It's hard to find the words, or even to think of what to say. Deep breath.
Yesterday morning, my mom passed away. This was not what any of us was expecting. She'd been in the hospital because she'd been having difficulty breathing, but the doctors were delighted with the progress she was making. (We learned, once she was admitted to the hospital, that she had COPD -- none of us, including her, realized that.) I had mentioned how difficult January was -- my brother and I had moved her from Seattle back to Chicago (where my brother lives, where we are from) because she'd been left just completely alone and unable to care for herself. But it all seemed to be working out -- she was now living with family who loved her and doted on her, she was able to be with her great-grandchildren, and we were all working together on plans for visits. My brother called an ambulance one morning because she just wasn't breathing well at all.
She was scheduled to be released from the hospital yesterday to an interim care facility, to help her transition from the breathing support/therapy she'd been receiving in the hospital to the level of care that could/should happen in a home setting. My brother had been asking the doctors from the beginning if I needed to fly out right away at any time, and he'd been told there was absolutely no need and that she'd be back home again soon. But in the early morning hours yesterday she had difficulty breathing, and as they were working to set her up to receive oxygen, her heart failed.
I spoke with her on Monday. I had just no idea that it would be our last conversation. I told her I loved her -- I always told her that, and she told me she loved me too, as always. The hole in my heart is unfathomably deep. I feel utterly adrift. My brother has so wisely been talking with me about all the hidden blessings -- that we got her out of her apartment in Seattle where, without care, she would have died alone, that she didn't have a long, drawn-out period of suffering, that she knew how very much she was loved and that she did have her last 20 days on earth surrounded by family.
But I didn't get to say goodbye, and I know how hard that's going to be to have to live with. I'm glad that I did call her every single week, that I'd send her pictures and packages, that I never missed a birthday or holiday. But it's hard not to think of how much more I could have done, and to regret not simply going out to Chicago just because she was in the hospital.
In my dream, we are going to spend the day together at the Art Institute. We'll wander the galleries, we'll have lunch, we'll browse in the gift shop before heading outside to hold on to the lion's tail for a moment to feel the vibration from the traffic on Michigan Avenue (which we know is REALLY the spirit of the lion). We'll remember how many times we walked up and down this particular stretch of the city, back and forth to ballet classes, to Christmas shopping at Marshall Field's, and that time I first got glasses in 7th grade and was so overjoyed and amazed to see that you could ACTUALLY see all the branches in the trees on the street. We'd have years ahead of us.