I was young and carefree, had the world at my fingertips. I had a full time job, 2 cars, lived at home, no rent, no bills, no worries. Fast forward to a year and a half down the road and there I was married after a whirlwind courtship and engagement with a newborn in my arms. How in the world was I going to do this? I had a full time job, I was caring for my terminally ill mother. Life went from vacationing in Disney World every 6 months to feeding and diapering both my mother and my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I would do this again and a million times over just to have my mother back for just one day but I often wonder how I kept my sanity and where I got the strength.
Looking back now it’s almost like I’m watching a movie. So much was happening at one time. As I watched my little angel grow, I watched my biggest hero fade away. So many emotions. Mom loved Lauren, she was the apple of her eye, her pride and joy. Every day she told me how much she loved her.
Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer when Lauren was 6 months old. Talk about emotions going back and forth. I was so in love with this little doll and enjoying watching the new things she did every day and yet depressed and broken watching the woman who was my whole world slip away slowly.
As Lauren started eating solid foods, mom could no longer. The “formula” that was fed to my baby was now given to mom through a tube to sustain life. As Lauren let go of my hand and took her first steps alone, mom put her arms around my neck as I lifted her from the couch. I fed both, I bathed both. What a contrast. Washing Lauren’s soft plump arms and legs and listening to her giggle and gently sponging mom’s bony frame and seeing her wince in pain if I applied too much pressure. Mom was once filled with vim and vigor. Active and jovial. She rarely sat still. Worked ten hours a day standing on her feet as the cashier of the local hardware store. Everyone knew her! We couldn’t walk down the street without a few people greeting her with a “Hi Lorraine!” Her name was really Laurine, but few had ever heard of that name so she figured Lorraine was easier. Hence naming my daughter Lauren.
Our day began every morning at 8 a.m when I would take Lauren in her stroller and head down to mom’s house about ten blocks away. We stayed at mom’s all day until 6 p.m. Lauren played and watched t.v and me and mom chatted between doses of pain meds. Many nights minutes after arriving home mom would call. She told me she missed me, she said how lonely she was. Before leaving every night we would place the phone next to mom and Lauren would say “Nama (attempting Grandma), if you need me, call me ok?” It was so sweet and precious. Just thinking about it makes me tear up again.
Lauren’s motor skills were far behind that of children her age. She was extremely bright but lacked the motor skills because while other children were out running, climbing and jumping in the park, Lauren was confined to the house with me as I cared for mom. Still she learned a great deal more than most. She learned about caring and love. She learned to sacrifice.
This was life until Lauren turned three years old. Sadly on September 13th, 1995, mom lost her battle with cancer. The Doctors had given her a 3 month window and she made it almost 3 years. I truly believe having this child in her life gave her a great will to fight as hard and as long as she could to stay with us. That day while I was at the hospital, mom drew her last breath in my arms. My aunt was watching Lauren at the time and did not tell her of course thinking her parents should be the one to break the news. Upon arriving home, Lauren told me “Grandma is an angel now.” I was floored. No one told her, how could she know? That made me believe in the power, the power of love. I truly believe that there was such a special bond between them that somehow Mom had managed to say goodbye to her baby.
As I look in the mirror 22 years later, I see a part of mom in me that will never die. I see it in Lauren every day as she is now a grown woman. I see mom’s smile in her smile and know part of her will live on…..