I've tried keeping it all inside these past few weeks. Pretending like it doesn't hurt.
Pretending I don't miss my mother with every ounce of my being.
It hasn't worked. Some days, some months are just plain hard. I'm not hiding it anymore. I need to get.it.OUT.
Today is the 15th anniversary of my mom's death. DEATH. It still hurts saying that word. I hate 'passing' even more.
I remember May 26, 1994, more vividly than I care to admit.
I saw my mom for the last time a couple of days before. It was the last day of school before a long Memorial Day weekend. I hopped out of bed, anxious to get the day over with, come home and play in the backyard and have a big ole fun weekend with friends and sunshine. Why are we so anxious to just get through mornings or days or months?
My mom usually got up with me, sitting with me at breakfast, sometimes walking me down to the bus stop in front of our house.
This morning, she was still in bed. The 10-year-old Wendy figured Mommy was just 'tired' again. After all, she had been in and out of hospitals at this point for years.
I went in to see her before bobbing down the steps to the first day of the rest of my life.
"Mommy, are you sick?" I asked with scared, but more impatient blue eyes.
"Just tired, baby girl," she said softly.
She held my hand and I remember her face looked so sad, tired. I suddenly didn't want to leave.
"Promise me you'll be good and you'll be strong?" she half-asked me, not even looking at my face anymore.
"Sure, Mommy... My field trip to the Statue of Liberty is on Tuesday," I replied, trying to change the subject to something I could grasp.
We said our goodbyes, and an 'I love you' and I left for school.
I can't imagine what those few moments were like for her. She must have known. I don't know if I could hold myself together like that.
When I stepped off of the school bus that afternoon, the first thing I saw was my Aunt Alice's car. Apparently, my mom had waited til I went to school and Dad went to work and she called her sister, who lived an hour away.
I was still hopeful.
Just another hospital trip, I shrugged.
I spent the next day at my friend Lauren's house. Lauren was my best friend at the time and had played with me at our bus stop with my mom and her baby-sitter looking on since the first day of Kindergarten.
I don't remember much of our time together that day, other than spotting my very first rainbow.
"That's good luck," Lauren told me. I prayed she was right.
Later that afternoon, Lauren and her mom dropped me off at home. I had to get ready, for I was visiting with Mommy in the hospital that night! I couldn't wait. I missed her already.
I walked up our steps and into the house. Where was Dad?
Inside, sitting on my day bed with the peach ruffly comforter, my big, tough guy dad sat holding one of my mom's stuffed animals. He had tears rolling down his cheeks.
I sat next to him, put my hand on his back and my head on his shoulder and he told me my mom had died just a couple of hours before.
But I was supposed to see her! I was going to tell her about Lauren's baby sister and the games Lauren and I had played. I wanted to tell her I got an award from my Spelling Bee win and that I needed her to sign the field trip permission slip.
She wasn't supposed to die.
I still tell myself that every day. She wasn't supposed to miss all of this.
I was a good girl, I rationalize. Good girls don't lose mothers. They need them to tell them how beautiful they are and to explain boys and tampons and help pick a wedding dress.
Still, I'm older now and wise enough to realize her being sick had nothing at all to do with me. And that everything happens for some reason we just don't get a choice about understanding or accepting.
And most days that's enough to get me from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
I break my promise to her today.
I just have to cave in and break down.
You be strong for both of us today, Mommy.
"The chance that she never had
is now the gift that is mine
and out here on this road,
I'm making up for lost time.
Yeah, I am my mother's child
and tonight in this car,
I got her words in her suitcase
and her dreams in my heart."