On April 25, 2018, my world imploded and I’m still living in the aftershock.

Every day since has felt like blindly wandering through ash and wreckage, arms out to brace a certain fall, feet shuffling to feel my way through the entangling debris.

I was back to work that day, after being home with sick kids. It was my mom’s birthday; I was sad she was spending it in the hospital but hopeful she’d be home soon. 

She’d had to go to the hospital over the weekend to remove fluid buildup caused by her uterine cancer; her regular treatment facility was closed, so she’d been admitted. This particular episode had left her especially weak; chemotherapy treatments made her nauseated and she hadn’t been able to eat much.

The day before, I had taken my son to visit her at the hospital. She’d seemed weak and disoriented and we were worried—but we never really thought about her not coming home.

After the visit, I went to Kohl’s and picked out a few small things for her birthday and Mother’s Day, which was just around the corner. My family made plans to gather at the hospital the next day to celebrate her birthday.

When I arrived at work that morning, I sat in the parking lot for a moment soaking in the subtle pink hues of the sunrise. The song “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” by Matt Redman came on the radio. The lyrics grabbed me as the verse rang out:

And on that day,
When my strength is failing;
The end draws near
And my time has come.
Still my soul will sing
Your praise unending.
Ten thousand years,
And then forevermore.

I couldn’t help but think of my sweet momma laid up in her hospital bed—skin pale, head bare from chemo. How she forced a smile when her loved ones entered the room, even when I’m sure the emotions she felt were far from happy. My heart quickened and my blood ran cold. Suddenly, in that parking lot, I faced the very real possibility that my mother might not leave that hospital bed.

I did my best to gather myself and wipe the hot tears from my cheeks as I walked into work.

I was only there an hour or two before getting a text from my dad: “The doctor is advising loved ones to gather.” 

My legs threatened to fail beneath me and I forgot how to breathe. My eyes widened and the color drained from my face. My sweaty hands grabbed my belongings and I stumbled toward my car.

I called my husband, sobbing. He met me near his work and sobbed with me all the way to the hospital, never letting go of my hand. He loves my momma dearly, but he also knows the sting of losing a parent too soon.

In my moments of weakness during Mom’s fight with cancer, when I feared what could become of her, it occurred to me how God had brought my husband and me together for such a time as this. Our Almighty Father knew the pain we would both face and how we would have to hold each other up. God knew I would need an understanding heart to love me through the pain and those mornings I wouldn’t want to get out of bed. I fought that notion like crazy. Oh, how I didn’t want that to be true.

I know it sounds cliché, but my momma truly was my best friend. We did everything together. If one of us had to run to the store late at night, we’d go together. We’d peruse the craft section or the holiday section and go for a drive afterward. We’d dance to music on the way home and maybe stop for a drink or a late-night treat. We were silly together and oh, how I miss her laugh. She was my safe place, and I feel her absence.

At the hospital, our family was ushered into her room in the ICU.  We swarmed around her and assured her that she was so loved. We held her hand and kissed her face. I will never forget how despite her discomfort, in her few moments of consciousness she would pucker her lips as best she could to kiss us back. I will never forget her beautiful eyes—they were so big and filled with compassion, even in her last moments.

Sometimes I startle to see those same eyes looking back at me in the mirror.

At one point that morning, my husband left the room but hurried back after I let him know the moment was near. Shortly after he returned, my momma breathed her last. I believe she waited for him.

I remember my dad saying, “They say a spirit leaving the body can see us on its journey to Heaven.” We all looked up and imagined what my mom was seeing and feeling for the first time.

In healthier days as her birthday was approaching, we’d ask her what she wanted.  She’d reply, “A cure for cancer.” The only consolation we left the hospital with that day was that our sweet momma had gotten her birthday wish. Jesus gave her a cure for cancer on her birthday. It wasn’t the cure we prayed for, but her suffering was over. The cruel disease that ravished her body in a matter of months could no longer touch her.

I woke up the next day hoping it was all a bad dream. Reality came crashing in, sucking the air out of my lungs once again.

Images from the day she died still haunt me. My prayer is that, in time, God will redeem those moments for me.

You get pretty good at putting grief on the back shelf in order to survive work and life in general. But there are still many mornings a memory, a song, a thought, or a longing reduces me to a puddle.

I try to think of my momma rejoicing in Heaven with her Jesus and her loved ones. The confidence of her heavenly home does give me peace.

But I can’t help but feel like a part of me died with her on that day.

I’m still reeling. My ears are still ringing from the blow. I’m still stumbling through the blinding ash with my arms extended, certain of the perils around me.  I’m wondering if I will ever see the light of hope through the haze.

I’m just a girl grieving the fact that my momma will never get to be the grandma she wanted to be. 

Even though she met both of my children, she was sick. Her love still made a lasting and deep impression on them both but I know it killed her that she couldn’t play or adventure with them the way she wanted to.

I’m just a girl grieving all the “you should be here” moments. 

My brother graduated from college right after Mom passed. She’s going to miss adoption day for her first grandbabies. She’s going to miss their first trip to Disney.  She wasn’t here to witness my sister start a new life, something she never stopped praying for.

There is a lot of speculation as to what a soul experiences in Heaven, what it knows and can see about life on Earth. I’m still living in the ever-painful absence of my mother’s physical presence, so forgive me if I can’t immediately sense the immense joy that is supposed to follow a saint gone to glory. I hope that day will come for me.

For now, I’m just a girl missing her momma. 

Dear Momma, on your 58th birthday:

It’s been a year and I still can’t believe you’re gone. I know you’re enjoying Heaven right now and I hope it’s more than anything you ever imagined it to be. I hope you’re having long chats with Jesus and singing in the angel choir.

Gosh, how I would love to see you. I know you’d be so proud of all of us, Momma.

We Walked For Life in your memory, and Daddy was determined to make 33 laps to honor the 33 years of the marriage you shared. He did it, blisters and all. Your grandbabies found your pictures on the luminary bags and Ricky bent down to kiss your face. Kassie thought you would be resurrected on Easter, just like Jesus. You’d love the little people they are turning out to be.

Your grandbabies will officially be yours in about a month or so. I try every day to be the mother you taught me to be. A mother who never misses an opportunity to let her children know how loved they are. A mother who always finds time for laughter and fun. A mother who teaches her children to love Jesus and walk in His way. A mother who prays.

Sometimes, I hear your voice in the back of my head telling me to “loosen up” a little. Thanks for the reminder. You’re right, this life is too short to get hung up on the little stuff.

I miss you so much. That will never change.

All my love,
Your Püp

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Amber Watson

I am a foster and adoptive mother from the sunny state of Florida. I am married and have two children and two dogs. I am a preschool teacher for a teen parent program at a high school and I love what I do. I am a lover of the creative arts and find myself most at peace among the work of our Creator.