Monday, February 27, 2012

Cheryl B Smith

My mama passed away on Friday, February 24th. I hate those words. I thought that I would hate the date, but I don't. She was so beautiful and there was a profound hush of peace throughout the house after she died. The date is the day she wasn't suffering anymore. For that, I am grateful.

I'm trying to embrace whatever emotion I have in an effort to feel this fully. I hadn't realize how actively I have avoided so much, until this last week with her.
I didn't want to see her suffering. I didn't want to see her body diminish. I didn't want to see her "gone", just a shell of who she was. I didn't want to see her after she died.

I saw all of that, and I'm still standing. I'm a little ashamed that I wasn't willing to see it through in the first place. The change after she died still just blows me away. She looked so incredibly beautiful. It felt like a gift to be able to see her that way at last.

I am so grateful for this blog and some of the memories it holds of my mom. I had my blog posts emailed to her for probably the last 2-3 years and she would often email a response to me after reading one of my posts. I read through several of those emails last night. She was always cheering me on, or giving sympathy for whatever I was dealing with, in those emails.

I have so much I hope to document and pontificate on, soon. For now, there's work to be done.

I turned the comments off on my last post because I struggle with feeling like I'm having a pity party. I know that wasn't very nice of me though. I'm leaving comments on, but I have a request in the comments. If you would like to leave one, leave a favorite story of my mom or a memory of her, if you know her in person. I love reading what people are writing on Facebook, or have told me in person. Her children have known well what an incredible woman she was in her life, but I don't think we'll ever tire of hearing about it from others.

I am going to cut and paste part of an old blog post from November of 2006, the first year I blogged. One of my favorite posts about my mom....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


As a child, in my home, being funny was the prize to be won. Being the funniest was the ultimate goal. There are some VERY funny people in my family. It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I realized we got every ounce of our "Smith Humor" from my mother. My dad can't even tell a scripted joke to save his soul. And sometimes he'll try a pun and laugh and laugh before he can say it and when he does, you wish desperately that you could have gone the rest of your life never hearing it, it's so bad. One of the funniest things my brothers have done, is imitate my father telling a joke. Now, THAT'S funny. My mom was my mom. She wasn't funny. She was the one who told us to get to bed, do our homework, take out the trash, not go out of the house in dirty underwear, how no one likes an know-it-all, etc. It wasn't in her job description to be funny. So, I never noticed.

Well, a couple of days ago my friend Epsi sent me an email that made me laugh heartily. Of course, I immediately forwarded it to a dozen more people, as though I were the creative genius behind it.


The responses I have gotten have all made me laugh.


And then my mother. She's 71. Shouldn't she have a diminished capacity by now? Of any kind? I mean, she can still peel and chop a carrot faster than I can do the same with a cuisanart. She can whip through 17 loads of laundry in one day and make it look like she barely handwashed some delicates and hung them to dry. She can find anything you need at any time for any purpose. Usually in her purse or tied to a string in her kitchen. She can make a pair of SAS shoes, hot pink pants, hot pink turtle neck with purple cardigan, and 3 chained eyeglasses around her neck look way cuter than I could ever try to be.

Above all, she's still the cleverest of them all.

Her response to my email:

I made the mistake of telling my mom on the phone, "Your response took the cake, Mom." She gloated aloud and then bragged to my sister who was sitting nearby. I heard my sister swear and I knew my mom was in gloaters gloating heaven because she didn't even scold her.
But I will. S, watch your mouth. At least you have potential for when you're 71.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How It Is

I've been wanting/needing to post for some time now. I feel so much cognitive dissonance just in thinking about what to write. Life is hard right now. Part of me wants to blog about it, another part of me wants to guard it and keep it out of the spotlight. I don't want sympathy or pity or anything along those lines, so that deters me from writing. But I pride myself on keeping it real on this blog, and I love having the real documentation of my life. So, the result is conflicted silence. :)

Most of the things that really matter are just fine. I still have an awesome husband and great marriage, our kids are happy, healthy, thriving, and still make us laugh every day. We have a roof over our heads. We have good supportive friends. We actually are really quite blessed in our lives. But it is hard.

School is hard for me right now. I'm not used to struggling academically. I am being pushed and stretched and stripped of any arrogance I may have had going into the program. I think this is necessary and I'm glad for it ultimately, but it's painful right now.

My sister said to me the other day "You just never realize how much work a new baby is until they are here. Even if you've done it before." A. Men. I knew adding another child to the mix was going to be more work. I'm in grad school, I have three other children, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Then she came along and she's such a good little baby; a good sleeper and not high maintenance when she's awake. How hard could it be?

It's about time management, at which I am lousy. And it's about the unpredictable nature of a newborn. I can't regulate when she's going to be hungry or sleep for long periods of time. I had forgotten how getting out the door with yourself takes 90 seconds and getting out the door with a baby takes 3 hours.

I'm interrupting this pity party for a sweet commercial break. Danyo just "rolled" up behind me and kissed my shoulder and said hi. He's pretty much the cutest thing that ever happened to me. He recently got glasses and has to wear a patch to strengthen a very weak, mostly blind eye. It's ridiculous how off-the-cute-charts he is now. I had to take a picture...
Am I right or am I right?

The biggest thing that has been on my heart and mind and consumes my every free thought and moment, and sometimes even un-free ones---is my mom.

In June she went to the hospital for a pain in her abdomen/side and they found several tumors throughout her body. They were advanced enough and numerous enough that her doctor said chemo wasn't really an option. She wouldn't have taken that option even if it was.

The following six months were spent experiencing a lot of things we never had before. My mom's a very private person so I want to honor that, even though most of the time it drove me crazy. Part of her "need" for privacy was driven by her belief that people didn't really care that much ("they have their own lives to lead"). If those are the kinds of things we discover in heaven, that woman is gonna pass out when she realizes how many, MANY people love her, and how much.

There were a couple of good months with my mom at the end of last year. She was more hilarious than ever and it felt like it could go on forever.

She went to church on New Years Day. She knew it would be the last time she'd be able to do that. She had a lot of pain and was getting considerably weaker. The woman should win an Oscar for her acting skills. No one at church even knew she was sick. That night my sister had to take her to the hospital, where she stayed for a week. She had to go on oxygen and a steady stream of morphine. These two things have steadily increased over the weeks since then, as her strength and overall health have drastically declined.

When I'm with my mom I feel so grateful for the life I've had as her daughter. I can't even put words to how blessed I have been to call her "Mom". She is an angel. She is kind, she is selfless, she is funnier than anyone I know, she is smart, she is hard-working, she takes the time to smell the roses. She watches a soap opera religiously, even though TV wasn't allowed in our home when I was a child. She still mends things for her adult daughters who should be mending our own children's clothes at this point. She has cans, bags, pens, scissors, tape, string, superglue, eyeglass repair kits, extra checkers, spare stuffed animals, scarves, sunflower seeds, and soy lecithin within arms reach, should you need any.

She is lovely through and through.

And she is dying. For some reason, that statement is hard for some people to hear or know. I guess I understand it, but I don't really understand some of the reactions to it. As if by saying it, I'm making it more likely to happen. As if by acknowledging it, I'm removing the chance of some miraculous recovery.

We've known since June it was coming to this. My heart broke in two in June. Some days it felt mended when I could sit with my mom and talk like nothing had changed. I could even feel at peace or accepting of it when she would say, "I'm not afraid of death, I wasn't ready seven years ago, but I've lived a lot since then and if it's my time, it's my time."

When I sit next to her bed and she is pale and weak and struggling for breath, my heart aches for her suffering. When tears slip down her cheek because she just doesn't want to go, I cry with her. She worries about her grandchildren, she worries about the 76 year old mentally disabled woman she is the guardian for, she worries about my dad.

In this scenario, I just want her to be at peace and be able to go. She wasn't made for lying in a bed, barely able to even swallow water.

Then, in my dreams at night, I see her as I've known her my whole life. Her hair done perfectly, bright pink lipstick, makeup done impeccably. She's dressed, and smiling, and talking animatedly with her hands. She says something sassy with a completely straight face, and I'm completely taken in by the reality of it. It's the waking up that is a nightmare.

I don't know how to process this. I can't even think about life without her---that is a hurdle I'm not willing to face just yet.

Right now my sister is caring for her 24/7. She has been at my mom's side since the diagnosis in June. I'm not saying that figuratively either. She has stepped in and given my mom the care that she needed before any of us even knew she needed it. There are no words to describe the love and selflessness my sister has shown for the last 8 months. I know it is spent on no better person and I'm grateful every day that my mom has her.

She meets my mom with her wit, she catches her before she falls, she tenderly pulls her through the sorrow, she confidently assures her through the doubts, she beats back the pain, she scolds, comforts, laughs, teases, pushes, encourages, and loves, every second of the day. If this was a person's only job and they were getting paid for it, they couldn't do as well as my sister. She amazes me.

So yeah, that's where I'm at in life. Now that I've put this out there, I feel like I can blog more honestly. If write about something crazy my kids have done, or something hilarious, I won't feel like a hypocrite who acts like nothing is wrong and life is always happy and funny. I'll just be remembering the beautiful distractions that my children are.

Maybe if you are lucky I'll even get back to making fun of the general public.