas I had all her appointments ready a team of Doctors who were informed of her case. I wanted to be sure we followed up and that she would continue receiving the care needed to get well. I made her lunch and she nibbled a little I saw that she was taking pain medication more frequently and I asked her if she was homesick if she wanted or needed to go back to Florida that under no circumstances would I hold it against her and that I understood and the only thing that mattered was her well being. She answered in a soft voice “I am glad to be here I am grateful, I am home”. I looked deep in her eyes and felt we should go to the hospital at this point I just wanted to make sure she was okay. My mom had so much pride about her personal hygiene and I knew this so I remember I carried her up the stairs because she seemed too weak to walk I placed a chair in the shower and gave her a bath I washed her hair and dressed her before we left to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital she did not have to wait they took her to the back and examined her they were aware of her history and decided to leave her for observation and a couple of test. At this point she was okay just coming down with a cold as her body was still weak from the chemotherapy and radiation her immune system was not fighting germs like it would in a healthy person. I was comfortable with the prognosis but still asked questions and made sure all test and precautions were taken. She was given IV therapy to replenish her body with fluids and her appetite was coming back. The first night they left her I went home after she settled in I wanted to explain to my little brother and daughters that she was okay and that she was feeling better. I called my family in Florida and told me I wanted them to know what was happening and that I would inform them further gave them her number at the hospital. The very next day I was there before they served breakfast and that is at seven a.m. I sat and watched television with her until the Doctors came to talk to us. All of her tests were normal but they wanted to do a biopsy on a small pimple like bump on her incision site. After my mom’s last bout of radiation in Florida she developed this small bump. Her Oncologist told her it was probably scar tissue. Being that she had went through so much they weren’t being aggressive about it and was giving it time to go away. The Oncologist here who she had seen to follow-up was positive but also informed my mother and me that if it were the Cancer at this point it would throughout her body. He was kind and positive he answered all her questions and decided to get this done as a priority he scheduled her first thing the following morning. The team of Doctors that were studying her case here were watching her closely they discontinued some of her meds that were compromising her health she was taking a medication that over a long period of time would deteriorate her immune system and shut down her organs. It started to become clear the medication that was keeping her healthy before her Cancer is now killing her slowly. What was I going to do what could be done to fix this without the medication she would get sick but if she continued there was no telling what the outcome would be. My mother was still of sound mind and it was her ultimately her decision to choose what she wanted this was her fight she was going to deal with the pain and suffering no one else so the Doctor explained to her all scenarios. My mother was adamant about what she wanted and told the Doctor to stop the meds and do the biopsy and that she suffered enough she did not want to be on tubes and machines she was tired and I had to sit by and respect her decision. I let the family know and told them she was going to get the biopsy and that we will know more after I could remember just thinking this can’t be it we were suppose to take a trip together she hadn’t been home for no more than three weeks with me. I left her room for a while as the new was making me feel weak I wanted to have a meltdown but knew she could not see me like this she depends on my strength she depends on me to honor her wishes see that she remains dignified. I could I do this I walked down to the ground floor and saw a sign pointing to an arrow that said Chapel. I followed and found myself there kneeling with my eyes filled with tears pleading for god to talk to me tell me it will be okay tell me why is this fair when I thought it was cruel. The door of the Chapel room opened and in came a priest he kneeled beside me and placed his hand on my shoulder. I turned to him and confessed all of my sin and we began to talk to me I then asked him if he would come see my mom in her room. My mother was raised Catholic and I knew she would want to be blessed. Of all the people who have touched my life this is one I will remember forever Father John, of Christus St. Catherine Hospital. Father John came back with me to my mother’s room there is where he prayed with my mother and me he listened to her confessions and gave her a rosary she opened up to father John and spoke to him of her journeys when he left he promised to check on her later that night. I left the hospital late that night to take care of my brother and kids and promised to return early again Father John was with my mom and they were watching television before I left. I remember Father John telling to go home and get rest and god will take care of the rest for he will not give us more than we can handle in life and that is why we call upon him when we can no longer walk and when the suffering becomes too much to bare he is who we shall lean upon. I took Father John’s advice and went home.
My final expedition was the morning of July 8,2007 I arrived to the hospital to find my mother still resting from her procedure I asked the nurse to please call the Doctor I had question and concerns. I sat quietly and phoned my sister to let her know that mom was still sleeping and I was waiting for the Doctor to tell me what they knew or found. The hours were steadily passing by very slowly and my mom was in and out of a state of consciousness at one point I remember taking her to the restroom and washing her up. She didn’t speak much and would close her eyes and mumble softly I asked if she were in pain and she would shake her head no. The surgeon came and told me she did well and that the Oncologist will later come by to let me know the pathology report. I saw that she was resting and was being given the best care possible so by noon I decided to go home for a while to make the kids lunch. I informed the nurses I was leaving and they assured me they would call me immediately if anything. I arrived home and made lunch and took another shower and packed a bag I wanted to stay with my mom at the hospital I wanted to be there when she became fully conscious. Before long my husband hands me the phone and said it the hospital the nurse was on the other line and asked if I could come done to the hospital my mother was not doing well and they moved her room closer to the nurses’ station as per her Doctors request to keep a close eye on her. My heart felt as if it were beating a thousand beats per minute as I knew I had to inform the kids and my brothers and sisters I also had to come to terms with the information just given but I remained positive and left right away. Approaching the nurses’ station I saw Father John and her Doctor talking I felt like I was going to fall over and faint I worked up the courage to walk over and look them straight in the eye. “I am sorry the best we can do right now is making her feel comfortable”, what I didn’t understand my mom was dying is this they are telling me. The nurse approaches me with a set of papers my mom signed the night before. In the pile was a DNR (do not resuscitate) and a power of attorney with my name on it. All I could see was ink no writing I could not believe this is what I was up against and alone I needed my mom. I didn’t know how to ask but knew I had to a question I dreaded and never thought I would have to ask “how long does she have”, my hands trembled and my knees felt weak my eyes swelled with tears but I had to buckle down and pull myself together I had to walk in her room and show her I was strong. When the Doctor told me she had till tonight or tomorrow morning I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when why I had no time how can I call my brothers and sisters and tell them this how could I do this to them they are so far away. Before I could go in the room I called my husband and explained told him to bring the kids and then called my family I am vague on how I told them the news but remember they all set out to drive through the night to get to Texas from Florida to pay their last respects and be there when it happened.
Climbing the Summit for the last time with my mom, I walked in her room it was cold and she was mumbling with her eyes closed she was grabbing my hand and trying to bite it. I remember her pleading with unspoken words trying to let me know she was in pain. I called the nurse and said I am ready “please do all that you can to keep her comfortable”, the nurse than began a morphine drip which was going to be administered slowly through the night until she was gone. I bent over and whispered in her ear that I understood and if I may ask her for one more thing please wait till the whole family got there if she could I let her know they were on their way. I called the nurse’s station and asked them for clean linens, a fresh night gown, a towel, pail of warm water, and baby powder. The nurse brought me everything and insisted I sit and she bath my mother I refused and told her to please allow me for I knew that she had dignity and I promised to take care of her. I asked her to call Father John and please have him come. I bathed my mother and changed her gown combed her short white hair and placed powder on her small fragile powder. Laid her in clean linens and placed the rosary Father John gave her in her right hand. Father John arrived and I asked him to please pray with me he then told me that all I could do is be with her he handed me a radio and a CD and told me to help her through her journey to try to make it peaceful and calm. I pulled a chair close to her bed and set up the CD that played soft classical music and dimmed the lights in her room. I never left her side and watched the room door open and close as the nurse came and went to check her vitals and administer her morphine. I spoke to her and wanted her to open her eyes just one last time to know I was there that she wasn’t alone but she never did. She laid there still with her eyes closed and unable to speak clutching the rosary. I caressed her head as she became restless when she felt pain I never cried because I didn’t want her to think she was a burden even in her time of need. I held back all emotion and just stayed awake praying my family would get there so I did not have to be alone. As the sun came up I prayed harder looking at the door wanting to see them walk in I needed them to be there so she could let go. It was difficult seeing her in pain and I unable to do anything I watched her chest as it went up and then down with every breath she took. Eventually the breathes were shorter and longer apart I had lay beside her and rest her head as close as I could on my chest and whisper “they are almost here mom” I then had to do the hardest thing I will ever have to do and the one thing that I will never forget for as long as I live. “Their okay mom I know you are tired and they will understand if you have to go now it’s okay its okay”. I held her close and at exactly 7:03 a.m. on July 9, 2007 I watched her take her last third breath and she was no longer in pain. Two minutes after my middle brother walks in and the very first person I feared would blame me or hate me for what just happened was the very first person I wrapped my arms around and cried I didn’t want to let go.
I was on top of the summit with my mom and I had to let go for she will be waiting for me someday. It has been three years this July, 2010 and I still remember it as clear as the day, that is my last memory. It haunts me and at times I feel I can’t go on I can’t remember anything else but that day. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do I didn’t want to let go but I had to. Whenever I fall down I remember being up at that summit with her and no matter the obstacle it doesn’t seem as hard as what I experienced.
“Mom I love You”