On February 10, 1987 we were in the limo going from the funeral home to the church for my paternal grandmother's funeral and my pager beeped. Of course I knew what it was about. We stopped at the first pay phone and I called my maternal grandparents who were back at our house in Clark with my Mom. Her time was up. We immediately left Jersey City to head back home. We never made it to Grandma Parsons’ funeral mass, but I heard that it was quite beautiful, as the priest spoke about both her and my mother together.
Mom had been sent home from the hospital eight months earlier with “six weeks left to live.” We made the decision to tell her that she was cured of her ovarian cancer. We explained that all her ills now were from the side effects of the treatments. I moved back home several months previously to help out as best I could. I will say that those months spent by my Mom’s side were extremely sad, but super rewarding. We talked for hours on end. As she got worse, she actually became more childlike. We would laugh and giggle at silly things, play games, and watch TV. She would ask me daily, “When am I going to feel all better?” My answer never changed, “Very soon, Mom.”
I remember going with my grandparents to the funeral home to select a casket. When we walked into the room with about a dozen choices, instantly we knew which one. The pink, little girl’s casket was perfect for her. I remember thinking that I didn’t have the wardrobe to do back to back wakes and funerals. My hair fell out in clumps at the time. While I do not have much left today, I figured it would be all gone 30 years ago. There was a tremendous turnout at her wake. Standing next to me, as people offered their condolences, my father would constantly whisper to me, “Who is that?” Each time I responded, “I don’t know. We need to ask Mom.” The day of the funeral was clear and sunny, but windy and bitter cold. God had taken Mom’s warmth and comfort away from us, but her love and guidance still shines down upon us.
I was 24 at the time. The toughest parts for me was knowing all the “Mom” things my two teenage sisters and 9 year old brother would miss out on, like having their Mother fawn over them at proms and weddings. It was tough knowing that our own future children would always be short one “Grandma” here on Earth. It was very sad to see what my father went through, losing the two most important women in his life just a few days apart. I have come to realize that most often when the dad dies the family suffers financially, but when the mom dies some families just fall to pieces. The most tragic thing to witness over the following years was the deep sadness that my maternal grandparents lived with. Losing anyone is awful, more tragic when it’s before their time, but inconceivable losing your child at any age. Never again was there a Christmas tree or any holiday decorations ever at my grandparents’ home, which was just two blocks from mine. They sat each evening in silent prayer in their wing chairs in the living room with dimmed lights.
While this is probably sad to read, I can assure you that it was even sadder to write, but it is actually a joyous reflection. God does things for a reason. My siblings turned into wonderful, loving adults. My brother Jason and I developed a tremendous bond from that day on which just may be the most cherished gift I ever received from my Mother. Love every day and show your love to the special people around you. Let yourself be loved. Find ways to be happy and smile. That is what those in Heaven want most for us.