Five years later feels like just yesterday

regrets-on-benchDear Mom,

I’ve been anticipating this date with so much dread and heaviness- February 10th. Exactly five years ago today, February 10th, 2015, you had fallen outside of your place and that eventually led to your passing away, a shock to all of us, including you, I am sure.

It breaks my heart everytime I think about it. And I know they say not to live in the past, but how can I not? That is where you were. And that is where I always want to be- with you. I think a part of me, a big part actually, is not here but either trying to find you or just gone whereve you are.

I break my heart over and over again thinking about what you might have done that morning, before your fall. I am so angry at the homecare worker who not only took you out for a walk to Shoppers Drug Mart to get some groceries, but who also made you walk back even though you said you were tired, wanted a cab, or even a bus, and she said, No, let’s just walk slowly back.

Mom, you hadn’t taken a bus for years and years. The fact that you asked for one- well, she should have realized that you weren’t able to make it home comfortably. That you needed a ride back. That you couldn’t walk more. It might have been a short walk for some people, but not for you- with your heart condition- and the osteoarthritis. I am sorry that I wasn’t more understanding about that myself on some days. I should have walked more slowly along side of you rather than skipping ahead, and I should have held your hand more.

But that day, I wonder about stupid questions. I don’t know if it is just to torture me and make me feel more guilty, or to just try to imagine myself being there with you and going through what you went through with you, as if that would somehow change things or make things better now. I imagine what you went to buy that day. I imagine what your plans were for later that day when you ended up in the hospital instead.

I wonder who the woman was that walked you and what happened when you fell. Did you trip over a step? Were you tired? And how did you hit your face and nose? And how could that stupid woman not have called an ambulance or reported the fall to her employer? That cannot be legal. That is not right! I am so angry still, after five years over this.

I want to see the couple who ended up walking by and finding you on the pavement bleeding, and who eventually called the ambulance for you. I want to meet the one out of the two of them- was it the man?- who let you rest your head in his lap while you waited for the ambulance. I wrote an article in the North Shore News asking if the people who helped you could come forward so I could personally thank them. I wrote the article after you passed away. I know you would have wanted to thank them.

Even though you hated hospitals, you were always so giving to strangers even there too. I remember how you wanted to buy a box of chocolates to give to the hospital staff while you were in the hospital. I was too worried and preoccupied to make it happen for you. I am sorry. I am sorry for so many things. The list goes on and on.

I am sorry that I wasn’t there with you that day when you fell. I am sorry I didn’t come to your place and drive you wherever you needed to go so that you wouldn’t have fallen. I am sorry that I didn’t stand up for you with the homecare woman and the whole company more after all of this to demand they do something about their total negligence. I did go to their office a couple of times to talk to the supervisors in a meeting they set up. But they blamed everything on my grief, on my emotional state. As if it was something I would get over and realize was not their doing.

But here I am five years later still angry as hell and so ashamed that I let the whole thing go. I know they were just scared because their big company’s reputation was on the line, so they through the blame on me and my grief. But I should have stuck in there with it more. I should have stood up for what I really believed. But I didn’t have anyone else on my side to back me up. I didn’t want money or to blame someone. I wanted justice enough to at least make sure this would never happen to someone else. I couldn’t bring you back, but maybe I could try to prevent another family from going through the same carelessness, and have the company take the situation more seriously. It was serious. You are gone. And I feel so ashamed, guilty, broken hearted and angry. I just didn’t know how to fight the fight on my own.

Mostly, I feel angry at myself. A friend of mine- a colleague I used to teach with- saw my article in the newspaper and reached out to me over Facebook to say she was sorry for my loss. And I eventully called the ambulance services and hospital to find out the names of the people who helped you get to the ambulance when the homecare person you were with didn’t. I seem to remember the ambulance service not wanting to give me full names or contact numbers of the couple who helped, probably just to respect their own privacy. So I never knew their full names or got to meet them in person. But the ambulance service assured me that they had passed on the message of eternal gratitude I wanted to send to them.

But I didn’t have the courage to do what I really wanted to- which was to fight for you and your rights. I know it is what I should have done. It was a lot to take on on my own. No one else seemed to see it like I did and I was scared to fight the fight on my own and try to go through the grief and shock I was feeling over losing you. But I know it would have been the right thing to do.

I am sorry that you ended up falling that day mom. I am sorry that you ended up in the hospital. I know you hated hospitals. I am sorry that things got worse, that you even ended up in the hospital over Valentine’s Day when there was a Valentine’s Day event you said that you were really sad not to have made it to.

I kind of hate Valentine’s Day now and these days leading up to it because of all that. Sometimes, I just see broken hearts everywhere on that day. How could I not when the person with the biggest heart, the person who brought me into this world and contributed the most to my loving heart, was scared, hurt, weakening, and in pain that day? How could I be excited about Valentine’s Day when you started getting even worse that day and I had no idea that that was going to be your last Valentine’s?

I think the homecare people who were not taking responsibility for their part in this thought that over time I would forget about it, that I let it go because it would become clear that it had nothing to do with them. Well, instead, the opposite is true. I am ashamed I didn’t stick with what I believe. And I am still angry at the awful way they handled, or really didn’t handle all of this. And you know what one of the worst things to live with is, Mom? Regret. I am full of regret over not going with what I believed was right and worth fighting for. It didn’t go away. It didn’t fade away.

I still feel like this all happened just yesterday. I remember every moment of it. I especially remember the things I didn’t do for you. It was like I was trying to make a million choices of things I thought would help- but I kept picking the wrong ones. And I thought there would be more time to explain and apologize once you got home. I just didn’t know that wouldn’t even be an option.

I am sorry, Mommy. I am sorry for not being there for you better. I am sorry that I made all these wrong decisions because I didn’t know how to juggle a bunch of things or I wasn’t clearly seeing what was most important, or because people were telling me I needed to go home and rest and that you would be fine. They were wrong. And I should not have listened to them. I should have stayed with you.

I wish there was some way I could fix it now. I wish that I could turn back time and turn things around. I still run through the scenarios in my head- of what I needed to do instead of what I did do. As if that could somehow magically undo what happened. I can’t change it. I can’t believe I am still telling myself this after five years. But I can’t help running things through my mind again and again. It doesn’t do anyone any good does it?Maybe I think I need to punish myself for my mistakes with you. But none of this brings you back or makes the past different. And that is something I have to live with somehow.

What would make it better, or what would help me let go of these regrets a little more, is if I knew you are okay now, that your spirit is soaring. I wish that you are now having beautiful Februaries with heavenly plans for Valentine’s Day that no one can ever take from you. I hope your heart and soul is filled with so much love and togetherness and peace and joy.

I hope that it is true that heaven can take care of you in ways that far surpass what we know here on earth. I wish the hearts in heaven are the most welcoming, beautiful, magical and healing and that they surround you and fill you with endless love.

 

Leaving Notes,… Just in Case

Dear Mom,

they-had-plans

I hate this quote that starts, “Those who died yesterday had plans.”  I know it’s supposed to make us all stop and think and go out and do all those things that we want to do before it’s too late.  Not to take life for granted as it says.  But all it does is make me ache at the thought of all the plans you had that week or ten days you were in the hospital. And how I took all of that, and the idea that you would just be here longer, for granted.

It is so painful to think that that day that you woke up and went out in the afternoon with the homecare worker to get groceries, you had no idea that this is how it would all go.  That you were going to fall such a painful and devastating fall, right outside your place and end up in the hospital. And even in the hospital, you had no idea that you were going to stay there, and never come home again. I can’t even believe I just wrote that. Continue reading Leaving Notes,… Just in Case

My Favorite Valentine

 

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Dear Mom,

Last year, I discovered that you were, and still are, my favorite Valentine.

But I never got a chance to tell you that, so here goes:

Remember the little white teddy bear in the little red “I love you” mug you bought me just before Valentine’s last year? Well, it’s one of my most precious treasures. It actually made my heart melt when you first gave it to me.

I know you were in Shoppers, scoping out their Valentine’s candy and gifts early. And the thought of you picking up this adorable present with me in mind, … well, it just brought such a smile to my heart. I never told you because I thought you would just think I was just being overly sensitive. But now, I so wish I had said something, anything, everything.

I also had a little gift for you- a necklace and earrings- but never got a chance to have you wear them out

And that bear actually became what I was hoping would be a little protector for you in the hospital. I put your little red and green tasbih around the bear, and brought a picture of Hazar Imam that you had at your place, and kept them in the ICU room you were in in the hospital.  For some reason, I thought all of those little heartfelt things would save your heart and help you feel us, remember that  you are loved. And you would just get better.

Katarina even helped me tuck the little bear under your arm while you were sedated. I wasn’t allowed to be there all the time in the room, so I was hoping that if you woke up and saw the bear, you know we were nearby and not alone.  But you never woke up. I couldn’t believe it.

I think at first, I was angry that those things didn’t help you.  It was hard for me to have them near me afterwards because I thought I didn’t do enough, that I needed to bring you something else that would have protected you better. But I couldn’t get rid of those things either. The mug and especially he bear,…  they just became sacred. The bear was the last thing that was closest to you. And now, I keep it close to our picture- that picture of you and me from long ago- on my windowsill.  And now it helps me to feel you are nearby.

But the bear is also in the arms of a different, bigger, green bear one of my students gave me years ago.  The green bear’s name is Ariel. It came with that name. And Ariel was a fairy type of character in one of my favorite Shakespeare plays- The Tempest. My student wanted to give me something to say thanks for teaching her about Shakespeare and other writers, and so when she found this bear and saw his name, she thought it was perfect!

The bear has stayed with me as a memory of the magic that Ariel seemed to have in the play.

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And I want that magic, that protection, around you. So I guess I use Ariel hugging the white bear you gave me as a symbol of something still protecting you and your spirit.

I gave you a Valentine’s Day card in the hospital last year as well, that said something about making sure you take care of yourself now that you have spent so much time taking care of everyone else. I feel very embarrassed and sad that those were the words I chose, to share with you, when you were in a state of not only not being able to take care of us, but also helpless in taking care of yourself.

I am so sorry, Mom. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had no idea. And I’m sorry I was late to join you at the hospital on Valentine’s Day. Every place was so busy for food, for driving. I was trying to also get some new furniture and clothes for you to surprise you with. But I should have just been with you. And I never got a chance to tell you why I was late. You looked so sad and it hurts me to remember your comment about how I took so long. I thought I would have time later to explain.

If only I could turn back time and change so much about those days, of those months, of so many things that I would have done differently with you. I would do it.

I haven’t been able to use or drink out of the “I love you” mug since you’ve been gone, though it sits in my cupboard in its own little spot and I stare at it sometimes. And I haven’t been able to wear the earrings and necklace I gave you. I just wanted to see them on you.

I might have to try to put them one on day soon, to see if they make me feel any closer to you. Or to somehow show you what they look like on your daughter.

Valentine’s Day now makes me very heavy hearted. But what is at the front of my mind and heart is my absolute favorite Valentine- my mother Laila.  Why I didn’t figure it out sooner, I will never know.  But I know now, and though I spent Valentine’s Day alone, I was so full of love for the best person that ever was a part of my world. And now you’re also my Divine Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom.

May lots of candy hearts, kisses, warmth, peace and love wash over you up there in Heaven, always. But especially today.