November 3, 2012. Three years ago. That was the day I took my mother to the hospital.
That was the last time my mother spoke to me. The last time my mother looked at me. The last time my mother told me – with words – that she loved me.
This isn’t a date that I usually mark. For some reason, it just came to me tonight – it was three years ago that I was following the ambulance to Metro South ER. By the time we were at the ER, Mom was still talking, but she was completely incoherent.
My cousin – who met me at the hospital – and I left the hospital that night believing the doctors who told us that her ammonia levels were high and they just needed to get them down overnight. But the next morning, I returned with my cousin and my aunt to hear a doctor tell us that they were moving Mom to ICU, that her organs were shutting down, that she was extremely ill. Mom was unresponsive. Mom was in a coma.
I lost it. My aunt and cousin had to hear me sob in the middle of the hospital hallway. They heard me say that I didn’t know how to “be” without my mother. All the while, their hearts were breaking over a beloved sister, a dear best friend. We comforted each other that day and in the days to follow.
I spent a lot of time being angry. Angry at the ER doctor for the cursory diagnosis and not looking closely at Mom’s medical records. Angry at the universe for bringing this about. Angry at my mom for slipping away from me.
Mostly, I was angry at myself.
I started playing the “if only” game.
If only I had told my bosses that I needed to work from home rather than allow Mom to convince me to go to work.
If only I had insisted that I stay for every, single consultation with the doctor rather than let Mom send me on errands while she was getting her chemo treatments.
If only I had looked into alternative cancer treatments.
If only I had taken Mom to more of the places she wanted to visit.
If only I had finished my PhD so that Mom could brag that her daughter was a “Doctor”.
I was driving myself crazy with “If only….”
A week after arriving at the hospital, Mom passed away. It was nearly another week before I stopped the “If only” game. And it was Mom who made me stop. In a dream.
Yeah, so many of you are going to think I’m loopy. But, I’m absolutely convinced Mom visited me in my dream. You see, I don’t remember dreams. I remember that I *had* a dream, but I don’t remember what it was about or what happened or who was in it. I just wake up thinking, “Huh. I think I had a dream about something.” In this case, everything was crystal clear…I remember every detail. Even nearly 3 years later.
Mom told me she was okay. She told me she was happy. She told me that Gram was with her and they were happy to be together.
Mom also told me that I would be okay.
And, annoyingly, Mom was right once again. I am okay.
I also learned something really important. “If only….” will get you no where. “If only….” is in the past. “If only….” is beyond change. We can’t do anything about “If only….” no matter how much we may want to.
“If only….” is yesterday’s news and wallows in regret.
“If only….” just gets by.
I want to live now. I want to look forward to tomorrow. I want to thrive.
So, “If Only….”, kindly kiss my ass.