My mom died around midnight September 30. But she had been having heart problems for years. I remember coming home from college in 1981 and she was wearing a Holter monitor because of an irregular heart beat. She had her first heart attack in 1997. When I heard the news, I was peeling apples for an apple pie. I fell to my knees and sobbed, still clutching the peeler. She described it all as an adventure, and told me that she had always wanted to be pushed down a hospital corridor at full speed on a gurney, watching the lights in the ceiling slide by.
Her health slowly declined. She had a second heart attack in 2011. Her world got smaller, but her attitude never did. She made art of all kinds.
She visited her "shut ins" even though she herself was older than some of them. She loved meeting new people, and still took walks in the historic cemetery in our neighborhood. She knew everyone who walked, ran, or smoked pot there. I remember when I was there in June. She was so weak - her heart was working at about 25% capacity - that she had to sit on the nearest tombstone and didn't think she could go any farther than 20 yards from the entrance. But then a woman with a dog came walking by. Mom had never seen her before, so of course she greeted her and asked all about her life. Meanwhile the dog had gotten down on its belly and was whining, looking right at mom. Finally the woman said, "This is so strange. My dog never does this, but she really wants to come to you." The dog crawled over to mom and rolled over while mom petted her.
By the time she had found out all about the young woman's life, she had gotten her energy back, so we walked al little further. When we stated down a hill, we saw some creepy homeless-looking guys riding kid's bikes. One blew his nose in the dirt. I was disgusted, and worried yet ready to defend my mom from these guys.
While I was thinking all this, Mom was calling out, "Kenny!!" They hugged and grinned at each other. And Kenny was introducing her to the other guy as his friend Nora. He looked like a meth addict or an ex-addict, with missing front teeth and a bad sunburn. It was clear he loved my mom and my mom loved him.
For years, my mom has been dying on the installment plan. She was ready to die. We were ready for her to die. There was nothing unsettled, nothing unsaid. She thought it was funny when her fortune said, "You will soon change your present line of work" and kept it. When I took care of her while she was on hospice, she told the nurse, "Last night my heart was chattering like a magpie, and I thought 'Whee!'" She was disappointed that it hadn't happened. And then it did.
My dad died in 2003, but he had Alzheimers, and by the time he wasn't himself. In 2011 I lost three good friends to cancer. I've never lost a husband or a child.
This has hurt way more than I ever thought it would. I am so glad I had her in my life. I tell myself that you can't expect to have your mom forever. And I didn't! But it still hurts.