There has been a lot of joy in my life in the past few years and almost two years ago, my mother passed away of stomach cancer. She had been sick for several years and she had already been through breast cancer as well so she was already a survivor! My mother had me at the age of 40 which at the time was quite unusual, even though it isn't by today's standards.
As I hold my newborn and stare into his eyes, I wonder how she would have treated him had she had the opportunity to meet him. I would surmise she would have been in love and elated. Every time my sister or I had a child, she would travel cross country to stay with us to help us for 2 weeks up to a month and she just soaked in the love from the baby. This was days after having my first child.
We still treasure all the things she knitted and sewed for us and her footprint has definitely been left on our family and our household. My second child, she was utterly in love with, and lived to see her just before she turned two years old. Here she is just after she was born sitting there, knitting and holding the baby in her lap.
She got sick shortly after my second child was born and she at the time was already aware of some abnormalities in her stomach. At the time, there were several tests she had to do and sometimes they would say they just had to monitor this or that, but it seemed that as the months passed, it would get a bit more real that there was something not right in her stomach. This is a photo during our visit to her after which she had already begun treatment for about 6 months or so.
You can see here how much she loved the grandchildren, the two boys and two girls.
The grandkids brought so much joy to her even when she was in hospice, they would sit with her on her bed and hold her hand or kiss her or entertain her.
I feel some pain in my heart knowing that she didn't get to meet my son and sometimes even during my pregnancy and after, I experienced some doubt because I was aware that she felt that two kids was the perfect number to have.
When she was transferred to home hospice, a young nurse came to visit and as she was caring for my mother, we began chatting about kids, the nurse had two kids. As young moms do, we then had the "are you done?" discussion in front of my mother. The nurse transferred it to me to see if I "was done" and when I told her most likely, she very loudly said "Betty, do you think your daughter should have one more kid?" And my mom, as she had told me in the past, shook her head to say 'no, she shouldn't'. Wait, what???....
Well, we had talked about the number of kids to have together before. I happened to find an old email when I just had my first child and it is hilarious to read because I say in the email we aren't having any more kids! lol. So, at one point, even after my 2nd child, I talked to her about having 3 kids and she, while she was crocheting something, told me that it's easier to have just two kids. The reasons never went past that odd numbers are...odd...and that it's easier to get a seat at a restaurant with 2 kids or stay in a hotel...the reasons were valid but not like uber-compelling ----right: restaurants and hotels think we should cap it at four! Oh, and sedans too!
As I was holding my son this past week and missing her reactions and facial expressions and voice, it dawned on me that, well it could be likely she just thought my sister and I should follow her footsteps with two children, but there is a slight sliver of possibility that she didn't want us to have another because she didn't want to miss out on a baby she would not get to know. I know undoubtedly she would have been in love all over again with a 5th grandchild.
My two girls still remember her fondly and we talk of her often and even though we didn't quite hammer it home with them that she was completely gone physically, they do seem to realize that she isn't visiting anymore and now what we have left are the memories we shared with her. When she was in hospice, they thought that she was 'sick' but to them, sick is having a boo-boo, they didn't really understand that she was forever sick. But, the other day my eldest asked 'Ama is dead, right?' My heart sunk because though I know that she had figured it out without me telling her exactly, I said 'yes'. And she said 'But she's in heaven with God right? And she's still with us right? So if you ever die, you will still be with us right? But that won't be for a really really long time, right?' And I said 'yes' to all of her questions. I later told her that I believe that when your body dies, your spirit still lives and that never dies and she really found comfort in that, knowing that people don't just disappear, their entire existence forever erased from this world like an email you were writing that got deleted on accident. It is a comfort to know that even though we don't physically get to see her, her spirit is still in our lives in some way and I can almost feel the love and joy that she would have expressed in seeing our baby boy join our family.
These thoughts also have surfaced that the idea that we can really "plan" our families is pretty inaccurate. Ultimately, how many children you have is really truly a gift determined not by you (otherwise it would not be a gift) - motherhood and birth are so miraculous and are immense gifts I feel privileged to experience. Though it often can be fun to discuss the ideal number of children, life is a gift and any life is a gift we never know how long we will have it for. With that said, I hope you readers out there don't get too battered up over the same debate. I'm just thankful for my children and that I had my mother with me for as long as I did and I do truly miss her today.