How Do I Fill the Void?
On January 25, 1999 as I walked into my mother’s hospital room with my then husband and found her lying in bed with the television on and the reading light above her bed shining in the dimmest setting, there was a moment of awkward silence as tears began to fall from her face she blurted out, although stuttering from her emotions, “I have cancer and I’m just scared.”
Never in my life have I ever been so paralyzed with disbelief. I thought to myself, “Yeah, right, she must be over reacting.” As she explained to my husband and I what the doctors had told her, it felt surreal as if I really wasn’t in the room or that it was all a dream. To this day I can’t remember anything else that was said within the first twenty minutes or so after that. I left the room because I didn’t want her to see me become emotional, as I was considered the strong one of the family- the rock, and I didn’t want make myself appear weakened by the news.
After leaving the room I found a nearby payphone and immediately called my older sister to come to the hospital. She wanted to know immediately what was going on and against my better judgment I began to tell her what my mom told me, and then I began to break down and cry uncontrollably. I remember my sister telling me that everything was going to be ok. I then called my father to tell him the news. They had been divorced for sometime, but my Mom still considered him a friend and him and I were very close. I guess I just needed added support for myself and my Mom.
Seems as though my Mom had been ill for quite a while and had absolutely no idea. She had never had anything more than a common cold for as long as I can remember, other than hernia surgery in the year prior. Now, she had been diagnosed with stage four Lymphoma. She was terminally ill out of nowhere with only a fifty-fifty chance of even any hope for survival. Had she not fallen over a box at work and injured her back, we may have never found out in time for doctors to begin any treatment.
After injuring her back at work, I personally took her to several doctors and emergency rooms that had no idea of how to treat her or what exactly the problem was. Every one of them diagnosed her as just straining a muscle in the fall or some sort of degenerative bone disease due to her age, which by the way was only fifty-eight. It was only on that very cold and snowy morning that she couldn’t bare the pain anymore and begged me to please take her back to the emergency room, that the proper testing was done and then the correct diagnosis given.
My Mom stayed admitted in the hospital for quite some time. The doctors began aggressive chemo-therapy treatments right away and she seemed to remain in good spirits. I was usually there with her while she got her infusions. The chemo-therapy actually began to help and some improvement was taking place. We were all very optimistic at this point and really believed that things were turning around for the better. Although she lost all of her beautiful blonde hair, was very weak and had bad bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, she was doing well and was allowed to come home after over two months in the hospital.
When we brought her home on a Thursday morning, everything was all set up for her- her hospital bed in her room, a table and phone close by her bed, a walker to allow her to get around more easily, her TV set to her favorite stations and her radio also set to her favorite station. She was excited to be back home with my sister and I as well as her cats which she adored. Unfortunately, she was only able to stay for the weekend before having to be returned to the hospital.
That following Sunday, we noticed that she had become even more weakened than before and was quite lethargic. We returned her to the hospital where she was admitted again, only this time to the Intensive Care Unit. I had to return to work that Monday and while there I received a call from the nurse that her condition had worsened and I immediately left work and went to visit her. I stayed most of the night until they moved her to a room where she was in the immediate view of the nurse’s station. The very next morning as I was preparing myself to go and visit her, I got the call to come to the hospital immediately-she had died.
Since that day I have been going through every emotion that a person can imagine; sorrow, relief, anger, disappointment, joy, etc. – what I guess is normal when you lose a loved one. Although it has been a little over nine years, it seems as though it was just yesterday. Dealing with her death and the loss of my Mother so early in my life, at the age of 23, has been a great struggle. Most people say it is a day by day process but for me it has been a second by second process. There is not a time in my life that I don’t think of her or wish to have more time with her alive and well.
I now truly know what is meant by “a void” when referring to the loss of someone very close to you and I definitely wish that I didn’t know. I have tried every day to remain happy and positive, but sometimes being happy and positive just doesn’t seem to matter when I can’t share that with my Mom. Accomplishments and goals don’t seem the same, warm and sunny days aren’t as joyful as they used to be and I absolutely dread the holidays.
I have searched high and low for something to fill the void left by her death but to no avail. I have gotten pets, taken trips, I still celebrate her birthday, I talk to her as if she were still here, I give charity to local and national cancer research in her honor, I rely on my faith and have even created a website as a memorial. But none of these things even come close to filling even a small portion of the void let alone filling it completely. I feel as if there is a chunk of life that has been taken from my own and as if I am only half of a person.
There has got to be a way, or is it? Is the void even meant to be filled, and if it is what can possibly measure up to the wonderful woman that is my Mom? If there is something that can fill the void, how long before I discover it? Will whatever that can fill the void cause me to forget about her? These are questions that no one seems to have an answer to. I would one day like to have the feeling of being a whole person again, but not at the expense of possibly letting her memory fade even a little bit. So I guess ultimately I am ok with the void, no matter how painful. I may just need to rely on my faith and the fact that I believe I will see her again one day in the spiritual realm. Perhaps I have known the answer all along, or perhaps I have been selfish in wanting things resolved when I need them to be rather than having patience and allowing things to run their course.