Thursday, July 8, 2010

Healed

Several years ago, I got the phone call no daughter wants: my mother had cancer. Ovarian cancer. She was in the advanced stages, and there'd be no cure. Two years, maybe five years at best, the surgeon told me. She'd have some chemo and then we'd see how it went.

I was 2000 miles away and had not seen my mother in three years; in fact, I'd only seen her three times in the past 12 years because of the religious shunning I'd been subject to (which I have detailed before). But I wanted to spend time with her and try to heal the wounds before she died. I was her only child, and she was my only living parent. It needed to be healed. I needed it.

She said no, not to come. The religious issues were too deep. But I went anyway. I went with my youngest son to spend some time with her if I could. I was planning to stay 3 weeks with a friend and visit her and try to let her know I loved her, independent of any religion.

I arrived at the airport around midnight on the Fourth of July. I stayed in a hotel and then drove off to see my mother. When I walked into her home I was absolutely unprepared for what I saw. I'd expected to see my mother, a bit tired from the surgery but in good enough spirits to sit up and talk. I expected to care for her and let my little boy cheer her with his smile and laughter. Instead I found a woman who could not walk herself to the bathroom... who was hooked to IV's and unable to take any food by mouth. She looked tired and drawn, and was very weak as I sat on her bed and held the little cup of Pepsi up close to her so she could take sips through the straw... just sips. Her appearance and inability to function frightened my young son, and I had to find him a babysitter. I sat with her all day. She looked at me with the saddest eyes. "I always loved you, you know that..." she said. "I know. I love you Mom," I answered.

In the evening the hospice nurse told me she had a matter of weeks to live. I was shocked and horrified. I'd come to spend a few weeks rebuilding a relationship and instead this might be my last visit... this might be the end. The religious leaders of her church came, and told me I should go. I wanted to stay with her, to sleep on the couch and be by her side to care for her in the night, but they told me I was not welcome. I looked at my mother, and she said, "it's best if you go." I stood, kissed her, and said, "I'll be back in the morning. I love you Mom."

The night was long. I did not sleep. How could this happen? Diagnosed 11 days prior, how could she be dying? It seemed unreal.

I went to her in the morning. She was not conscious. She slept in a hospice bed in her living room where my children had played one time with a truck and some stuffed animals, three years prior when my mother had attempted suicide. I'd come to her then, too. But now, she wanted to live. "I'm going to fight this," she'd told me. "I know I will beat this."

She lay there sleeping fitfully all morning, not really waking, not able to speak. The hospice nurse went on break. People went home. I sat with her. She woke and rose briefly just moments before she died in my arms, and left me screaming alone, the cries of an orphaned child unfamiliar with death. I sat by her side, holding her hand, sobbing for hours until they came to take her away. It was the worst day of my life.

I couldn't eat for a solid day. But when I did, it was the worst binge you could ever imagine. I still cannot fathom it... how I could eat so much without dying myself. The sheer volume of food was astounding. But I didn't care. I couldn't stop. I kept going back to the grocery store, three and four times in a day, buying box after box of Tastykakes and donuts and every manner of junk food. How could I care about food when my mother had just died? I didn't. I didn't care about the food. I was just trying to kill the pain. Oh, the pain.

It would never go away. Never. I had flashbacks and nightmares and couldn't even bear to speak about it for a year. Every July the memories came flooding back... starting with seeing the fireworks on the 4th of July and remembering how they looked from the airplane as I landed near midnight. Every year I ached and wept.

And then my daughter was born.

I was in the hospital on the 4th of July, and my baby was not in good shape. Neither was I. I might need to be delivered soon although she was a mere two and a half pounds. I cried and begged and prayed she would not be born on the day my mother died... it was an omen, I thought. I could not lose my baby.

She was not born on that day, but several days later. She was sick. She might not make it. They discharged me from the hospital on my birthday, without my baby. I got home and couldn't bear to be without her and immediately drove back. I pumped milk for her, weeping and cursing the loud, painful machine that took my milk when I wanted to be quietly feeding my soft, sweet smelling child in my arms. I was so scared, so angry. I loved her so.

Almost six weeks passed and they let me bring her home, just over 4 pounds. She was on monitors and oxygen and medications for months, but she was home and she was mine. That first year was traumatic in some ways but richly blessed in others.

Every July I'd feel the pain on the 4th. I'd think of my dying mother. I'd remember the pain of losing her. I'd look down at the angry red scar slashing across my belly where they pulled my tiny daughter from my body, and I'd weep. I would have that scar for the rest of my life.

This year, as always we went to the fireworks. A few days later I was lying next to my daughter in her bed telling her stories, singing her songs, tucking her in. She fell asleep next to me an I looked at her angelic face  and felt such joy. She is such a precious gift to me! The day had been filled with happiness. And as I looked at my sweet girl asleep for the night, I realized what day it was. It was the day my mother died. And I smiled... not because of the date, but because I HAD FORGOTTEN. I had gone through not only the fourth, but several days after, and the sadness, the mourning had not even crossed my mind. I smiled because I understood that something in me had finally healed. I can still remember if I want to, but I don't have to. It doesn't consume me nor overtake me. Not the death of my mother, not the shunning, not the near loss of my child. I have finally grown enough to leave it, and live the life I have now.

I looked in the mirror this morning, and something was different. I looked down. Where was the scar? Gone. It's actually gone. Not faded, not lightened to pink, not raised. There is no trace of that scar. Just smooth, fair skin. You could not even tell I had a c-section by looking. It is gone. It is healed.

My daughter's birthday is now one of complete joy and wonder. And just to give you a glimpse into my happiness, look what I made for her:


A castle cake, complete with flags, flowers, and princesses. I made it from scratch and she was thrilled. And you know what? This castle cake made me SO HAPPY, and I didn't even have a taste. Not a lick of a beater, not a taste of batter, not a crumb or a slice or a bite. I didn't need to get *anything* from this castle cake except the joy I found in creating it for the beautiful, amazing princess I am blessed to have for my daughter.

Take the time to heal. Find the joy again. Letting go of the past and embracing THIS DAY and its beauty makes all the difference.

39 comments:

Damjana said...

Thanks Lyn for sharing your story. Your life is full of hard situations which you mastered and overcame.

You're a big inspiration of someone who doesn't give up.

Sending you tons of strength!

Laurens_Closet said...

I love that you "didn't need anything" from the cake but the joy you were giving your daughter...

You continue, day after day, to draw the most amazing perspectives from your life. And then you share them with us...

Thank you, Lyn.

XOXO!

Amy
rebuildingamy.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Lyn, you continue to go deeper and inspire us all. These revelations help us understand that it really is possible - even though it often seems impossible - to get past emotional eating.

At times the need to eat is so overwhelming....just understanding where that need comes from helps defeat it.

I'm so thrilled about your progress, both mental and physical. God bless.

Christina

Spaghetti Cat said...

<3 Lyn you are such a wonderful person! Happy Birthday to you and your daughter. I am so glad you are finding healing in your life :)

Sometimes it gets very easy to get caught up in the day to day grind we forget all the blessings that surround us. Thanks for the reminder :)

Christie said...

What an unbelievably painful experience to go through Lyn, but your healing gives us all hope. I bet your daughter will be delighted with the cake, it's beautiful!

Mishe@EatingJourney said...

you are a beautiful writer. Thank you for sharing that story.

aec5940 said...

My God, Lyn - you've had some absolutely AMAZING posts lately, and this is no exception. I can't even find the words to really comment because this post says it all. But I am happy that you are finally finding your peace. You absolutely deserve it.

Trixie said...

What a wonderful mom you are! I'm sure the princess cake made your daughter feel so special.

Lanie Painie said...

You are truly gifted. Thank you for sharing with us.

JD said...

Dear Lyn, I'm crying as I write this, just as I cried while reading your beautiful, evocative post today. No words can express how much it touched and moved me, just as no words can adequately express how much your words have helped me and helped to heal the deep wounds I have, regardng my own family circumstances. All I can say is a heartfelt and sincere 'thank you,' for sharing, for caring, and for being such a loving and amazing mother, daughter and human being.

Lisa said...

beautiful post

Andra said...

My birthday is in September and I really need you to make me that cake. :)

Thanks for sharing the story and how wonderful to hear that you are healing!

Lisa said...

Lyn - thank you so much for sharing that! You made me cry - that's a good thing :o)

xoxoxox

Dinah Soar said...

Thank God you ignored your mother when she said not to come. Because of that you got to tell her you love her and hear that she always loved you. She was a victim of that godless religion. Godly religion seeks reconciliation not alienation. God is a god of love and of second chances.

People in that religious cult are in bondage to those who do evil work and they are certainly not serving God who declares that he is love.

Guard your heart and keep it from those who would enslave you to them. Jesus came to set us free and to give us an abundant life full of joy. He is the great physician and healer of broken hearts.

MB said...

I'm happy time has healed those wounds. That cake looks delicious. My birthday was yesterday and I'm happy to say I didn't feel deprived because I didn't have cake. Happy Birthday to your precious little girl.

Jessica said...

Jehovah Witnesses have predicted the end of the world three times. There are many things in that relion that just didn't seem right. I think religion is good for two things: 1) control 2) hope. Religion isn't for me, and it took me so long to admit that I didn't believe the things they told me. I felt guilty that I could think such a thing. I am different now. No, I don't believe in the Christian God or any other God for that matter, and I am still a happy, caring, and lovable person. I enjoy life, and I do it without religion.

I'm glad you have healed from your mother's death and all of the complication that came before it. (:

RedHead said...

What what a powerful story you just shared. It's amazing all of those moments that shape everyone's lives. You just never know what people have lived through in order for them to be the person they are today. You're very strong and I admire your willpower to push through.

BrendaKaye said...

A lovely post so full of hope and healing! Thank you for sharing.

Deanna - The Unnatural Mother said...

Wow you are hitting them out of the park this week...another very poignant post!

Fat Grump said...

Great post Lyn. I am glad you are healed. We all need time and a new perspective before we move on. Taking control of your eating and grabbing back your life has helped you in so many ways.

I am in my 50s yet I still have an inner child which hurts and cries some days. Life can be very unfair and cruel, but we can move on and make it better, as you have proved. Love the cake. (I made birthday cakes three times a year for my children when they were little. I loved decorating them. I miss that!)I am sure your daughter was thilled.:)

Katy said...

WOW! Probably one of the best posts I've ever read. Thank you

Tammy said...

I'm so glad you're healed, but you killed me with this story...I'm crying all over my keyboard at work, lol.

Lynna said...

One of the most wrenching story of pain and the most beautiful stories of healing I've ever read.

I first read your post on July 4th two years ago, and it seemed like the positive momentum you had experienced went south. I am so glad that you are healing from the trauma. No doubt, as you continue to heal emotionally the urges to heal the pain with food will continue decreasing too! The intersection between mind, body and soul is so intricate, isn't it? What a hope-filled, joyous post!!

Jen in MN said...

Lyn, I am so completely thrilled for you in the healing you've experienced. Thank you so much for sharing it so eloquently here! I really appreciate your blog, and I check it every day (-:

Cris said...

Lyn,

Your story here really hit a sore spot with me. I too held my mother as she died from cancer(just this past January). She was 46 and we had a hellish relationship.

And although she did say what I needed to hear... we also did not take the time to heal some of the things we should have healed between us. My wound is still fresh, and I wondered if I would ever get the image of her last moments out of my mind. I can see now that I should treasure those last moments instead.
Thank you for this post...and a very happy birthday to your little princess!

Bobbie said...

I just want to say one thing....Beautiful! Everyone has voiced it so well. You are an inspiration to us all.

Anonymous said...

Of all your gifts to us this is, as yet, the most powerful. Perhaps it's just the thought I'm ready to hear. In any case I'm grateful!

Marie

ohiofarmgirl said...

The funny thing is...each of us has a story just like yours...heartache...sadness..loss..betrayal...but it is how we respond to those events....How do we go on with our lives and become the people we want to be...and not hold bitterness, hate or sorrow. We have to recapture the joy...looks like you are on the right path. Blessings, Dianntha

Twix said...

Sorry you lost your mom. ((hugs))

I just lost my special grandma this 4th.

We'll take time to heal and find the joy again.

Karen said...

OMG Lyn, what an amazing touching account of this era of your life, so much pain and so much joy. It has all come together to make you the phenominal strong woman (and mother) you are today. I am glad your little one had such a wonderful birthday. These are the memories SHE will have for her future, memories where she always knew how loved and cherished she was. That is the gift you are giving her, giving ALL your children, in spite of not having received this yourself.

Anonymous said...

i'd love to see a photo of you and your children some day Lynn... thanks for sharing all you do... xoxo P

LetMeTellYouATale said...

What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it!

Julie said...

What a touching story! I am so happy you were able to heal those old wounds and move on with your life. Thanks for sharing!

Hanlie said...

You are such an incredible writer, Lyn. Thank you for taking us on along your path of pain and healing. It brought tears to my eyes and it resonated with me, because this is the week that I realized that I don't have to be a mother in order to heal my childhood. I'm healed and the desperate need for a baby is gone... in fact, I'm very happily child-free. That gaping wound has closed by itself. I love where I am in my life.

Bless you for sharing so eloquently and in the process shedding light on the paths of your readers.

spunkysuzi said...

Wow, that's all i can say. "hugs"

Shiyam said...

What a powerful, touching post. I'm riding my bike to alaska next summer as a fundraiser for cancer...I'd like to ride in you and your mothers honor.

-Shiyam.

Lyn said...

Shiyam~

That is so touching, thank you. What a journey you'll be on! I hope it blesses many, so that in the future there is less suffering from cancer.

I Will Lay Down My Idols said...

I have "healed" in that way also - went through 2 miscarriages, one in which I almost died and exactly a month later my dad & his friend drowned. An awful time, but time has healed and although I don't forget entirely, it doesn't consume me like before and I often remember the occasion after the dates pass by. ((( hugs ))) Glad you have the joy of your daughter! We were blessed w/ 3 kiddos but it was a difficult road to get there.
D

-J.Darling said...

Hi Lynn -
Not sure if you're reading my blog or not, but I'm 30 years old, divorced, and am so glad to have my family's support right now - because they are taking out my right ovary for suspicion of Ovarian Cancer. IF it is, it'll most likely be stage 1 - the curable stage. If it's past stage one, there is an 85% chance that I should make the next 5 years the most amazing ones yet. I've never had any sort of major surgery before, so I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm NOT scared to death - as I try to face this with as much grace as I possibly can.

None of us ever know when it's our time to go - but I truly believe you'll never regret letting someone you love know you care.