I'm not ready to stop writing to you. It's been our main form of real conversation, at least on my end, the last two years and I'm just not ready to stop writing to you and start writing about you.
I usually know it's time to put it on virtual paper when my thoughts turn mildly obsessive. When I can't get them to go away, writing is the only way to put them to rest. The moments of the last two years on repeat when I am left alone with my thoughts. Tears that I keep hidden and pushed down overflowing when I allow myself to let the thoughts play out. It's your anniversary today. You and dad should be on another adventure. You deserved to enjoy the life you sacrificed all those years for and I am so angry it was taken from you. The sadness I feel is overwhelming the most on days that mean something.
I still remember talking to you that weekend two years ago. You and dad were in Nashville celebrating your anniversary and we had just gotten home from a wedding in New York. The flower girl dress you made was stunning and Melanie, the bride, was so happy with your beautiful artistry. Veronica hardly left her side that day, as they were both dressed as princesses. I remember you were quiet during that phone call, but that wasn't so out of the ordinary. I often went on and on as you listened to my stories. I told you how cute the twins were walking down the aisle together and how brave they were. Show stoppers with the entire church oohhing and aahhing over them. They were such troopers taking photos and sitting on the bus all day. How cute Frankie was falling asleep in his tux on my pregnant belly as we rode the bus around; the last to be dropped off. I remember hearing about the grand ole opry but don't know how much you struggled to tell me about it. Dad said over the weekend you were dropping the ends of sentences and by the end of it were struggling to get five words strung together. How did I not notice that?! Was it because I just went on and on filling the silence I was so aware of for all the wrong reasons? But then you always tried to protect me. Maybe I chalked it up to the tension that was recently between us. That summer I struggled to stand as a wife and mother first and daughter second. That was hard for you to accept or to agree with my choices at times. It was as if subconsciously you knew our time was limited and you were hanging on so incredibly tight I could barely breathe.
By Tuesday you were down to yes and no communications and dad knew he couldn't keep it from us any longer. An MRI showed a mass in your brain, and you were being admitted for more tests. Christian and I of course googled it and your symptoms searching for an answer. We all knew it was bad but could never comprehend just how bad in that moment. We saw worst case and thought that won't be it. By Friday you were having brain surgery and we were all there waiting, hoping for any answer other than what we feared the most. Sitting there in the family room with the surgeon, dad, Michele, and Ted; time stopped. All I heard were words flashing, searing into my brain. Cancer. Stage 4. Aggressive. 3-6 months at your best, no one survives more than 15 months. We were left alone with that and we all hung on to each other for dear life. To this day it is the only time we have all grieved and cried together. I know that would make you sad, that the closest we have all been through this was in that moment.
Soon after, you came to Cleveland for a second opinion, dad fully expecting to hear the same information, appease me and head home to let the next few months happen. But what we heard gave us all hope. Hope for more time, better quality of life, a battle to focus on. We shaved your head without shedding a tear, warrior mode. Sydney born days before treatment began, snuggle buddies those first few months of her life while you went thru treatment. Watching you go thru radiation and ring that bell at the end of it was priceless. You had this look in your eyes that day as if you could conquer the world. Fearless, proud, and so hopeful for a future. A future we were told to not bother fighting for. But you did fight. A great Christmas followed at home with your whole family together. You were so happy that day.
Then the first seizure hit. Scary doesn't begin to describe it, I thought we would lose you right there in the midst of half boxed up decorations, the tree still sparkling. The twins in bed thankfully, we were able to shield them somewhat from what was happening. Them waking to see the firemen in and out of the house, Christian and I sucking in the fear to smile and reassure them the dr.'s were going to take good care of their Mimi. A surgical infection showed it's ugly face a few weeks later and a second surgery was needed. You fought back yet again. Spending months in a rehab hospital, fighting for hours everyday in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Syd and I would come to support you and watch you working tirelessly. One of your goals to hold her again, the next thing I feared that would be taken from you. You not only held her again but you walked out of that hospital! Truly amazing my mama. Walking laps in my home and lifting hand weights to build strength, by Sydney's baptism you were strong enough to travel to the church, stand for a picture with your whole family and smile for pictures holding Syd! Mind you this was now 7 months after diagnosis, long past that 3-6 at your best. Trials came and went, new drugs were used, but the seizures kept coming every few months and each time took a little more of your mobility, your strength, your communication with it. You made it a year after your diagnosis, then Sydney's 1st birthday, another thanksgiving and Christmas. We are so lucky to have had so much time with you. To see you fight like a warrior and never, ever give up. It's a testament to how you lived your life and no matter how crappy I feel you are an inspiration to just get through it with a smile on my face. The trials fell away and you were left with the last chemo option. The one you would've been given immediately following your first surgery over a year and half before had you stayed in Lansing for treatment. We knew the fight was ending, the options gone, but still you had quality, you were holding strong. The wound on your leg stopped treatment all together and we all knew that there was no coming back from it. We tried to heal it but it was just too big and this god awful cancer was just too aggressive. What we were able to keep at bay, was now unleashed and it was only a matter of time. Still you lived life smiling, hugging, watching your grandchildren and loving every moment, or faking some of it for us. Sydney now climbing in your bed to give you kisses, Veronica cuddling with you on your 60th birthday watching Annie, Frankie playing Mario kart relentlessly yelling "Mimi watch!"and feeling my belly as this baby grew inside it. You saw and lived in our new home, listened with love and happiness as we told you about finally following our dream of opening a restaurant; even if you were never strong enough to see it for yourself. There are little things sprinkled throughout the place that are reminders of you and your unconditional support to chase our dreams.
All of it gave us purpose, a way to forget the sadness, focus on your daily needs rather than realize how much life had dramatically shifted. How much you, and by consequence all of us, lost in a matter of days, two years ago.
In the days following your death I felt marked, like a Scarlett letter cast across my chest for the world to see. Not one of shame, but of pity for being motherless. I hated it so much that every time someone extended their condolences I wanted to scream. I watched as others cried at your funeral thinking this doesn't change you why are you crying?! But that was the anger. I was blown away by the amount of people who came to pay their respects to you. Such a social wallflower I bet you never thought they would show up in the hundreds to honor you. You deserved that.
My birthday came shortly after and it was the day the sadness really set into reality. Normally you are the first to call and the realization that phone call would never come again made the day almost unbearable. I tried to put a smile on for my family's sake, but I fear I didn't do a very good job. The day the twins rode the bus to kindergarten for the first time I balled my eyes out. I'm not that sentimental, typically I may get a little emotional but I had been counting down the days to this moment. You were the first one I wanted to send a picture to, and because I couldn't, I couldn't hold back the tears. My social etiquette seems out of whack too and I can barely focus on conversations. I'm sure people wonder where I go mid conversation and I struggle to retain any information or recover from trailing off. I swear all these great people I am meeting in my city and neighborhood must think I'm such a flake. Most days the tears lie just below the surface, threatening to escape at any random thought of you. Good friends ask how I'm doing, how's my dad and I wanna scream again. How do you think I am? I wish they would stop asking. I know it's out of love and concern but what am I supposed to say? The truth? Neither of us has the time for that. I hope that one day I will reach a point where the tears stop streaming at every random thought but right now I am no where near that. And as my due date approaches I am more and more aware of the sadness I will feel that day. Because as excited as I am to hold this tiny miracle growing inside me, I also know you will not be there to hold him. It's not right, it's not fair and I wanna scream just thinking about it.
Two months, two years. Another path ripped to the left. Another day that should be lived a different way, in celebration and not tears. I will be ok, I will find a way to let the happiness win. In the meantime I will get better at faking it.