Do you know what “hollow” sounds like?
I finally sat down on the living room floor with a small plate in front of me. On it, a strawberry pastry, cut up into little, tiny, bite-sized pieces…ready for me to swallow whole, one at a time, like a pill, with water. That was the only way to get some calories into me over those past 5 weeks.
5 weeks…from diagnosis to death. Just 5 weeks.
I sat with my mother in the doctor’s office 5 weeks prior, the first day the sensation of “hollow” entered my being.
“I have bad news and worse news…it’s cancer, in the lungs, and it’s spread throughout your body”
WHAT? She only had a cough and back pain, and never smoked! EVER!
I looked over at my mom, and her eyes just glazed over…I almost puked. But, I had to hold it all together and bravely grabbed her leg and told her, “You have to FIGHT THIS”!! She just looked at me and said, “I’m going to die”. I looked into her eyes and began to see what hollow looked like…she began to empty right in front of me. And at that moment, my insides began to shake. I can “see” hollow.
Over the next 5 weeks, my mother endured what someone with cancer would have endured over a 5-year period. Her desire to eat disappeared. She only wanted to lie in bed. Noise bothered her. Lights bothered her. She didn’t want to talk much. She barely smiled. She never cried. She only had ONE Chemo….just one. I think just for the sake of having it to appease everyone else….it was already too late. And with that single chemo, she lost every bit of hair on her body…within days. Just another blow. I spent most days just lying in bed with her, I remember her telling me, “I’m going to miss you”.
Then, I started to “feel” hollow. Like someone was emptying my soul and spirit right from me. I actually felt it. I felt like an empty black bowl. I felt like I was in a bubble of blackness. Physically felt hollow, but with boundaries if that makes sense, like something or someone was always holding me together. (But no one really saw that…for you see, I had 3 little girls at home and a husband and always had to put on a brave face….but, spent many nights crying in the shower…).
Those 5 weeks were a blur…then, came “the day”. Back to the floor of her living room, trying to swallow food whole. I had gone down to about 95 pounds….I guess I don’t eat when I’m stressed like most.
My brothers were sitting next to my mom in her bedroom, and came to get me… “she looks different”. The moment I saw her, I knew it was time. Called my dad into the room, and all of us surrounded her. Jimmy and Bobby crying hysterically on her, my dad just stared at her….oh my heart was in a million pieces. I just held her hand and told her it’s ok to go. I’ll take care of Daddy. Go with Grandmom and Grandpop…they are waiting for you. I was smiling at her, caressing her face….because I promised her she’d leave this world with us loving her and holding her. My final gift to her.
I think I recall my brothers kissing her goodbye and left the room. My dad just continued to stare. Then, I laid on her. My head on her heart. I still sensed her there in that final moment, but then I heard it…hollow. I actually heard nothing. Blackness. A deep f-ing hole. In her. I heard her empty out.
I actually heard hollow.
But then…I felt something….as I lie on my mothers chest, I began to feel a coolness starting at my feet. And in that moment, I felt at ONE with my mom. That coolness began to rise up our bodies, into our legs, then pelvis, then belly, then chest. As it entered my head, I felt this pull that helped me raise my head off of her. Then I literally felt the coolness go out of my mouth and out of the top of my head…and hers. I was engulfed in her spirit. I actually felt her leave her body. I looked down at my mother’s empty shell, and smiled. What a gift she gave me. I felt her all over the room.
The hollowness quickly filled with memories, almost in an instant.
Her being mom.
Her hugging me.
Her kissing me.
Her NOT IN PAIN.
Her without cancer!
She was gone. But she was still alive all over us. And will always be. She’s what always held me together, through it all. That boundary of love and security surrounded me throughout those 5 weeks, and today. I may see, feel and hear hollow many more times in my life, but know there’s always a boundary of love holding me together.
That’s my mothers love.
10 women and 1 man bravely stood up to a crowd of almost 200 and read their stories. Stories that uncovered our deepest thoughts and protected feelings. It was humbling, raw and amazing. The audience was given the opportunity to hear our stories on love, hope, courage, fear, death, birth, and a little on “vagina’s”. There were tears and belly laughs. I will never forget this team. One year ago, I was asked to photograph the event (which I did). I never imagined I’d be sharing my story one year later later on that very same stage. I’m very blessed.
You can learn more about Listen to Your Mother here. Our stories will be on their site (and on YouTube) later this summer, so you can really “listen” to our stories.
Partial proceeds from our show went to the amazing Third Street Alliance right in my hometown of Easton, PA!
Here are some photographs from the show:
If you have a story to tell, please consider auditioning next year for the 2017 LTYM-Lehigh Valley Show.
Now, go call your mom. 🙂
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