Fair warning, the entry that follows is not funny, snarky, inflammatory, etc. and probably isn’t what you are expecting from me. It’s a piece that I knew I was going to write once I made the decision to start blogging. So, unless you want to read a serious, sad and possibly maudlin piece, please stop here, do not continue.
In one of those delightful ironies that life seems to love to throw at us, the month of September has become one of the most challenging for me. First, we have the ongoing anniversary of September 11th. Like many people, especially those New Yorkers like me, this is a day I’ll never forget for a host of reasons that I won’t go into here. If that wasn’t enough, it is also the month in which my mother told me, two years ago, that she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. It is also the month I was born as well as the month that my mother died. And of course, it is also the month that WAR is coming out. So, why I am telling you all this? Well, maybe there’s a lesson or two or three here.
It is now the first anniversary of the day I went up to NYC to spend the final weeks in Sloan-Kettering to be with my mom. Until she died, my sister and I took care of her, keeping her happy and calm, lying to her about her condition and doing everything we could to make her remaining time with us as peaceful as possible. I instituted the “Lois Rules” (my mom was a devout Yankee fan) which was that no doctor, nurse or family member would do anything in front of her to upset her. Every day I read some of the final book of Harry Potter to her (thank you JKR my mom adored your work) and when she lapsed into a coma I still continued to read to her but yet she still reacted to both the funny, scary and sad parts. The doctors and nurses were amazed that she stayed with us as long as she did for the cancer had spread rapidly at the end but we’re a family of fighters so I wasn’t too surprised. And on my birthday, still sticking to the Lois Rules, I continued reading to her hoping I could finish the book before she was taken from us. And I swear to you, when I was done, she seemed to relax and stopped fighting the inevitable. A few hours later, she died peacefully with my sister and me holding her hands and talking to her, telling her how much we loved her.
If you are still reading this, you may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. It’s in the hope that maybe something good can come out of it. Now, I won’t preach to you about how important it is to be with the people you love or tell them you love them or anything like that because quite frankly, we all should know that by now and if we don’t, well there’s a million other people telling us the same thing. Over the decades we tried to get my mother to quit smoking (no, this isn’t just an anti-smoking ad), she wouldn’t no matter what anyone in the family said to her. Her answer was always, “Well, it’s my life and if I lose a few years toward the end of it, that’s no big deal”. Well, that’s exactly what happened and I know from spending the last year with her and how the chemo and radiation made her feel that she might have changed her mind. I also know that she realized that she was going to miss out on a lot of things that she now wanted to see. As the saying goes, life comes at us very fast.
So, as to what I hope may come out of this are as follows:
1) If you are doing something in life or doing something with your life that could shorten it, think about how you may feel if you suddenly find that the piper has come for his due a bit earlier than you expect.
2) Take the above one step further and then ask yourself how your family or those that you love and love you will feel if they have to spend what remains of your life watching you slowly die by inches and no matter what, how they will feel when you are gone.
3) And possibly the best lesson that can be learned from what my mom went through is when she was told she had to quit smoking, she found the strength to do what she swore she wouldn’t or couldn’t do before and she went cold turkey and quit. She found the inner strength and willpower I knew she always had; I just wish she had done this decades earlier. So if you have been thinking about or would like to make changes in your life but wonder if you have the strength to do it, you do, you just have to want it badly enough. If my mom could quit after 50+ years of chain smoking, you can change your life too. Just make sure you do it before it’s too late and somebody you love is thinking the same thoughts that I am tonight, that I wish she was still here with us so she could call me up to complain about the Yankees or to ask me when is the next time I’ll come up to see her in NYC. I would give anything for that.
I turned off comments so please don’t comment on this piece anywhere on my blog. I didn’t write this for me alone, it is also, I hope, for at least one of you reading it. If this piece has moved you in any way and you want to do or say something nice in return, what would make me happy is that if you know someone in the similar situation to my mom that you tell them you don’t want to lose them and that you want to help keep them with you for a long time. And if that person happens to be you well, you know what to do.
In closing I’ll simply say I love you mom.