September 11, 2010

Baby Tiger

Dear Mom,

I've been continuing to read Diary of a Dying Mom in my spare time, and surprisingly, it hasn't made me emotional-- until today. Michelle Mayer, a mother of two (a daughter and son, just like you) was diagnosed with an incurable disease called scleroderma that effects the skin, blood vessels, internal organs, etc. Knowing she would die, she had children anyway. She wanted nothing more than to be a mother, and couldn't stand the thought of leaving her husband all alone. Ten years after her diagnosis, she decided to start blogging. This was merely a few months before her death in 2008.

Today I was reading her blog entry from June 13 of that year called Baby Tiger. It was a game that she and her little boy would play. He would be a little baby tiger whose mom went into the jungle and never came back for him. She would stumble across him and decide to save him and take care of him. She writes this post because she had a realization that he has always known she was going to leave him, and this game was his way of finding comfort after the inevitable. She wrote, "Sometimes I cannot bear to look at my kids; it hurts too much. And I wonder if sometimes he looks at me and wonders, 'How can you leave me? I need you'."

That's where I lost it this morning. Not only because I know how her son felt, but because I actually voiced that wish to you. That morning when I just couldn't handle my emotions anymore, I was hysterical and begged you over and over not to leave me. I knew it wasn't a path you chose, and it was so selfish of me to be weak and plead with you to stay with me when God had other plans for you. I can't imagine how my words made you feel. I'm certain you were already filled with such guilt, and I still haven't completely forgiven myself for adding to that.

Michelle wrote, "What a burden to bear on such small shoulders. So I keep asking God or the fates or whoever is in charge, 'Please I need more time. Just let his shoulders grow broad enough to bear the burden and then I can go. He is not ready yet'."

Thinking back on that day, I imagine you did exactly that too. That morning was a turning point for our family. My sob session with you was the result of an argument I had with Dad. He scolded me for spending too much time out of the house with my friends when I knew my time with you was extremely limited. At the time, I was so furious (because he was 100% right, and I was embarassed and ashamed of my actions) that it caused me to react so dramatically. For whatever reason, I was in the mind set that if I continued with my normal, daily routine that it would all just go away. When in reality, the situation was never going to go away-- you were. This realization was devastating. I felt guilty for not spending more time with you, and instead of owning that and apologizing, I put it on your shoulders and asked you to fix it by providing me with more time.

Although you didn't stay forever, you fought to live for several more weeks. And in those weeks, I put my friends on the back burner and made our family my focus. If I had a paper to write, I moved my laptop next to your bed. Tom and I sat beside you and put together a puzzle of Vegas for you and Dad since it's your favorite vacation spot. We ate Thanksgiving dinner on TV trays in the living room when you couldn't get up to sit at the kitchen table. You were our DJ while we decorated the Christmas tree in November. When you became unable to digest food and everything you ate filtered out into a bag connected to your side, I'd sneak you cheese curls and help squeeze them down the tube before Dad came in (you're welcome!). I washed what little hair you had left on your head and styled it when you agreed to let our relatives come over to take their final pictures with you. I gained the courage to ask you what clothes I should set aside for you to wear in your casket. I stopped disappearing when visitors came over and only went into the next room. That's how I overheard you planning your funeral and stressing over who would write your eulogy. That is exactly why I decided to be that person. I'll never forget the look on your face when I asked if you would be okay with that. That was the last time I saw you smile and truly mean it.

I owe all of those moments to my argument with Dad. He brought me back to the reality that I was trying so desperately to ignore. I would have carried on acting like you weren't really dying, and I know that by the time I stopped living in denial I would have missed those opportunities to show you how loved you are. Although I feel terrible for asking you to never leave me, I hope you found even the slightest bit of happiness in knowing you stayed long enough for us to create the memories I needed so desperately. Those moments are what is keeping your baby tiger going long after we had to say goodbye.

Forever missing you,

1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog today, 8 months after losing my dad to cancer. I am 28 and my brother is 26 and it seems unreal to me at times that I will live the rest of my life not seeing my father. This entry really hit me because I did the same thing to my dad, I asked him for more time and begged him not to leave me. I told him I wasn't ready and I needed him. Days later I realized my dad didn't choose to get cancer, he didn't choose to die 3 months later, and he didn't choose to leave my brother and I. I couldn't put that on him and so I told him he could fight it how he wanted, or not fight it if that's what he felt was right. I was there for him the rest of his journey and told him I was strong enough to handle the future. And when he passed away I was the only one in the room. He had held on 12 hours after being taken of life support and everyone needed a break. But just like the last 3 months of his life, I stayed by his side. Barely a minute after everyone left his room, he took one final breathe and passed away. And I was content, sad and heartbroken, but content that he was better and was no longer hurting. Every day is a struggle but it gets better and reading your blog has helped.