May 12, 2013

The Post I've Feared Writing

In the few years under my belt as a hack writer, I’ve read a lot of posts from a lot of other bloggers, hoping to pick up on the things that make a piece great or gripping. This nonprofessional research has turned up one thing: honesty. Honesty, as in Are-you-sure-you-wanna-say-that-out-loud honesty. Yeah. That. The great pieces have always been from writers who speak from their hearts and say things that are ironically funny, sometimes painful, but always glaringly, transparently, and sometimes embarrassingly, true.
Bare. Truth. Transparency. That takes courage akin to walking on a frozen pond during the spring thaw.  Think about it: we’ve all got stories that could make us great writers – even the hacks like me, but it’s all a question of courage: what are we willing to share? Are we willing to bare some uncomfortable things?
In my case, it’s missing my mom. Oh, the coward in me will casually refer to losing her at a young age and wax philosophic about, or bring out the funny about her sayings, or admire her for being a great and wise woman.
But broach the pain of missing her, and of losing her? Well, that’s a lot. Too much.
I fear the three people who read my words will become depressed. After all, who wants to read a sad post when all they have to do for sad news is turn on the news, read AP’s Twitterfeed or open the first two pages of the local paper? I fear the three people reading my posts will flood me with referrals for bereavement counselors to help me deal with this loss. I fear the three people reading my posts will feel sorry for me.
And that’s not what I want. None of it. SeriouslyI’ve weathered the five stages of grief at least eight times and talked to professionals about it, and cried on more friends’ shoulders (and probably a few strangers) about it throughout the years than I’m willing to admit. So, I’m not stuck in the grief, but sometimes…just sometimes, it pops up and taps me on the shoulder to remind me that it’s here.
I guess I just miss my mom. Yep. At nearly forty-four years old, with a grown-up job and a mortgage and a husband, child and dog, something deep within this perimenopausal woman still. Wants. Her. Mama. And I guess the way in which death took her is still a tender spot – even twenty-five years later.
Cancer. She talked to me about it even before she was diagnosed. She just had a feeling. After a few weeks of just not feeling “right” she called me to her bedside. With a heavy sigh, she said “I think mom’s got cancer.” Just like that. Like, “Hey…I might be coming down with strep.” Naturally, wordlessly, silently – my tears started flowing. Realizing the weight of her words, she first tried her hand at bolstering my confidence while assuaging my fear: “Oh, Babygirl – no -- no tears. You’re my strong one. And besides..” now quoting the Bible “… all sickness isn’t unto death.” A week later she was admitted to the hospital, and the biopsy found what she had sensed all along: it was liver cancer. Beyond chemotherapy. The doctor sentenced her to seven months to a one year; and four weeks later, she was gone.
That hurt’s never scabbed over completely. But I’ve learned to look for the bright spots and cling on to them, because they are there. Couldn’t survive without them.
Like her honesty in talking about the unpleasant. She could’ve lied to spare my nineteen year old feelings, but would that have changed the size of and growth of the tumor and the inevitable truth? So now I’m a painfully truthful person. Probably to a fault. Ask me if that dress makes you look fat, and I will tell you “Yes, that dress makes you look fat” if it does. Not to be mean, but because even if I lie and say “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat,” the truth is that you still look fat in that dress. And you probably know it too, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked in the first place.
Throughout the four weeks as she grew sicker and more distant, I learned that sickness is personal in the truest sense of the word: My dad, my brothers and sister and I could hold her hand, talk to her, play tapes of music and church services, but in the end, it was just her and her sickness and impending death. So when my friends grieve, I don’t “comfort” them by saying their loved ones are in a better place, even though I know that’s the case. Because honestly – they aren’t crying for their loved ones. They’re crying for themselves. And I get it. Sometimes, there just aren’t any words: at that moment, they are alone in their grief walk. The best I can do is to be there, hold a hand and say “I’m sorry. I know it sucks, but I’m here.” 

When mom was in and out of coma, I learned about the mother and child bond. The only thing that could wake mom from her limbo into the briefest moment of clarity during her final days was me saying “Mama?” in my little girl voice. (And yes: once I realized that worked, I might have used it a time or two or three or four...or five or six or seven.)

That little girl voice? Mom snapping back from death’s door and responding with a “Yes, Babygirl?”
It was the Forever Bond between mother and child.
One that cancer or the threat of death couldn’t even break.

It's why that same bond crops up every now and then, and works its way into these posts sometimes.

Even when I fear it.


  1. If you had a like button, I'd hit it.

    1. Like button or not, your comment made this transparency thing worth it.

  2. Rochelle, you write with raw emotion and honesty. What a gift you have!

    1. Thanks Karen.
      This one was a scary one to write, but even scarier to hit the "publish" button.
      Thanks for reading. :)

  3. Rochelle, I want to thank you for such a open and honest account. My mum had a death sentence of a year, tops, but was gone in five months from pancreatic cancer. Your words break my heart but not for making me think of my own mum's passing, but that someone else has gone through it, too. Not that I wish it upon anyone. We hide this (cancer) word and the grief that comes with it for fear of upsetting others. I have been so nervous to hit the 'publish' button for some posts on my blog, too, but I'm glad I have as there are people who gain great solace in learning of other's experiences.
    Lisa x

    1. Lisa, as sad as it is that another person has gone through it, it's also strangely comforting. It IS strange how we stifle even the talk of grief in the interest of others, isn't it? And that's what was making me nervous about the "publish" button.
      But its a part of who we are now...not ALL, just a part. And a part that should be shared.
      Thanks so much, Lisa. :)

  4. This is a stunningly beautiful post. I admire your courage in putting yourself out there.

  5. Wow. So beautiful. Awesome, awesome, awesome. You left it all on the page.

  6. You are an extremely lucky, fortunate, blessed woman, to feel such a loss.

    Loving hard, loving big: the hole it leaves is evidence of that.

    "Those who are loved will never be gone, for love is immortal."

    I love you, Rochelle.


    1. Love you too.
      In fact, you're one of the writers who've taught me the value of honesty -- no matter how scary and uncomfortable.
      Thank you so much for that gift.

  7. Oh Rochelle, I so feel your pain. I miss my mother too. She's been gone now almost 10 years and I still catch myself, every now and again, reaching for the phone to call her when I've had a bad day - or a good one.

    Yesterday, Mom's Day, for some reason, this year was really bad. Maybe b/c it's the 10th year, maybe it's because she was a English Lit Prof most of her adult life and I wrote "The End" on a novel yesterday, or maybe I just plain old miss her! I don't really know.

    But, you have my sympathy, my hugs, my tears and maybe even a little philosophical waxing. Oh, and some wonderfully tasty virtual cookies! I hope they help. I made them specially for you!

    Thanks so much for the post and reminding us all, no matter how many years go by, Mom's are Mom's and will always be there for us. Even if it's only in our memories!



    Margaret Taylor

    1. We never outgrow our moms, Margaret.

      Good thing is that we always have the memories of them to snuggle up to when needed; kleenex to catch the sniffles and tears...and other people who share our experience. They're the ones who send the cookies -- real and virtual.
      That's a blessing in of itself, don'tcha' think?

      ...and by the way: the cookies are absolutely fabulous.


  8. Wow. Your writing is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your truth.

    1. Thank you, Pam...and thanks for reading.

  9. Now it's my turn to cry. I asked my parents to relocate and move in with me, and four and a half years ago, they did. Then four years ago my mother started having symptoms that we eventually learned was Lou Gehrig's disease. We're getting into the hard days now, and hospice is coming in to help us take care of her during this transition time. I'm so grateful for the years I've had with my mother, but even as old as I am, I still want to crawl in bed with her and hang on for dear life. She stopped talking over two years ago, but she can still write to communicate. The writer in me wants so desperately for her to fill her days writing her life stories and special messages to each of us kids (4) that we can treasure after she's gone, but that's not her way. I think it makes her sad to reminisce and write, but writing is how I make sense of this ol' world. I want to leave a lot of myself for my children through the words I write. And no matter what age, we're still our momma's baby girls. Thank you, Rochelle, for facing your fear and sharing something deep and beautiful and honest and so relatable.

    1. Oh, Donna...there are no words. None. I'm so sorry you have to walk through this. And thank YOU for sharing.
      From one Babygirl to another,
      Holding your hand in thoughts and prayer.

  10. Rochelle thanks for making our parents closer to us, even when they are gone. Thanks for lunch.

    1. Thanks for reading, was hard to write, but I guess that's one of the ways our parents can live on.
      ...and I think a lunch redux should be in order. And soon. :)