Ugh today is that day I dread every time the calendar turns to Oct. The day my mom passed. I still cannot believe it’s been 2 years since I have last seen her, talked to her, laughed with her and cried with her. I’ve never missed someone so much in my life.
Grief is one of the absolute most horrible things we have to go through in our lives and at some point we will all experience it in different ways. It’s the most lonely, most confusing, most difficult, most incomprehensible feeling. No one can ever understand your grief because each person’s grief is different. For the first year after her death I just felt lost. I felt like a baby bird that the stalk dropped off in the middle of nowhere. I felt like I lost part of my identity. At times I didn’t even know how to act, especially in the beginning. I really just didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to even be. For some strange reason you feel like everyone is watching you and judging you, and so with that you start to ruminate in your mind things like, “Am I crying too much?”, “Not enough?”, am I talking about it too much?”, “too little?”. “If I express my sadness, are people going to think I’m crazy?”. People start to avoid you because they don’t want to upset you, but the truth is, the avoidance hurts more than being there and saying nothing, and the truth is you are always upset. I can NEVER be too upset to talk about my mom. In fact, talking about her makes me happy.
You get to a certain point after some time passes where you feel like you are dragging everyone around you down, and so you start to internalize your grief, and you emotionally shut down. You feel numb. You watch everyone else’s lives moving on and you start to feel like, what is wrong with me? Why am I the only one who feels this way? Why can’t I move? I can only compare the feeling of it to those dreams have where you try to run but your legs won’t move. I felt completely paralyzed for an entire year. I tried to take the advice of the people around me to “focus on my son”. I’d find myself sitting in his room, playing with him, but I wasn’t really there. I was just going through the motions. Looking at him made me want to cry more. I wanted to cry because I couldn’t share all those funny things he did with my mom anymore. I couldn’t call her on FaceTime and laugh with her. I wanted to cry because I knew at three years old, one day his memories of her would fade. He had no idea what I was going through and as crazy as it sounds. It made me more upset. At times I wished we could trade places. To top things off, because of all the other stuff I was dealing with familywise, my fuse was so short and I felt like I was constantly yelling at him. Then I’d cry because I felt guilty and felt like my son deserved a better mother.
I felt bad for my husband too. He had to pick up the slack for what I wasn’t doing. He had to step up to the plate and be the parent at times because I just couldn’t handle it. In all reality, I just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to wake up some days. I isolated myself. I lost myself in my phone, watching videos on YouTube. Anything to keep my mind off the horrible sights I saw in my head from her last days and all the bullshit with my family. I didn’t want to talk or do anything that involved me having to socialize with other humans. Being alone in my feelings was the only place I wanted to be
I knew I was the problem the whole time and I knew I had to get a grip on it, but when it came time to start settling my mom’s estate, it was like I was right back in that place. Having to go through her home and say goodbye to it, I felt like I was losing her all over again. Another piece of my identity gone. I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown nearly every day on a daily basis throughout that whole entire process. I really thought it was finally time to check myself into the loony bin.
In early January of this year I got to a breaking point. I could not deal with the stress anymore. I did something that I thought would help me but it only added more stress, and once again in the early summer, I got to another breaking point. This was when everything changed for me….
I made a hard decision for my sanity. I realized That my sanity was far more important than anything else, because my sanity effects everyone around. Especially the two people I love the most, Chris and Jesse. As hard as it is to keep living after you lose someone, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE. I thought about how hard my mom struggled to live in the last few months. She fought like hell. I still remember it was about a week before she passed. She wanted out of that hospital. She did not want to die there. She wanted to come home at least to get her affairs in order. They were talking about sending her to a rehab facility, but the problem was, in order to go there and do outpatient dialysis, she needed to be able to sit up in a chair for more than 4 hours. She tried for days. For the first few days she couldn’t even do it for more than a few minutes, but then came this one day. She pushed herself through it not only for 4 hours but for 6! I was amazed, but if you knew my mom on a personal level, this wouldn’t surprise you at all. That’s just who she was.
My mom had a very hard life. She grew up one of six children in a small 3 bedroom apartment in the projects in Brooklyn. She always told me that she felt like the black sheep out of all her sisters (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree there because I always felt that way about myself too). My mom was the “brainy” sister. She was just one of those people who just knew things, and if she didn’t know things, she figured them out. She never stopped trying. She dreamed of life outside of Brooklyn and so she buried herself in books and worked her tail off to get things she always wanted. She got a job at a store called Johns Bargain store. She worked her way up to management and was able to but herself a car. I forget which one came first. I believe it was her Red VW Bug. Sadly not long after she bought it, it got stolen and so she saved up and got another car. This time it was a Ford Mustang.
John’s bargain store didn’t only help my mom afford the things she wanted in life, but it’s also the place where she met her future husband, John Bodo……and she couldn’t stand him! 😂🤣😂🤣 My dad was the district manager of all the John’s Bargain stores in the area. My mom told me that she used to refer to him as Pan face ( I still laugh about it to this day). When I asked her why she called him that she said because he just walked around with this “my shit doesn’t stink” look on his face and he never smiled! (Note: nothing changed about that after she married him! 😂🤣😂). I’m not sure exactly what lead to her falling in love with Pan face but I know the turning point for her was when my dad became her Knight in shining armor one night after a Christmas party at work. She went with some guy who turned out to be a total a-hole and so my dad gave her a ride home from the party.
My dad was 12 years her senior. He already was married and had two previous kids who were almost the same age as my mom’s youngest sister. In fact I think my older sister is the same age as my aunt Donna. Nevertheless my mom took on the role of step mom and treated his daughters like they her own. Of course if you ask one of them, they will tell you different, but anyone who knows my mom, knows that she was very good to them. Johns Bargain stores went out of business and my dad got an offer to run a fabric business out in San Diego, and so my mom packed up her life in Brooklyn and headed out to California. From what she told me, she was not happy there. With her thick Brooklyn accent, she felt like she stuck out like a sore thumb and she felt like people there weren’t friendly. Most of all though, my mom missed her family. In a time before long distance calls being cheap and the internet, she communicated by letters. (When I cleared out her house I found a box of cards and letters from when she lived there).
I’m not sure how long they were there but it was long enough for my mom to get pregnant. My dad’s business partner ended up pulling shady stunt and so my dad pulled out of the store and they headed back to NY. Eventually they came out to Long Island and rented an apartment in a house in West Babylon. My brother was born in 1978 and a few years later in 1981 I came along. A month after I was born they moved into their newly purchased home in Ronkonkoma.
Being a mother was clearly a job my mom was destined for. She was the reason my childhood was so amazing. My dad provided the money for us to live, the food we ate, the clothing in our backs but my mom provided everything else we needed. All the important things that make us human. She was kind, loving, nurturing, compassion and caring, but most of all she was patient. She took time out to teach us and show us things. She loved nature and made sure we had an appreciation for it too. She taught us manners like how to say please and thank you. She read books to us every night before bed. I used to lay my head on her back and I can still hear the echoing of her voice in her chest. When I suffered from bad migraines as a child my mom did everything in her power to make me feel better. She gave 100% of herself to us 100% of the time. (Ok maybe not 100% of the time….100 % except for when she was on the phone and I could be basically bleeding with my eyeball hanging out of my head and she’s will be yapping away like was standing there! We all have our things 😂🤣😂🤣😂).
Things changed for us though in the early 1990’s. My dad once again had to walk away from another business. After years of being a stay at home mom, my mom was forced to start working. She got a job at the very first K-Mart store that opened on Long Island, in West Babylon. That same year she got a really bad case of bronchitis, that seemed to linger on for months. The one day out of nowhere she started to feel nauseous and she ran the bathroom to vomit. Over the course of the next few months she keep getting these bouts of Nausea. She’d wake up in the morning and her eyes and ankles would be all swollen and puffy. She went to the doctor. He did bloodwork and sent her home. Over the course of the next year her bouts of nausea started to become more frequent and the swelling was getting worse and worse. She kept going to the doctor and he kept giving her all these random diagnosis’s. At one point he even suggested she was suffering from early Menopause (extremely early because she was in her mid 30’s). He sent her to heart specialists and all sorts of doctors and no one else could figure out what was wrong. For whatever reason, my mom never sought out another blood test or a second opinion. Maybe because through all of this, she continued to work a full time job now at the Kmart that was closer to our home and she had i choice because my dad was unemployed and was in a depression. I remember many times being with my mom having to watch her puking her guts out. It was this awful black stuff that looked like coffee grinds. There were times were would be driving and she’d get sick and have to pull over on the side of the road to puke. As you can imagine, it was pretty scary to witness as a 10 year old kid, only in the 5th grade.
Finally one day my mom’s friend was over who was a registered nurse. She and my mom were trying to figure out what was wrong. My mom has this large blue medical book. It was like the Web MD of the 1980’s and 1990’s. She looked in the back index at all the symptoms and finally she figured it out. She had glomular Nephritis, aka kidney Disease.
I will never forget the day she went and saw the nephrologist. I went with her that day. It was one of the worst days of my life. My mom told me to sit in the waiting room so she can go in and see the doctor. I sat there and looked at the highlights magazines that were sitting in the waiting room. Even at that age, I knew something was up. My mom never made me sit in the waiting room before. As I sat there and did some of the puzzles in the highlights magazine I suddenly hear the door open. Out walks my mom in tears, doing that weird breathing thing you do when you cry a lot. I was asking her questions but she was trying to pay and whatever else she had to do. Finally we got in the car and she told me that she had to go to the hospital right away because she was in stage four chronic kidney failure. At that point if my mom would’ve let this go on for a few weeks more, she would’ve been dead. She was literally on deaths door step. I had no idea what any of this meant. We got home and went straight to the hospital. They put a port in her neck and they started her on dialysis shortly after. It was the scariest thing I had ever experienced in life. My biggest fear in life was losing my mom. Trust me, you grow up real quick when something like this happens. My mom was in the hospital a while that first time. Several hospital visits followed throughout that year. They kept having problems with her ports, and so they made holes all over her neck and arms.
She had to go to dialysis 3 times a week for 4 hours at a time. M-W-F, she worked her full time job and left work to go straight to dialysis. She wouldn’t get home till late. On the days she didn’t have dialysis she would be laying on the couch sleeping because she was so drained. Dialysis is by no means a permanent solution when your kidneys fail. It’s life saving but not permanent. It is not an easy thing to do. It sucks the life out of you while keeping you alive. She easily could’ve sat home and collected disability but my mom refused. She still went to work every day, with Bandages and these big plastic tubes sticking out of her neck.
That was the hardest year of my childhood but it was also the year that my mom became my hero. It was the year I realized how strong she was, and what type of woman I was going to be. My mom was a fighter and a survivor.
Unlike a lot of other dialysis patients my mom was very lucky, because she had a big family and siblings who were willing to donate organs. A few of them got tested and it ended up her oldest sister was the one to donate her kidney. It is somethings that no matter what the circumstances are between us, I will always be appreciative of. She gifted me 25 more years with my mom and that’s something I can never even say thank you enough for.
My mom recovered but I don’t think my dad ever did. He went back to work but things just weren’t the same after that. He started to drink a lot more and became a kind of a recluse. He just seemed angry and miserable all of the time. I feel like he thought he failed us because my mom became the bread winner in the house getting promoted in Kmart, year after year, until she became the office manager. My mom loved her job. She was the most dedicated employee there. She took her job seriously and she made a lot of friends along the way. Some in which had been gone from Kmart for years but she still kept in touch with. My mom was such a hard worker. Although she’d come home and complain she loved working there.
Things went back to normal for a while but in 2005, once again our family was struck with bad luck again. My dad who never went to the doctor was experiencing all sorts of pains in his legs and such. My mom finally forced him to go see a doctor and it ended up he had a few blocked arteries. He was scheduled to go on for surgery but during her preoperative testing they discovered lung cancer. That took us all for a loop. From then on over the course of the next few months we watching him rapidly go downhill. Until finally he refused further treatment and opened for hospice. My dad carried us all through his illness. He was the one who gave us the strength to get through it and in a weird way, my dad taught me that death wasn’t so scary.
My dad’s death took a toll on my mom. She took it very hard but even still she got up everyday and did what she had to do to survive. It was only a few months or so after my dad’s passing when my mom made another huge change in her life. She left her job that she had worked at for 17 years, to work at a new job. One of her sisters got her the job. Her sister worked for a different division of the same company. It was a big change for my mom and one I think she regretted. Kmart was 5 minutes away. Now in her 50’s she had to drive on the LIE to west bury. Her commute was anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.
My brother moved out of the house around that same time and it was a lot of big changes in her life. I stayed there for a few more years and Looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t able to afford living on my own. Leaving my mom to live all alone was the hardest decision I ever made, and although I knew it upset her greatly, she knew I had to have my own life and an opportunity to start my own family. It was a rough transition though but within a few years things got better.
My mom was not happy being alone. It made me incredibly sad too. I always felt guilty about leaving her but I made sure to spend as much time with her whether it be going to her house or talking to her as I can. We were constantly on the phone. We’d talk before work sometimes, after work every day, we’d text during the day and at night I’d probably call her one more time before bed. We never seemed to run out of things to talk about either. My mom was just so easy to talk to. She was my best friend. I loved hanging out with her. It was never a dull moment but there were also struggles because she wasn’t happy. At some point in time it almost felt as if our roles had reversed. At times I felt like I was wearing many different hats in her life trying to fill the void of me, my dad and my brother. Sometimes I felt like a therapist. She went through many ups and downs for a long time after my dad passed.
Things got better towards late the 2000’s. My brother got engaged and a year or so later, I did too. My mom was happy to have these new additions to her family. It gave her purpose again. She really struck up a bond with my brother’s fiancés mother and so we started to spend all of our holidays with them. On Christmas morning we’d all go to my brother’s house in the morning for breakfast and later on we’d either go to ny moms or come to my house for dinner. My mom loved cooking and loved people eating her food! She was the best cook too. Everything she made tasted amazing.
During that six year period I felt like for the first time in years, I finally saw my mom starting to be more like her old self again. She still went through her rough patches but they were fewer and further between. She’d spend some weekends with my brother and his fiancé and me and my now husband, and she was happy. All that came to a screeching halt though when my brother and his fiancé called off their engagement and called it quits. My
Mom was devastated. Without divulging too much we were not very happy with my brother’s ex when things ended. She wasn’t exactly the person we thought she was for the 6 years they were together.
My mom was very sad about it. Not only did she lose his fiancé but her family too. That really broke her. She told me one time that she felt like she has finally gotten her family back and now it felt like the rug was ripped out from under her feet. My brother remained single for a good 8-9 months and in that time, we both saw a lot more of him. It was nice to have him around my often but that didn’t last long. He met this girl and fastly they moved in and got engaged. That was when everything changed once again.
I won’t go into the details here but my brother and I became estranged. This broke my mother’s heart. Family was everything to her. Her relationship with him also changed. She hardly saw him for over 2 years. When they did talk it was tense and there was a lot of fighting. My mom once told me that my brother being estranged from us hurt her more than my dad’s passing. It hurt me too. The way he treated her only helped to build my resentments against him. I tried to make things better several times but you cannot force someone to be part of your life.
I had seen my mom deal with so much in her life but this was the one thing that truly broke her. There was nothing I can do. The one saving grace she had was my son. I think I he was the only thing that brought her joy In tThe last few years of her life. Just like everything else in her life, being a grandmother to my son was something she excelled at. She was the best. Every time I went to her house she would have bags of goodies for him to take home. I really miss getting to see her with him. My brother had a kid too in 2015. After 2 years my mom tried to put her feelings aside so she could see her granddaughter, but once again tragedy struck.
Her cancer was discovered in November 2015 in the form of an 8” mass that engulfed her entire left, native kidney. My mom was terrified. That Christmas was the first time in 2 years that she was going to spend Christmas with my brother, still she had to spend Christmas Day with me and the next day she went to their house. That was my last Christmas with my mom. Something was off about her that day. She was having a lot of trouble breathing. I begged her to let me bring her to the emergency room but she didn’t want to ruin our Christmas. The next day she was still having trouble breathing. Her surgery to remove the 8” mass on her kidney was scheduled for early January of 2016. I called the doctor’s emergency line and told them what was going on. They told me my mom could be having a pulmonary embolism. That scared the crap out of me. I called her up while she was at her brother’s house and once again begged her to go to the ER. I told her what the doctors said too. She finally agreed to let me take her. She left my brother’s house and came to mine. I brought her there and sat there all night.
That was the start to the absolute worst year of my life. My mom fought her hardest that year. She gave everything she had but after her surgery in February, when we got back the pathology report, and she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer that didn’t respond well to treatment, it wasn’t good. I made it a point to spend as much time with my mom as I could. That is something I will never have to look back at an regret. I know I did absolutely everything I could for her. There were ups and downs that year. I tried once again to reconcile with my brother. That March for the first time ever, my mom got to see her grandkids play together. I think that was the first time I had seen her truly happy in a long time. It didn’t last long though. You see the true colors of those around you where you’re going though something like this. I can never forget some of the things that were done not only to me but to her in the last few months of her life. I tried to keep it from her but my mom wasn’t dumb.
I felt like I lost my mom in November of 2015. From the moment she found out she had cancer, things just changed. Our lives and conversations changed. Everything was centered around her cancer, her symptoms, her aches and pains, doctors appointments, blood tests, cat scans, pet scans and MRI’s. The last three months of her life were the hardest, but the last month was the worst.
I never saw a human being suffer in the way my mom did that month. She suffered in every way possible but most of all I think she suffered mentally and she suffered tremendously. She was not ready to leave this world and I was not ready to say goodbye.
November 20th, 2016 was the worst day of my life. Finding a new normal is not easy. Having to move on after losing someone is incredibly difficult, but life HAS to go on. As hard as it is, I had to look at things this way, I am the luckiest person on this earth because god gave me her as my mother. She was the strongest most, loving, giving, mother. She truly loved both of us unconditionally. Even though she is no longer here, she is the reason I wake up every day. My mom got me through the last two years of my life. The lessons she’s taught me. The conversations we had. They played in my head always. She is the one who guided me through. Some of the things that happened in the last two years, some of the things I found out, were things that only could be explained by divine intervention. She gave me signs and I truly believe she is still with me.
One day recently I woke up and just felt different. I realized it’s ok to live my life. My job was done. I did everything I could do for her as a daughter and now it’s time to live my life. I was blessed with the best mother a girl can have and my son deserves the same. As hard as it is every day I have to push through it. Just like my mom pushed through everything she went through. I have to live my life for her. My mom was not happy when she left this world. No one should ever leave this world the way my mom did. I can say with confidence that I did everything in my power to help her, to honor her and to keep her memory alive, and that gives me great peace. It’s ok now for me to move forward with my life. In a weird way, she released me.
I will always be sad. I will always think of her in everything I do. Every time something happens in my life she will be in my mind. I know more than anything she wanted me to be happy. I know she worried I wound be alone but she has nothing worry about. Losing her was my worst fear and I lived through my worst fear. She gave me the strength to do so, and I can never thank her enough for that. Don’t worry mom. I am ok.