By Rachel Hoeing
Over the summer I took an unexpected leave of absence from Triad Moms on Main. Hopefully most of you did not even notice, and that is because of the incredible women on my team who kept the site going strong. I do not know what I would have done without them.
This summer was nowhere close to what my family had anticipated. In addition to lazy days at the pool, trips to visit relatives, and a few camps for the kids, we had planned a cruise to the Bahamas and a trip to Hilton Head, all with my parents and sister. Instead, I ended up spending the majority of the summer in a hospital room at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte with my mom.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that my mom has battled ovarian cancer for quite some time. She was diagnosed 12 years ago, underwent chemo and a hysterectomy and was then cancer free for about 7 years. Four years ago, the cancer resurfaced in different areas, but was still considered the same ovarian cancer. My mom was tough. Through tears and much pain, she underwent chemo and radiation for the majority of the past four years. All the while, she taught preschool in Charlotte, came to visit our family, entertained us at their home frequently, took numerous trips, and did it all with laughs and smiles.
Mom never acted sick. She would have spells of exhaustion and endure a lot of pain, but I think that her cancer almost just became a way of life for her and ultimately for the rest of the family. It was just part of the routine to drive to chemotherapy after work, have the numbness in her joints, endure reflux, develop a rash from her treatment, or go shopping for a wig. In between those times, she loved visiting my children, who were her pride and joy. To all those around her, my mom had always lived a normal life while battling cancer, but inside I know she was scared. Really scared.
Mom cried to me a few times this past spring and told me how scared she was, and that she had been having much more pain than usual and in different areas. I assured her that all would be fine and that if the cancer had spread, the chemo would shrink it like it always had. But I was wrong.
I am still trying to figure out where and when things took a turn for the worse. The summer is all a blur that I am unable to break apart and comprehend. Mom had three surgeries as well as radiation this summer. She was in tremendous pain, but even as late as the beginning of August, she was still conversing with us and talking about the fact that we hoped we’d still be able to take our beach vacation once she left the hospital. But a week later, after what was to be a routine surgery, my mom was not herself anymore. I saw her becoming less and less lucid and looking more and more sick. I found myself crying each day as I prayed to God for my mom to return to her normal self. It was all happening way too fast and I suddenly had the fear that maybe Mom wasn’t going to come home after all.
This time, I was right and I didn’t want to be right. After 44 days in the hospital, Mom was transported to a beautiful Hospice home in Huntersville where she passed away just 14 hours later. Although being there was the toughest thing I have ever done in my life, there is nowhere else I would have rather been. There was no one else whose hand I wanted to hold and there was no one else I wanted to repeat “I love you” to, over and over again.
My mom is gone. She passed away on August 11th and my world has been turned upside down. I knew that one day the cancer might be uncontrollable, but I never thought it would be now. I never thought it would be like this. I thought she would be able to tell us good-bye. I thought my children would be able to hug their Nana one last time and thank her for being absolutely incredible. I just thought it would be … different.
I have gone through just about every emotion imaginable. I have friends who have lost a parent and although I have been sympathetic, I never was able to imagine the magnitude of this event until it happened to me. This is my mom. My rock. My children’s idol. My role model. My best friend.
Right now I am still in the phase where I am unable to comprehend that this has really happened. My mom was just here in town for my son’s First Communion. She was just watching the Casey Anthony trial with me as we made guesses on the outcome. She was just sitting next to me as we worked a crossword puzzle. She was just on the phone telling me a funny story that my daughter told her. How in the world can she be gone? I look at her pictures and think this all must be a bad dream. There is no way I will never hear her laugh or feel her embrace again.
To say she was an amazing person is an understatement. She was the daughter who could honestly say she never got into trouble. (Saint Jean Marie, her friends would call her!) She was the aunt who would send a note to tell her nephew how proud she was of his new job. She was the customer who would write a letter to a restaurant when she had excellent service. She was the teacher who would hug her students constantly and tell them silly jokes to make them smile. She was the sister who called all three siblings every day, beginning at 6:50am. She was the Nana who invented clever games to play on a rainy day and saved all her change to give her grandkids for college. She was the wife who developed a love for the Indy 500 races because her husband introduced her to his passion.
But best of all, she was the mom I aspire to be. The mom who would go without new clothes because she would rather her children have them. The mom who always had a home-cooked meal on the table and the house in order. The mom who watched her daughters’ dance routines over and over again as we continued to stop and start when we messed up. The mom who dressed up as Miss Piggy for the Elementary School’s BBQ fundraiser. The mom who cried with me when I was upset over a boyfriend. And the mom who sat up in the middle of the night with my newborn babies just so I could get some sleep.
Obviously I am only in the early stages of this grieving process and am unaware of the hardships in the future. Unfortunately I know some of our readers understand what is in store for me. But for now, I think one of the toughest parts about losing my mom is that everything keeps on going. Children still go back to school, families still go on vacations, couples are still going on dates, the newspaper keeps getting printed, and kids are still running around outside. It was like I wanted to run outside and shout in between my sobbing, “Hey! Everyone stop! Don’t you see what has happened? My mom is gone!”
But the world keeps turning. The seasons will still come & go, and although I want to crawl up in a ball and cry for months, my world keeps turning, too. I have made sure to take time for myself, but I also know my family needs me. My kids need me to hold them and comfort them as they cry and try to understand what has happened to their Nana. The main thing I want to do for my mom is make her proud. I want to be the mom that she was to me. I want to share memories with my children so that they never forget how absolutely fabulous their Nana was. I want to continue to build relationships with all my family members and live each moment with them to the fullest.
And so my world will keep turning, but it will be a different world. A world that has many, many tough days ahead. A world where I will feel a little lost without my mom there beside me. A world where my heart will always seem to have that empty place. But it will be a world that I will make wonderful for my family, and a world where I look forward to reuniting with my sweet mom in heaven one day.
Oh Rachel, this is so heart wrenchingly brutiful. What a legacy your mother leaves with so much zeal and joyfulness. Big hugs, there is no grief like mourning. And it will bubble up for years to come.
Rachel, this is so beautifully written and I’m sure I have commented on this before, but it gets me every time. Thinking of you and your family today. Sending you all a ton of love.