The Price of Love is Grief and Life’s Mediocrities

Two days after the east coast earthquake, I was once again sitting at my tiny desk in my tiny office when my phone rang. It was my mother’s number. We spoke every single day, so this wasn’t unusual. The unusual part was that it was my aunt on the other end.

“What’s wrong?” I immediately questioned.

Her voice was morose. I knew what she was about to say. Eight months prior, my mother had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain, lymph nodes, and bones.

Natural Disasters and Premature Death

Two days before my aunt called, I was impatiently awaiting a phone call from my husband during a natural disaster. At the same time, I was expecting this phone call – a call I knew with every fiber of my being was coming soon. It was the heaviness I felt even after learning there was no terrorist attack and my husband was safe. My mother hadn’t been safe for the past eight months from her premature demise – none of us had.

There I was, the afternoon of August twenty-fifth, on the receiving end of one of the worst phone calls I’ll ever receive. My aunt informed me that the hospice nurse had arrived. My mother’s oxygen tank was turned up the highest it could go and “it wouldn’t be long.” “It” referred to her last breath, her death. I should, “come home now,” she encouraged.

The feelings are impossible to verbally describe but I’m going to try. Prior to this phone call, I was staring at a computer screen filled with costume jewelry, probably laughing at something my office mate had just said. Funny how I can’t recall exactly what kind of jewelry was on my screen or what joke I had just laughed at. There was probably some sort of music playing and I have no idea what the song was. It was after lunch and toward the end of the day, so it was probably around three-thirty or so.

“Come home now.”

Genesis of Grief 

“You don’t think I should wait? Like maybe until the weekend at least?” There was the denial – the stages of grief had already set in.

I couldn’t breathe. Take a deep breath, I managed to remind myself as my fight or flight mode switched to on. *Deep breath* Did someone just punch me in the gut?

“Okay, I gotta go. I gotta look up a flight now.” I think I said, as I hung up.

The floodgates opened. They were unstoppable. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. Can’t breathe. *Deep breath* Why am I crying? I knew this was coming. The scolding, controlling thoughts began.

I heard a voice, “I’m sorry dude.” This was my office mate. We affectionately called each other, “dude” often.

In tears and behind closed doors, I informed my boss of my immediate departure and how I had no idea when I’d be returning. Her own life experience and understanding was at least comforting. Returning to my desk, my coworker urged me to leave. I couldn’t leave until I booked a flight. I couldn’t walk the busy streets of Manhattan, ride the subway to Brooklyn, and walk the five minutes to my home without knowing the plan. The little bit of control I still had was in the planning.

Finding Positivity in Mortality & Suffering

I got on the phone with Frontier Airlines. They were able to use frequent flyer miles credit from a canceled flight toward a next day departure to Kansas City. Adding insult to injury, the canceled flight was due to my mother being unable to fly to Los Angeles for the holidays, assisting me in my cross-country move to New York. She had just been diagnosed with what was about to take her life. My mother died in the early morning of August 30th, 2011, four days after I arrived.

My Beautiful Mother, I'm full of grief
My Beautiful Mother

If there is anything positive I took from watching her suffer, it is that it does not take a dramatic situation, a terrorist attack, a mad man, or anything, for me to sincerely and honestly express myself. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, though so many conduct their lives as if it is. Faces cozy up to Smartphone screens, hiding behind acronym and emoji filled text messages. True connection is lost in the labyrinth of commonplace technology. There are so many mediocrities in life – love shouldn’t be one of them.

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