Frances Mary Fassett: December 2, 1936 – September 3, 2010
My mom passed away last Friday after her courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. We got the call around 4:30 in the morning that she passed away peacefully in her sleep. Alzheimer’s is one of those horrible diseases that robs you of your dignity at every stage, the worst being end-of-life. So my prayers for her to go peacefully, with her dignity, without pain, without fear, were answered… for that I am grateful.
I am filled with so much emotion. So much grief. So much pain. Some anger. Some relief. My emotions literally shift with the passing hour.
……..So what now?………..
What do you do without a mom? How does one make that shift exactly? Can someone PLEASE tell me that, because right now it seems like the most difficult, the most unnatural, and the cruelest thing possible.
I remember talking to my mom once about how she felt about losing my grandmother. And she told me two things… First, not a day went by that she didn’t miss her mom. And second, she said that a shift happens when you lose your mom… and that shift is that YOU become the mom. And that’s where I am now… I AM THE MOM.
So that means that if I can’t figure out exactly how long to cook my turkey on Thanksgiving, I can’t call her at 7:00 a.m. like I used to. When my daughter develops a fever and a full-body rash, I can’t call her to ask her what she thinks it is anymore. And when one of my brothers does or says something to annoy me, I can’t call her anymore to complain. I AM THE MOM.
And you know what? I’m not ready for this. I don’t want it. I’m too damn young to be without my mom. It’s not fair.
And having to tell my girls that their beloved Nunna went to heaven… it was one of the hardest conversations I have ever had in my life. Sydney was sobbing, and Kendall was literally wailing with grief. I kept telling them, “it’s okay to be sad”, “it’s okay to cry”, all while holding them both in my arms while I was sobbing tears of grief not just over losing my mom, but for the loss that my girls will feel with her absence for years to come. Later, they asked a lot of questions about heaven, and what happens when your body is buried… questions about things that don’t make sense to a child. That still don’t completely make sense to me.
I know death is a part of life. And I know that at some time in the future, I will come to terms with her not being here with me or with my girls. But right now, the loss of her is palatable. It is real. It is painful. And I’m not ready.
After I got that dreaded phone call from my brother telling me that my mom was gone, I was filled with pure, unadulterated grief. And it was in that moment that I really felt how truly important I am to my girls. It’s not like I didn’t know that before, but now I KNOW it. And now I AM THE MOM. To my precious, big-hearted, beautiful girls… I am THIS important. All the grief I felt in losing my mom… that’s how they feel about ME. I AM THE MOM. It’s a shift in perception that might seem minor, but to me, it feels huge. I always knew how important THEY were to me, but I never put much thought into the opposite.
My mom gave me so many gifts… my spirit, my humor, my capacity for love. She didn’t have an easy life… she had so many challenges, so many hardships… but she handled them with the grace and dignity that defined her.
In trying to make sense of my grief, of my life without her, I am also spending time thinking about how I want to honor my mom. I want to live my life in a way that honors her life. That honors the many gifts she gave me. And I know that at the core of it all, I can honor her by being true to myself and by being HAPPY. Above all, just by being happy. By choosing to see the beauty, the humor, the joy in life everyday. That is at least one way I can honor her. I’m not ready yet… but someday.
I love you, Mom.