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Three years ago, today, was the last day I saw my Mom alive. It was my husband who reminded me of this, this morning.

The day was equally as beautiful as it is today. The air was clean and fresh, not hot, not cold, just perfect. I am fairly certain that the weather was an invisible backdrop to me, three years ago today. It existed behind the events that transpired, whose details have gone foggy and so, I am going to paste my blog form those final days, to remember, and also to highlight the fact that life does go on. From the lowest points we find a way to peel ourselves off the floor out of the bed, up from the chair or the dark and we move, one step at a time into the unknown.

I am 100% certain that my Mom is with me everyday and though I miss her I am comforted by the fact that every step of the way, she pops up and into my life, in funny touching ways. Now, I don’t picture her floating above my head, whispering life instructions in my ear, no, she is simply in me, a part of me, the way I was a part of her, and by letting her speak to me, she has helped me navigate the bumps in the road as well as shared in the pure moments of joy I have been blessed with since she left this world. I love You Mom (yeah, like she checks email!) But she knows what I mean.

September 19, 2007 at 09:19 AM EDT
My Mother has not spoken a word since…I think last Saturday. Maybe Friday. You know, I can’t remember her last word to me. I was not paying attention. I did’nt realize it was going to be her last word. I should have written it down. Like with your baby’s first word. I guess it’s never what you think it will be. Maybe it was “amazing” when I told her about Nina. Maybe it was “Hi darlings!” which is how she always greets the kids. She did part her lips and say a teeny tiny inaudible “yes” to me last night. And the other day when the kids burst in after school, she had on the biggest smile. But her lips are sealed. She has spoken to others, so I hear. The Hospice Nurse told me that yesterday she spoke not a word to her, but that when Alan, the tall dark and handsome Rosewood big cheese, came in to say hi, she perked up and said “Hiiiiii”! She still has eyes I guess

September 19, 2007 at 05:08 PM EDT
The Hospice Nurse told me today that we are near the end. Her Do Not Resusitate Orders are now hanging over her bed. Her breathing is becoming very labored. She is sleeping most of the time, but often still has her eyes opened or at half mast. This seems like it is happening in a dream. She responds every once in a while to a sound or a touch but for the most part is unresponsive. She did not respond to the kids today. Ford is here which is a great comfort to me. I feel all of your prayers and thoughts and warm words. I am going to hire a night time sitter today so that someone will be with her to call me. I hope that I have done everything that I should. I hope she knows that I am here and how much I love her.

20 September 19, 2007 at 10:31 PM EDT
My Mom does not look like my Mom anymore. She looks like a ghost or a wax museum version of herself. Her face has changed, she’s not in it. All along I have been able to see her in there, her sparkle, her smirk, but I can’t see her. She is so so so far away. I feel so small. So really really dumb to actually have believed on some level that she would always be there. All those many many times I was put to the test. All the times she has been sick in one shape or another and we have waited and waited for the antibiotics or the antipsychotics to kick in, waited for her to get well, and she always has. She has bounced back and then we catch up and have had a good hug and a laugh. “I did not say that!!” she has said in disbelief at her crazy behavior. Not remembering days. I would fill in the blanks. And we would talk about it on the way to Target and she would apoligize for being such a pain and a burden and I would tell her “Well, you are, but I love you, I always will and thats why I am here, this is the way it is supposed to be.” I can’t seem to get it though my Two master’s degree skull that we won’t be talking about this next week. She’s not bouncing back. She is not going to come back in the room and she is not going to say “Hello my darlings!” to the kids and she is not going to compliment my shoes and ask for ones just like them for herself or for a diet pepsi and call for “Andy” down the hall. I know how to do this when she comes back. When I know that she will return. I don’t know how to drop her off and never pick her up. I cannot wrap my heart around it.

21 September 20, 2007 at 05:40 PM EDT

I woke up this morning at 5am with one of those anxious pit feelings in my stomach. I thought about calling Rosewood Village to see if my Mom was okay. I decided to wait, I knew that they would call me per my instructions if my Mom was fading. I went downstairs and made some coffee. I went on the computer and read some of your beautiful messages. The phone rang at 6:15 and it was Ford. Hospice had just called him. She died at 5am.

She is gone. And at first I was devastated that I was not there with her. I felt I betrayed her last wish which was to not die alone. My heart was broken. Then I remembered our time together yesterday. I was there for hours and I lay in the bed with her, cuddling and watching “Top Chef”, a show that I loved and that she “did not get”. Her breathing was labored and she did not speak, but we made eye contact a few times and I know she knew it was me. If ever I moved, she wiggled closer to me. I rubbed her back and her arms and her fingers and I studied her hands, the only part of her whole self that showed her age. I stroked her beautiful hair which was longer than it ever had been and touched with only specks of silver. She was so proud of her hair. “Everyone says I have beautiful hair, I guess I have to believe them.” I told her how much I loved her. I told her that she was a good Mom and that I would never ever forget her. I told her that she was loved over the Moon and Back by her 5 grandchildren and they possessed many many of her qualities which included, but are not limited to : Nina’s persistence, Tate’s integrity, Haley’s big animal loving heart, Phoebe’s compassionate spirit and Cooper’s big giant sad eyes. I told her that I would tell them stories, especillay Cooper so they would not forget her and that they had each made “Nonnie Boxes” which they hand painted and were to keep memories of her inside. I told her that Andy the cat had a home and would be taken care of forever. I hugged her and I hugged her and I changed her into the turquoise blue coffee cup jammies, that we called the “Lesli jammies”. I left briefly to pick up the boys from school and when I returned Ford was there. I left the boys with him when I left to get Phoebe at soccer practice and I said what was my final Goodbye. I said “Bye Mom, I love you and I always will and I will see you tomorrow.”

So, I remembered that I did say good bye. Just not at the very end. And, my heart is still broken.

 September 22, 2007 at 07:31 AM EDT

My Mom did not want a funeral. There will be a “Memorial Celebration” per her request, at Rosewood Village, in the Library. It will take place on Saturday October 6 at 10:00am. Families are invited, and there will be special activities for children, out in the garden. Festive dress, no black please. Nice shoes. Nonnie loved shoes. There will be a small private family service afterwards at the gravesite. She has chosen to be cremated and her “cremains” as they call them, will be placed in a beautiful location, in a beautiful cemetary, in this beautiful town called Charlottesville, overlooking Target, all her final wishes.

The Grief:

Picture yourself in an invisible bubble…where the rest of the world is flying past you, seemingly normal and functional, all going someplace terribly important, all oblivious, and in your bubble everything is on high volume..the voices in your head that connected you to the lost one are constantly shouting…”NO! Come back, I wasn’t ready, I had more to say, to do, to see and to hear.” You are amazed that only you can hear the voices because they seem so loud

I remember when I had Tate, my first baby. In an instant I felt like I had discovered a secret society, of pure tue love than knew no end. Like with God. I marveled that new mothers everywhere, and parents in general did not grab eachother by the shoulders and say “Can you believe it!!! All along, this miracle was waiting and now I know the secrets to the universe!” I think that is why for the first year anyway, my baby was an equalizer, I could relate to just about anyone on earth, about the baby.

At this moment, I am sure I can relate to most of the world that has experienced great loss. I want to grab the world by the shoulders and say “Can you believe how bad this hurts! I know you tried to tell me, but now I understand.” My whole body misses her, and my throat is tight from trying not to cry all day long. I never knew how bad it would hurt because I did not imagine it, just like fathoming the love you feel for your baby. I simply had to get there to feel it.

I guess it comes from loving someone so much, but would I have loved her any less to avoid this? No.

Life with my Mom could be likened the show “Survivor” or “the Amazing Race”. And each day or week I would be issued a challenge. It was down to me and this one other contestant with a cool name, Ford, like the car! I always rose to the challenge and I am here to tell you, I loved it all, even when she drove me up a wall. I spent 6 months one time shopping around town trying to find my Mom a pair of “Khaki” not “stone” pants. I would bring back a pair and she would shake her head “Nope, that’s Stone, I mean Khaki.” She accumulated about 8 pair of stone pants. I finally told her that they did not exist, that no one sold them anymore. She shook her head and said ” No, I saw them once!” She drove me nuts!!! Then, about 5 weeks ago I found the khaki pants. I remember Russell and Susie were here because I ran and showed them to Russell and I was so excited and he had NO idea what the big deal was. Then I brought them to her, so incredibly excited that I was giggling…”Look what I found!” her eyes lit up, and she said “I told you! You said they did not exist, I told you!, Thank you thank you. Did they have more?”

I just miss her so much.

23 September 26, 2007 at 10:05 PM EDT
It has been one week. This time one week ago I was so innocent. I went to bed, exhausted and relieved to have made it through one more day. I had the next day completely blocked out. I was going to take the kids to school and spend the day with my Mom. I knew she was failing. And I had a nighttime sitter starting that night. So I would be there with her at the end. Funny how your life can change on a dime.

And in that moment, that phone call, those words, you are turned completely facing another horizon. Nothing looks familiar, but it looks like a watercolor version of your former life and it is all rather disorienting. I have felt dizzy all week.

I had no earthly idea how bad this would hurt. How much I would miss her because I did not know that this much missing was possible. Just like before I had kids I had no idea how much I was capable of loving. My Mom knew all along what I was in for. She would say “I don’t want to do this to you.” And I would say, “I will be okay, no worries, I will be alright.” And I will. I know I will.

Every once in a while I have a fleeting moment where I don’t hurt and I think, “Has it passed?”, and then in that instant, another wave comes up and slams me back, back into missing her. Her funny funny ways and her crazy obsessions and her persistence and her consistent love of me and everything I am. I could do no wrong. I could make her mad, but I could do no wrong.

This carepage wasn’t supposed to be about me. It was about her. This is just a little update, life goes on, and on and on, we have lost our mother, and on that day, someone became a mother and life goes on. From the outside looking in, which is where I used to stand, it is simply sad. But inside looking out, nothing about it seems simple and my heart is broken.

I know she is free. I know she is out of pain and in a better place and with the angels. I just miss her, thats all. It’s selfish, I know, to miss her so much. Because she is free.

October 20, 2007 at 06:46 PM EDT

It has been one month. One month today. Hard to believe. Everyone has told me that the time will fly. That all of a sudden it will be a year and that I won’t believe how fast the time has passed. Being busy helps. Yep, I am keeping busy. But there are still the nights. And the quiet time alone in the car. When the missing creeps in, when the big hole is felt.

The Memorial Celebration was wonderful. It seems like a lifetime ago. We knew how well loved my Mom was but I don’t think we had any idea how just how many would come and from so far away and from so far back in time. It was overwhelming. The connections. All of the stories and the laughs and tears and the love shared by all for this one person, Bonnie Jean Smith, who was my Mom. It was perfect, just like she wanted it to be. A party with her pictures all over, family and friends celebrating her life. It was a beautiful day. I felt the love from all those there and all of those who could not attend. It was so powerful. And so many flowers and beautiful cards. Still, it is rather surreal to celebrate a whole life in an afternoon. But it is what we do. Perhaps in the year…2080, when she will have been gone as long as she lived, I will get used to it.

So now I go on. I have had people tell me stories of how thay have “felt” their loved one. I keep waiting for a sign. Something, a sign that tells me that she is okay. That she knows how much I love her and how very much I miss her. Some kind of sign. I figure I will know it when I see it. Or hear it. Or feel it.

Then today it happened and I have been so happy that I almost forgot to tell you. It is Saturday, and like all Saturday mornings since we got TV back, we were all of us laying around the living room watching cartoons, half asleep, half awake. I was on the couch with Phoebe and Cooper was at my feet. All of a sudden, Cooper quietly stood up and walked over to me. He leaned over and kissed me on the face and said “I Love You Ga Ga.” It took me a second to realize what he had said, and I said “Why did you call me that?” He said. “I don’t know. I just felt like saying it.” He had no idea that my nickname since I was a baby is “GaGa”. That my brother Reve called me that because he could not say my name and that the only people who call me that are my Mom and My Dad. He had no idea.

I think that is a sign. She is okay! And she loves me and I love her. I will never stop missing her but I am going to be okay.

So I will end this carepage now. This has been an incredible journey. It will continue, and continue, and keep going in so many directions but my carepage will now end. Perhaps it will be the beginnings of a book. Or perhaps it will remain a sweet way that I will remember the last few months of my Mother’s life and all of you and how each one of you brought me such comfort and clarity and peace with your words. I will be forever grateful, and I feel so lucky to have you all in my life. Life is good. This experience has taught me to make the best of each day. Don’t wait to tell those you Love that they are special and that you love them. Don’t ever get too busy, or assume they know. People need to hear it. We all need to hear it. I hope that I can hold onto these bits of wisdom.

Thank You and I Love You, Lesli

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