The lessons I learned in that 6 weeks I spent with her are ones that God obviously wanted me to learn. Others were learned as I talked to friends and realized some things were generational and some were cultural. I feel like I learned more in those 42 days than in my 4 years of university.
Growing up, our family never really said, I love you” to each other. I guess with my mom, it was a given. She would likely have been hurt if she every thought we questioned it. Her love language was acts of kindness. She showered that love everywhere to everyone. Cooking was her special gift. She was a cook. Period. She cooked all the time for everyone. It did not matter how tired she was, there would be a meal for us, regardless of if she worked two shifts back to back, we knew there would be a meal. Amamma’s (grandma) visit to our house had my kids ready with their demands of what dishes they wanted and what she would make first. As the boys grew, so did their appetites and amounts they would consume. The curries that were made require prep time, especially with the meat. The chapattis (Indian bread) would take forever to make and feed the crew. Or dosas…(my favorite which are crepes of sorts but not really) and a favorite in our house hold. Due to the fact that dosas are thin, you could easily eat 4-5 and still eat more and then times that by 8!!! Amamma’s fish curry was a big hit too as was the lamb curry… well truth be told, anything she made was licked clean.
My mom would come and visit and our laundry would some how get washed and folded. The fridge never looked cleaner and the bathrooms looked like it had never been peed by boys that could shoot a ball in a basket but peeing in the toilet seemed to be a hit or miss.
Ok… getting distracted. Back to the I love you…
I may as well interject a funny but not funny 23 years ago, tidbit. My dad never told me he loved me. And I am not sure WHAT exactly his love language was – maybe cutting mangoes for us or weird things which probably made his love language acts of kindness too. Anyways, my father’s love was something I craved forever. At my wedding, I made the decision that as I went from my dad to Sanj’s arm, I would tell him I loved him. This seems simple enough, right? Ummm no. I had to work myself up to get to the that point and when the moment came, I said ” Daddy, I love you.” That took as much energy as it took to push Sammy out after 12 hours of labor. My dad without missing a beat, responded…. wait for it…..
OK, it took a lot of years to get over it, realize that his love was there in its weird, abnormal kind of way. I had to accept that he was broken and yet he loved me. He just did not love me in a way I understood. I can laugh about it now.
As I stayed with my mom, I realized that as her death was approaching, I needed to hear her tell me she loved me. Understand I knew she did and I am not sure why I needed to hear it but I did. (I’m sure my therapist and I will tackle this at some point)! Sanj kept telling me to just ask her. Yet that is not what I wanted. I didn’t want to have to ask to hear it.
At one point, I said, “Mom, you know I love you, right?” And she replied, “Of course I do. You wouldn’t be doing all this if you didn’t.” Darn!
The day that she made the decision that she was done, she asked me to tell some of the grandkids various messages. I didn’t think of it before but I should have. I sat on the bed as she used what energy she had to leave messages to each of our family members. Since I was filming, she did not add me, as that would probably have seemed weird.
Sigh. In the end, I told Sanj that I told her I loved her. She thanked me for all I was doing (leaving my family for those 6 weeks, doing things that neither of us thought I would do, ever), and her thankfulness was obvious.
Really, what would hearing my mom say those words mean when I knew in my heart that she did?
The last few hours of my mom’s life was not pretty. I thought that she would pass in her sleep. Quietly. Or that she would have a heart attack and pass quickly. I never really thought of a prolonged slow death. The nurses administered the pump for the morphine. They gave her medication to help her relax and help with her agitation. She slept. My brother and I took turns sitting in the arm chair we had by her bedside. It is a scene I wish I could rewrite. It is a question I cried out to God so many a night while there. Why? Could He not let this cup pass from her? I feel such agitation right now, my heart is racing and I need to pause and take a deep breath as I write. And yet I must share this. It was a beautiful moment.
My mom laid there, she opened her eyes, moving them back and forth rapidly, yet not focusing or seeing us, as we sat on her bed, her head turning from side to side, her oxygen tube, a permanent fixture on her face providing what oxygen her body would allow as death waited to end her suffering.
It was 4:57 am, I sat on one side of her as my brother sat on her other. I remember feeling like I was having a heart attack. I leaned into her and said, “Mom, I love you.” In her state of being a shell of who she was, she slurred the words in a whisper of a voice, “I love you too.”
I was so shocked! I looked at my brother and asked if he heard it?!! I suppose we did not think she was lucid enough to even understand or know we were there. I said it one more time, “Mom, we love you.” She repeated it again, in her slurred, whisper of a voice, “I love you too.” The beautiful thing was we were able to capture that on video. I can hear my mom telling me over and over that she loves me.
At 8:30 am on March 15, 2018 my mother who spent her whole life showing me with her particular love language that she loved me left me, her last words, “I love you.”