On Mother’s Day…

So, Mother’s Day holds mixed feelings for me these days. As my child would say, “It’s complicated.”

On May 9th, 1997, my parents left town for the weekend to get away from life for a bit. They traveled down to St. Simons Island and left me in charge. I was 20 years old. My five siblings were all younger, 18, 15, 12, 11 and 5. My 18 year old brother, Wilder, was headed to the prom that Friday. He came by the house before he and his friends left, full of excitement and swagger, ready for the fun ahead.

The next morning he came by again to drop off his tux, so I could return it for him. He said good-bye as he left for the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina. Just another prom beach trip. Sometime late that night (or early in the morning), the phone woke me. Croaking a bit, I answered.

“Hello?”

“Is Mr. Henry Smith available?”

“Huh?” I asked, not really awake.

“Is Mr. Henry Smith there?”

“Who is this?”

Then another voice came on the line, one I recognized.

“Katherine, this is Anna Kate. This nurse needs to talk to you.”

“Okay.”

The first voice spoke again. “This is a nurse at Hilton Head hospital. Can you get in touch with your parents?”

After getting off the phone, I woke one of my sisters.

“Some hospital just called and said that Wilder’s on a ventilator. Should I call mom and dad?”

I was now realizing that it was four o’clock in the morning, but I still wasn’t getting that what was happening was bad. Very bad.

“Yea. I think you should call them,” Barbara Jean said.

This was before everyone had cell phones. My parents were staying at a retreat center and could only be reached after going through a night guard. I got my dad on the line and gave him the number of the hospital.

Not long after that, my dad called back.

“Call all the aunts and uncles,” he said. “It’s bad. Mom and I are headed to Hilton Head.”

About an hour later we were all up. My Aunt Ginny, who lived next door and whose daughter, Anna Kate, was the same age as Wilder and was at Hilton Head with him, came over to ask if we were going to the hospital.

“We weren’t. Do you think we should?”

“I do.”

So we went. And Wilder was on a ventilator. He was very sick. At the time, we weren’t really sure what had happened. We know now that he had an asthma attack. An asthma attack. One of those “situations” that Wilder had been having forever. Something that was dealt with by sucking on an inhaler, or getting a shot. Not something that could do this.

My parents made the decision to move him to a bigger hospital closer to home. A helicopter came and got him. We got on the road to make the 3 hour drive to Augusta, Georgia.

My sister BJ, my cousin Richard and I were in my car. We got to the hospital before my parents and other two sisters. We walked into the waiting room of the ER at the Medical College of Georgia, the three of us, and saw my Uncle Mason walking towards us. He was shaking his head.

And I knew.

Wilder hadn’t made it. He died in the air.

It was May 11th, 1997. Mother’s Day.

So Mother’s Day after that was bitter. For my mom. Her own mom died in 1985. And now, Mother’s Day was a reminder that as a mother, she was incomplete. It was the anniversary of the day one of her children left before she did.

And now, she’s gone too. Taken too soon by breast cancer in 2012.

It’s Mother’s Day. And my mother is gone. But that doesn’t make me sad. Mother’s Day, 2012, was the first of these Sundays in 15 years that my mother didn’t have to be sad on Mother’s Day. For the first time since the day my brother never came down from the air, she was with him.

CST #216: In memory of Mrs. Elaine

We talk about the passing of Katherine’s mom, Mass Confusion gets an award, the Avengers is the greatest movie ever, Tree of Life is amazing until the end, and we give our perspective on Hospice Care.

Listen to Episode #216 here, or subscribe via iTunes.

On the rock in my pocket…

I have a rock in my pocket. It’s kind of a mutating rock. Sometimes it seems small, like a pebble. Today it’s a boulder. Last night, saying good-night to my boys, it seemed like a mountain.

How does one write about this? How does a person put down into words the countless emotions that run through my head when the thought “My mother is dead” comes sneaking in? For that is what happens a million times a day.

At home: I need to go the store and my mother is dead. What are those children doing up there and my mom is gone.

Watching T.V.: What a sweet movie. Mama would love this, but I can’t tell her about it because she is dead.

Coming home from Statesboro: I should call mom and let her know that we are on the way, but I can’t because she is not there. She is dead.

You see, rocks.

I feel muted. Not like someone has turned down the volume, but like gray and mauve and teal and burnt umber. Doesn’t that sound so very teenager angst? I feel – young. I feel – fragile. I look around at my children, who I won’t lie, keep me distracted somewhat from the immediacy of the emotions. How can I have time to break down when Jude is screaming at Sam who is chasing the dog because the dog bit him? I mean, who has time for all of this emotion when there are these children to take care of. I think I feel young because I look at my kids and I think that I am not ready to face the next few years with them without her. I feel young in that I want my mama.

But it’s a very odd sort of want. I know that she’s gone. I’m not in any kind of denial – I’m too pragmatic for that. It’s this whole facing mortality thing. It’s the knowledge that what happened to her not only has happened to other people in my life, but will happen to MORE people in my life, will happen to ME in fact and though I should be rejoicing because, hey, we all have to die and she lived a good life and she loved the Lord, blah, blah, blah, but it’s maddening to think that any of my family, at any moment could be gone and there is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing that I can say or think or feel that will change the inevitability of that. I think, surely, God wouldn’t take my husband or one of my kids from me because I’ve already been through this twice, but that’s BULL. God doesn’t work like that. THE WORLD doesn’t work like that, so what’s it all for? That is what I have to ask myself and what I have to come to terms with and what I have to FACE for the next however many years until I become the rock in someone else’s pocket.

That’s the rock in my pocket. Or pebble. Or mountain.

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