Today is the day that we get to honor the life of my mom, and the day she died. It's Angel Day. On Angel Day, we love to eat hot tamales and chocolate cake, her two favorites. We also love to tie notes and pictures on balloons - our little updates on what's been happening this year - and release them up into the air.
It's easy, on Angel Day, to think about her death. But I don't want to focus on her death. I don't really want to focus on the death itself; what it's like watching someone leave you bit by bit, or what it's like to care for your own mother when she doesn't recognize you anymore. I want, instead, to focus on all the goodness and kindness family, friends, doctors, and strangers showed us during the last few weeks of her life. Some days, I think this world keeps turning on the tireless and genuine efforts of a few really kind-hearted people who love other people the best they know how.
For some reason, I keep thinking about one of the doctors. I remember he was a really tall black man, and he always wore green scrubs. One day, while dad and I were with mom, he came into our hospital room with a folders of scans. An updated prognosis.
He looked right at me. "Do you want to wait in the hall?" he asked.
I shook my head. I already knew what he was going to say. Nobody asks you to wait in the hall if it's good news.
He and my dad looked at all the scans of mom's brain tumor. In the kindest voice I'd ever heard, he said, "It looks like she'll be with you for Thanksgiving. But she would be defying all odds if she were still with you for Christmas."
I reached for a kleenex. He gave me a hug instead. It was the softest hug I'd ever received, from a man who probably has the hardest job in the world, and is still so loving when he delivers news.
I also keep thinking about all the cards that came in. Literally hundreds of cards, written by hundreds of people who love my mom. We strung them up in our office-turned-hospice-care-room at the front of the house. There were rows and rows of cards, and we started double-stacking them when we ran out of room. People shared their favorite memories of my mom. People said they were praying for our family. People made donations to their favorite charities in her name. Someone in South America had a Mass dedicated to my mother.
My mom never got around to reading those cards, and we never had the hours of time it would take to write people back. But it was so comforting to me, to know that people went to the effort of writing and sending a card for us. During those midnight shifts, when I would sit in the rocker and make sure my mom didn't need anything in the middle of the night, I would read some of those cards, using the light from the Christmas lights shining through the window, and feel like I was not so alone. If you sent a card to my family during that time, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The last thing I keep thinking about is the Primary children. The Sunday before my mom died, the Primary leaders herded all the little kids to our house during the last hour of church. It was a rainy Portland day, and all of those kids stood on our soggy Portland lawn, singing Primary songs to my mom through the open window. Love One Another. I Love to See the Temple. Families Can Be Together Forever. As I stood there, listening to their sweet voices with tears rolling down my face, I thought, "This is a choir of angels, and they're singing for me." A little choir of angels, getting their Sunday shoes wet to sing what they believed.
I could go on and on. I really miss my mom. I don't know when you outgrow needing your mother, but I haven't reached that point yet. I really wish she was here to love her grandbaby.
And thank you to all those good people who go outside their comfort zone to help and lift others. You're the ones that keep this world turning. And you're the ones who remind me the most of my angel mother. Thank you thank you thank you.