The following is a raw post – on editing and has not been re-read. These are my rawest thoughts, feelings and recount of the passing of Donna Lynn Rhodes
March 25, 1954 – August 19, 2015
My heart has been broken into a million pieces with the sudden loss of my hero. My mom and I were two peas in a pod. I know many people say they are close to their moms but mine is my soul mate. We have traveled many lives together and the loss of her is deep in my bones.
I had known for a while that mom was not well. She had low energy and for the last year caught every cold and flu that went around. She no longer had a spark in her personality and was sleeping more and more. She continued to go to the doctors and they continued to run scans and draw blood with no results that satisfied the way she felt.
My mom was a vibrant woman, who loved to day trip to small towns and discovers their hidden treasures. The trips were always more to do with the journey than the actual destination. Many times we never made the actual destination because we would get distracted by the view or another sign post we would head in another direction.
Mom taught me the importance of a clean house, paying my bills and how to raise my son. She was my cheerleader and my ass kicker when needed. Often times she would get me to center and look at a situation from all directions instead of “bull dozing” head on with no result.
In the month before my mom was diagnosed with stage four cancer, I found myself pulling away and resenting having to go see her. I found myself feeling such sadness and did not want to feel it. I did not want to see my mom hurting, tired and wasting away…
The day I received her call, I knew what the doctors found before she told me. I was shocked to find out it had progressed so far, so quickly. I was shocked to learn there was no chance of survival or that there was nothing that could be done to slow down the cancer to give her just a little more time. I was beyond shocked when the doctor told me it would be a miracle if she survived the weekend.
My mom did survive the weekend. In fact it would be the longest 42 days I had ever spent with my amazing mom. We quickly got her estate in order. It had been something I had been pushing for about a year and although we discussed what her final wishes were, it was never written down. In a very short time I learned about my mother’s finances and what kind of estate would be left. I immediately looked after what bills she had and made arrangements for her body after her death. I set her up in hospice and then found a new home for my sister and brother as they could not afford the rent once she passed.
Five days after she was diagnosed my mom told me she was ready to stop fighting and to let go. Those were the hardest words I had ever heard. I told her she could not let go until I took care of the car lease as I could not conduct business knowing she was leaving me while I was gone. I promised her I would be back in the afternoon and then she could let go. I did not go back that afternoon. It took me a while to realize that I was avoiding returning to the hospital. I did not want to say good-bye.
It was 10:00 pm when I returned to the hospital. Truthfully I had hoped she would be sleeping and I could slip in and out without notice. As I rounded the corner I heard my mom say “Well, it’s about time you got here”. She was sitting up in bed with her knee bent, elbow resting on top tapping the bet knee’s foot. As laughter filled my heart and the room, I took a seat next to mom and held her hand. We started talking about the family and the importance of taking care of one another. And through the laughter and the tears my mom told me something I will never forget…
“Life is too short to be perfect. Stop worrying about getting it right and start doing it just because you love it. Don’t worry about not being ready and share your gifts. You are meant to help people, get off your ass and do it.”
After three hours of laughter and tears I helped my mother to the bathroom. When it was time to help her back into bed she looked towards me and asked if I was going to tell the nurse or if she should. He looked towards me confused when I smiled and told him it was my mom’s intention to pass in a few hours. He kept looking towards her and back to me, trying to grasp the words. Finally my mom told him she had no reason to stick around and be in pain. She had lived a full life and had no regrets, it was time to let go. He quietly walked out of the room after promising my mom that he would call us in with enough time for everyone to say good-bye.
As I tucked my mom into bed that night, actually very early morning we sang “Good-night sweetheart, well it’s time to go. Good night sweetheart it’s time to go, I’m really I hate to leave you but I really can’t stay, goodnight sweetheart, goodnight”
The next morning my mom was gone. Her body stilled laid in the bed but she had vacated. No longer was there a sparkle in her eyes, or recognition in her mind, She was gone.
In the days that followed I watched as my once vibrant mother become confused; her pain was increasing and blood clot forming, causing limbs to turn black. The more her blood clotted the more pain she endured. Working together with the hospice staff and doctors I had her pain medication increased until finally we had no choice but to place her in a medical coma to help ease the pain she was feeling.
In the last seven days that my mom was on this Earth, she returned to her body. After a month of not knowing who we were she suddenly became aware of all of us. She fought through her pain medicine to try to communicate with us, each time we visited she would force herself awake and through the groggy mind of pain medication she would tell us she loved us. As a family we watched The Princess Bride one final time.
The evening of August 18, 2015 I made the choice to not go visit mom. It would be the second time in the days since she had been diagnosed. On the morning of August 19, I contemplated stopping in on my way to the office but decided against it as I knew I would not have made it to the office.
At 10:27 am I received the call that shattered my heart into a million pieces. I could not breathe, my throat started closing up and as I gasped to try to catch any air, I slammed my hand on my desk to catch the attention of my co-worker. When I had it I threw my phone towards he and started rocking back and forth, back and forth, the tears flowing freely as I tried to breath and make some kind of sense of the loss I thought I had prepared for. I continued to rock back and forth as my friends drove me to my mom’s old apartment to tell my sister and brother that mom had passed.
The next few days would move too fast for me to remember any real details. But I learned something very important; I have amazing friends. In the weeks that followed they have provided support to both me and my siblings, they helped me prepare her memorial and they helped me move my brother and sister.
Even as I write this, I am processing deep grief from the loss I am feeling. I still my mom everyday and in this moment I can hardly breathe but that is not my every day. Instead I am remembering my last late night talk with my hero. I am remembering her telling me that life is short and to get out and do everything. To look after myself first and most importantly I am remembering that “Life is too short to be perfect”.
I love you mom – See you in the next life; “four galaxies over, up one and then one to the left” (it’s about the journey, not the destination)