Ten years ago today my mom passed away. Ten years!!!
My mom was truly one of the nicest and most compassionate people you’d ever meet. She was tough as nails and always stood up for what she believed in, and never once hesitated to get involved when she witnessed injustice. Her heart was big enough for everyone and she often defended the underdog, putting everyone else’s needs before her own. Nothing was too much of a bother for her and she would go to the ends degree to make everyone feel loved.
My mom loved to travel and every new place she visited brought her nothing but joy and excitement. She was literally like that proverbial “kid in the candy store” in foreign countries, but she especially liked America and was always more than happy to visit us. And of course everything was so much better here than it was in Germany. She liked the sun, beach, and the outdoors in general as much as I do and although she was not a runner she was an avid walker and in constant motion. Sitting around was never her thing, something she definitely passed on to me.
Being that I was my mom’s only child she undoubtedly doted on me, especially since she had been waiting for my arrival for nine years. I can say with all honesty that I was never spoiled (my dad is an only child as well and knew just how to handle me!) but I definitely enjoyed my mom’s full attention. The thing I appreciated the most about my mom was the fact that she never ever tried to be my best friend. She was my mom and never ventured beyond her role as such.
Since we were mother and daughter we definitely had our fair share of conflict and head budding. Not surprisingly the moments of disharmony gained full momentum during my teenage years, years that are speckled with disagreements and the occasional shouting match. Deep down we knew that we loved each other even if we did not see eye to eye on a lot of things, and that was more than enough to make it through to my adulthood. I am sure that my mom would have loved nothing more than for me to live close by once I moved out, but instead, she fully supported my decision to go abroad. My plan to move to the States must have torn on her soul but she never once let it show, not even shedding a single tear at the airport on the day of my departure. All she wanted was for me to be happy and explore new opportunities and it was more than enough for her to find happiness as well. Her daughter had grown up and she felt she had done everything she could to raise me into a young woman that could make it in the world and away from home.
The last time I had seen my mom before I rushed to her bedside was a year before when David and I took the kids on a trip to Europe to visit Nain and Tied in North Wales and then fly down to Austria to spent the remaining vacation on a working farm. My parents came and spent the week with us and although I had seen my mom just a month before when they stayed with us in Santa Barbara she had already started to feel unwell and not herself.
My mother had suffered from stomach ailments all of her life and therefore took the subtle warning signs in the beginning not serious enough. It also did not help that she never really took any ailment serious enough, but was more or less a martyr when it came to sickness and injury. Just after she got married to my dad she had a bleeding ulcer but instead of seeking immediate medical attention she blew it off as a stomach ache and went to the theater instead. When I was in 2nd Grade I fell off of a climbing structure at school while hanging upside down from my knees and knocked myself out. After I came to in the playground the teacher decided it was a good idea to send me home on foot! (Don’t ask! It was Germany , the 70s, where things worked differently!) I am amazed she actually went so far as to excuse one of my friends so she could accompany me on my way home. I felt dizzy, but hey, I made it. When I rang the doorbell at an unannounced time my mom asked why I was home already and I explained that I had fallen. “But you fall every day, why would you come home?”, was her reaction until I showed her the damage to the left side of my face which was marked by scrapes and bruising. She had me go lie down and told me that by morning it was all going to be forgotten. I threw up all over her shoes. That’s when my grandpa got involved and suggested that taking me to the ER might be a good idea. Turns out I not only had a concussion and skull contusion, I had also broken my left temple bone. Ten days of inpatient intermediate care followed.
So it was no surprise that my mom did not take her own emerging illness as serious as she should have. Not only did she keep how she felt to herself, when it finally became clear to my dad that she was not well she made him swear not to reveal the details and extend to me over the phone. Until the following spring, she never once mentioned anything to me even though we talked every couple of weeks. I had a feeling something was awry but even when I pushed I got nothing more than the usual “It’s just temporary and I will be fine!”. My mom trusted her doctor, a GI specialist who always kept up with the latest research and therefore never went for a second opinion until it was too late. Even after the newest meds he put her on did nothing and her pain became increasingly unbearable did she not seek another consultation from a different specialist. When my dad finally told me that she had lost nearly 30 pounds I immediately knew that the situation was serious if not grave and made it my mission to get her to switch doctors. She eventually did. She was in hospital for the next eight weeks and never got better. When my dad called to tell me that the doctors had relayed to him that she would not recover I flew back to Germany and spent the last three days with her. Seeing a loved one die is never easy but bearing witness to someone dying from advanced and metastasized stomach cancer is probably as bad as it gets. Walking into her room and seeing her withered down to a mere 60 pounds was almost more than even I could handle and it took all of my resolve to keep it together. When she passed away in her sleep three days later it was truly a relief for her as well as her family and I was thankful that I had the opportunity to be there for her during her last few days.
It is hard to believe that an entire decade has gone by since that day. Since I did not see my mom on a regular basis her death did not hit me at first, I was only glad that she did not have to suffer any longer. It was the moment my dad stepped off the plane in Santa Barbara the following Christmas – alone, that I realized I would never see her again. And I miss her, even today. I miss not being able to just pick up the phone and talk to her. I miss her enthusiasm for life, her love for food (something she did not pass on to me at all!), her excitement about the little things in life. I miss seeing her with my dad and the way she adored David. I even miss our disagreements! I miss her being my mom!
And I will never forget her!
Today’s Running Tip: There will be no tip today!