It was my fourteenth birthday. I was sitting on the school bus on my way to the first day of my freshman year in high school. I was apprehensive about what was in store. Will all the other kids like me? Will I be popular? Will I be able to survive without her? See, I had a secret. My mom was at home dying from breast cancer. She was my whole world. The only person I knew I could count on no matter what, the only person who loved me even if no one else liked me and regardless if I was popular. It was also the two month mark.
Five days later I woke up to my grandmothers voice. I was confused at first. She was telling me to let go and it was ok to cry. I shot straight up, finally realizing why she was there. She then said, “Your mother is gone now.” I walked out of my room to the living room where my mother had been slowly withering away for the past two months. She looked as if she were sleeping. How is a dead person supposed to look? I reached out and touched the little bit of hair she had at this point. It was so soft. She was still warm.
I wanted to cry but I was numb. I couldn’t even speak. There, sitting not more than three feet away at the kitchen table were my grandmother, my aunt Edie, my aunt Barbara, my father and a hospice nurse. They had all watched my mother take her final breath. I wondered why they didn’t try to bring her back, but I knew the answer. She had been suffering for too long, they knew at least now she could rest in peace. The poor woman looked like a Holocaust victim. She hadn’t eaten in days and even when she could it was hardly anything.
I just stood and stared at them blankly. I wanted to scream at them and make them go away. I needed time with her by myself. Did they not know that I still had more I wanted to say to her? Did they not understand that I wasn’t ready for her to go? Instead I just stood there, numb. It was too late to say the things that should have been said already.
I had known for the past two months that the radiation and chemotherapy hadn’t worked and that my mom was going to die. Although I knew, I lived as if nothing were wrong. I was still an unappreciative, self absorbed adolescent. Inside though, I wanted to die with her. I knew that once she was gone my life would never be the same. It would be a constant journey to fill that void. Instead of doing the right thing and telling her how much she meant to me, that she would always be missed and never forgotten, I said nothing. I did nothing. I felt sorry for myself. A girl can not grow up without her mother, that’s not how it works! I never considered how my brother or father was dealing with this. My poor mom, how do you deal with knowing that your life is coming to an end?
Reeda Lida Ingalsbe was a saint, a true angel on earth. She touched the lives of everyone she came in contact with. There were more people at her funeral than at most Easter Sunday church services, a true testament to how much she was loved and respected. Unfortunately I do not remember ever really proving my love and admiration for my mother. Did she die knowing how much her daughter, whom she always selflessly gave to, really appreciated her? Did she know that not one day would go by without me aching for just one more hour with her? I pray that she did, but I will never truly know. I hate not knowing.
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