Monday, March 11, 2013

I Miss Her

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There are many reasons why I chose to breastfeed my children.  There are tons of health benefits for both the child and the mom.  One of the benefits for nursing mothers, that stands out for me, is a decreased risk for ovarian cancer.  Ovarian cancer.  Two very simple words with a huge impact, at least for me.  I have seen what ovarian cancer can do to a person and their family.  So if I can decrease my odds against the disease, I will.  Here is why...

Today marks five years since my aunt lost her battle with Ovarian cancer.  Sure, I am incredibly sad, but at the same time I am proud and humble.  She was like my second mother, especially during the summer when I worked 6 hours away from my own parents.  She treated me like her own daughter.  She was an incredible person.  Overly direct sometimes, but still someone I admired.  Someone I loved.  Someone I was proud to have in my family.

She was always there for me.  When I was younger, she used to send me beautiful journals at Christmas to encourage my love of writing.  She also helped me and my husband get a mortgage together for our first house almost 8 years ago.  While I attended Queen's University, she was always an instant message away.  We used to spend many hours chatting away on MSN Messenger (BTW, I wonder, does anyone still use that anymore?).  I miss those conversations terribly.  And she was one of the few people, other than my husband, to know that I was planning on transferring universities before I worked up the courage to tell my own parents of the decision (Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, surprise!).  And, of course, she made sure I always had someone to talk to or a good meal or even a ride to my grandparents' house when I lived and worked at the lake all summer.

Yes, I miss her and, as a result, I am particularly reflective today.  I keep thinking about the last time I saw her.  It was the weekend before she died and my mom, my husband, and I made a road trip to see her.  My dad was already there with her, helping take care of her during those last few weeks.  He had stressed to me that it would most likely be my last chance to see her since her condition was deteriorating rapidly.  And he was right.  She passed away two days after I last saw her.

My dad tried to prepare me as best he could for my visit with her because frankly, I used to be an emotional train wreck.  Honestly, anything would make me cry.  He warned me that she looked a lot different.  I tried to brace myself for the worst.  I remember when I tried to go into her bedroom to see her.  I was not prepared at all.  I saw her and absolutely panicked.  I had to turn around.  She looked nothing like I had been expecting.  She looked worse.  Unfamiliar.  I needed more time to prepare myself.  I absolutely hate that my first reaction was to turn around.  And I am sure it would have been heart breaking for her to see my reaction, which I am not sure if she did or not.  My dad stopped me.  Hugged me.  He reminded me that she was still who I remembered.  He probably made a stupid corny joke too.  I don't really remember.  I just remember that minutes later I went into the room, determined to get past the shock and fear I was feeling.  Soon, we were chatting and things seemed almost normal for a bit.

The next night after having supper, she wanted to see me.  Just me.  I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had to tell her the most important things: one, that I loved her and two, I had to thank her for being, well, just her.  She had her own agenda as well.  She wanted to give me this beautiful ring and told me the background behind it.  I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember anything she said to me.  It is all a blur.  And I don't remember the background story for the ring at all (I am sure my family will fill me in after reading this), but I remember what I was able to say to her and I remember how she made me feel during our last visit together.  She made me feel loved and special.  I knew how proud she was of me.  I think it is that feeling alone that made her passing that much more manageable.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to be able to tell a person everything you want to before they pass.  I am grateful for that opportunity.  It gave me closure, knowing that she knew how I felt and, in turn, how she felt.  We exchanged our I love you's and our goodbyes and never turned back.

Just two weeks ago I was reorganizing our photo album and scrapbook collection when I came across the guestbook she made for my wedding.  I forgot about the message she had written in the back.  Just seeing her handwriting makes me tear up. 

And don't get me started on what hearing certain songs does to me.  I was asked to play the piano for her funeral.  I thought it would be impossible for me to follow through with her wish of me playing that day, but I did.  However, the songs "Hallelujah" and "Bless the Broken Road" tug at my heartstrings.  Every.  Single.  Time.

And then I thought I would have a difficult time when I helped to spread her ashes.  I didn't.  I was helping to set her free.

I have these random little reminders of her throughout my house, including the ring she gave me and the Dr. Seuss book with her handwriting in it that I found in a box of books my grandparents sent me.

I wish she was still here.

I think of her often and how she would have loved to meet my boys.

I miss our hilarious conversations and her helpful advice.

I think of how her struggle with ovarian cancer has taught me to take any necessary precautions to avoid that disease.  And I am.  I am approaching the three and a half year mark of continuous breastfeeding, and that includes an entire year (and a day) of tandem nursing.


I miss her.