A series of posts uncovering what is really beneath my anorexia and depression.
Reason 5. Mama dies.
As coincidence might have it, today is the day for Reason #5, which I wrote a long time ago: Mama dies. Today is also the 21st anniversary of her death.
Mama was one of a kind. She had kidney problems from early in life, to the point that my grandma, her mother, gave her a kidney in her early 20s. Mama was told not that having children was not safe.
Lucky for me, Mama didn’t much care what other people thought when she set her mind to something. And she set her mind on having a baby. When the doctors told her there was a less than 50% chance we would both survive, she big fat did it anyway. And we both made it just fine, because Mama knew best.
Mama had a lot of mental and physical health issues throughout her life, as I’ve mentioned in Reasons 1–3 of this series. In 1992, when I was 14, we had to start dealing with kidney problems again. The one my grandma had given her 20 years earlier was now failing.
Mama tried all different kinds of kidney dialysis from 1992-1997. They all, in a word, sucked. They all made her physically miserable, which didn’t help her existing deep mental health troubles. By 1997, Mama just sat in her reclining chair, and rarely left the house except to go to the dialysis center.
By this time, I was living in an apartment on my college’s campus about 2 miles from home. I stopped in occasionally to pick up my mail and check in, but it was a pretty lame effort considering her condition and my proximity.
On November 22, 1997, I was at a college event and my roommate came in, saying my dad had been trying to get hold of me at the apartment (no cell phones, y’all). She said my mom was in the hospital and I needed to call him. This didn’t worry me. For five years, Mama had been in and out of the hospital many times, and always came home.
I called my dad, and he let me know that Mama had a heart attack at the dialysis center that afternoon and was unconscious at the hospital. He told me to come right away. When I got there, Grandma and Daddy were there. I saw Mama. She was lying unconscious in the hospital bed, tubes everywhere, with a little blood around her nose.
We waited. And waited.
Mid-morning the next day, November 23rd, the doctor said we should go home and rest. She was in a coma, brain-dead, and could be like this for a long time. I found out she had gone without oxygen to her brain for six minutes, until the ambulance arrived. To this day, I can’t figure out why a medical facility didn’t have the means to give her the oxygen she needed. The doctor told us that someone would call if we needed to come up in a hurry and there should be plenty of time.
We followed the advice and went home. At 3:00pm, Grandma got a call and we all went as fast as we could but when we arrived, she had already passed away.
She died alone.
The last time I saw her was a few days earlier when I had picked up the mail at the house. I was in a hurry to pick up a friend and ran out, hardly saying hi.
As a daughter, losing my mother at 19 was traumatic. No one loves like a mother loves. I spent many years after she died trying to find another mother, so to speak. I had mentors from church, but it wasn’t the same. I had my aunt, but it wasn’t the same. I had Grandma until 2008, and that was close…but not the same. For a long time, I didn’t really know anyone else my age who had lost a parent. Then, life without Mama started really taking its toll. As I moved into life with getting married and having a baby, I didn’t have my Mama. It was, is, extremely lonely.
At this point in my recovery process, I acknowledge that Mama’s illness from the time I was 14 (a freshman in high school), to her fairly surprising death at 19 (a sophomore in college) and subsequent life without her has been traumatizing and left me feeling very lost. I have a hard time knowing who I am without the woman who fought the odds to have me, and was my warrior everyday since then until she passed.
Ana likes to really use this hole in my heart and life. It’s her best way to remind me that no one REALLY loves me since Mama’s gone. It’s her best way to make me feel like I don’t matter and no one would miss me if I wasn’t here. Earlier this year, Ana had convinced me this was true.
JJ’s and LK’s unconditional love have been in a boxing match with Ana’s threats. Their punches of love knock her down, but she eventually rises again. I also opened my heart up to the faith I had abandoned a decade earlier, and have been opening up space to believe that what God says about me is true. I’m hoping at some point God’s power through my belief can deliver the final knockout punch. I’m fighting the good fight.