Like falling dominoes, I have witnessed parts of my life tumbling down. This Autumn has been a cruel one. This year, in fact, has been hard. And not just for me.
After a spring of heavy, destructive rains and flooding, the biggest loses began in late summer.
My mother’s company joined up with another and she found herself in an increasingly toxic work environment. Her stress levels rose as she watched coworkers get fired, get sick, and leave. Her job, which she loved, was falling apart.
I suffered a major loss in my own job. I was in line for an interview for the graphic artist position I had been working toward when suddenly: a hiring freeze, layoffs, restructuring, and my position eliminated. For two days I waited, horrified, to find out if I was getting axed. When I found out I was safe, but that my job would be changing, I didn’t feel much better. My work environment was now vibrating with tension. There were threats, there was crying, all of our jobs became harder.
My mom and I talked about going to France to relax but decided it would be best to wait until things at work calmed down.
Then, my mother’s situation became scary when she developed an ulcer from the stress. It became shocking when she felt she had to quit for her health’s sake. Her ulcer was really bad. I remember her saying “I didn’t know ulcers were like this.” I felt uneasy. The medicine wasn’t working.
My life seemed to fall to pieces when she called me to tell me that she had cancer. My Uncle Bill brought her to Dallas so that she wouldn’t be alone; so that she would have better doctors; so that we could help her.
My family gathered together. We supported each other. We gave her everything we could think of to make her better. We believed that she was going to get better quickly. We followed the path laid out by the doctors. She was so tired. But she was optimistic. We were all optimistic.
We celebrated her and my Uncle Paul’s birthdays together. She was satisfied that she finally got us all together for her birthday.
I went back to work in Austin and she began chemotherapy in Dallas. I woke up one morning and just knew that she was in the hospital. My phone rang. She was in the ICU. I started packing my clothes and getting ready to drive up there. My boyfriend Sean came to see me and the phone rang again.
There was this horrible moment, when I was told that she was gone, that will be forever etched into my mind. I felt like I was pulled up and away from everything. Everything became unreal. I became like a robot and my environment a dream. I wandered around in circles and zigzags, trying to get away from the truth.
Sean helped get my stuff together and got us to Dallas.
It started raining again. Lightbulbs burst in the house, leaving broken glass. There was more flooding.
I cried so much and for so long that when I stopped it was because I physically just couldn’t anymore. Everything hurt. My shoulders were constantly clenched. My jaw clenched. My stomach in knots. Sleeping and eating were things I had to make myself do. There was a pain in my heart. Each day when I woke up I wanted to go right back to sleep because when I slept I didn’t remember that she was gone.
It all felt so unreal. She was the one I went to the most for guidance. And I would catch myself, when working through the puzzle of practical problems left by her absence, going down my default line of thinking: “I’ll call mom.”
She encouraged me and she helped me learn to trust my instincts and follow my heart. She showed me the importance of creativity, service, physical and mental health, and constant growth through education and exploration.
I am going to miss her. I am learning to call upon her in times of need. Gratitude will overtake sadness. I will keep creating, exploring, and being, in her honor.
Much thanks to everyone who helped me during this time. I am grateful for my friends and family who shared this experience with me, who allowed our connections to deepen, and who were not afraid to face the shadows so that we can more fully (with more presentness and gratitude) live in the light.