Wednesday, July 17, 2013
It was a sunny day in the spring of 2003. I asked my mom to pick me up after school so I could see if I had been selected for any of the broadcasting leadership positions. My teacher posted them on the classroom door at the end of the school day. I don't remember looking at the list, but I do remember crying when I got into my mom's blue Dodge Neon. The news must not have been what I wanted. My mom was quick to console me, "I'm just proud of you for going for it. You're just a sophomore!"
I snapped at her. I didn't want her telling me how great I was, when I obviously wasn't.
"Well I guess you're not as mature as I thought. I'll just keep this I guess." She kept one hand on the wheel, but held up a box with a beautiful ring in the other. Of course, I quickly apologized and looked at the ring. "You'll get it next year Kate and you won't have to worry about all the nerves. You know how talented you are. Just keep doing what you're doing, sweetheart."
It was less than a month later that I was standing outside a hospital room, waiting for my "turn", my turn for them to tell me, Mom was sick and this time...she wasn't going to make it. I knew it before I walked in the room, but I'll never forget hearing those words. I stood at the end of the bed, lifeless. She reached for me and I joined her at the side of the bed.
It's weird, the things you think of, when you hear that news. For some reason I kept thinking about all her lasts. She'd never sleep in her bed again. What would be the last Royals game she would watch? Was the day before she went into the hospital be the last time she'd see her cats? Would this be the last thing she would wear?
My mom reached my hand to my heart.
"I'll always be here," she said. "I'll always be in your heart." We cried together...for the last time.
That night we all spent the night at my brother's apartment. It was close to the hospital. I slept on the floor. I felt sick, afraid to close my eyes, worried that I'd wake up and she'd be gone. But there we were, at the start of a long month of painful goodbyes. We were all together for once though, waiting...waiting for Mom to die.
That next morning I sat with my mother at the hospital. A preview for a new episode of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" came on.
"We should watch that together," I told her. She smiled at me, without a hint of sadness she replied,
"If I'm here, sweetheart."
If I'm here.
I've replayed her voice saying that a million times. If I'm here? She said it so matter-of-factly. She came to terms with dying. The fact of life was that she just might not be here. I was heartbroken. I couldn't process how life could continue without her. It was possible, even probable that they would play that episode, even if my mother wasn't around to see it. How can life just move forward like that without her?
I sat next to my mother's bed a couple weeks later and turned on that TV show. She could no longer stay awake long enough to watch anything or process what was going on, but I turned it on anyway. I held her hand and tried laughing, but couldn't help but fall asleep. It was the first time I slept in weeks. When I woke up, she was still there, but not many days after that- she wasn't.
It was a sunny day in the summer of 2003 when she left us. I was 15 years old and my younger sister was only nine. It was one of the worst months of my life, but it started what could be described as one of the greatest love stories ever told. We were a disjointed and distant family. My mom passing brought us together. My siblings are my dearest (and wisest) friends to this day. My dad, is my hero. It's in our darkest moments we learn what we're made of. I honestly believe that.
Fast forward to 18 months ago. Losing Mom was hard on all of us. I spent a lot of the years she was gone feeling miserable. I lost my drive. I lost my will. I lost me. But 18 months ago, I started the journey to find myself in this whole jumbled up mess. I started thinking about what she had said to me so cavalierly, "If I'm here."
If I'm here.
I know that sometimes we leave this Earth before we think we're ready, and most certainly before everyone else is ready for us be gone.
Well, if I'm here, I'm going to live. I mean, really live. We honest-to-God have no idea when and where our end will be here. That's what started this whole thing for me, and that's where I am today. If I'm here, I'm going to fight. I'm going to live outside my comfort zone, hold the people I love, work hard, play hard, learn things, post pictures of my cat on facebook and drink wine. If I'm here, you'll know I'm here. And when I'm on my deathbed, watching a preview for a show I might not make it to see, I'll just tell you I'll watch it, "If I'm here." Because if I'm not, I'll know that I tried the best I could to be the best person possible for not just myself, but my family and my friends...while I was here.
Today, I am half the size I was when I started this process. I'm down to 184 pounds from 368. So far, I've gone from a size 32 to a 12 in pants and a size 4X shirt to a Medium. More importantly, I've started living.
10 years without Mom. It's been hard. Every day she drives me. Her memory has been a powerful force in my movement to better myself. I wish she was here with me right now to celebrate how far I've come. I wish she was here to tell me to just, "Keep doing what you're doing, sweetheart." I'm forced to settle for a memory. I'll forever be grateful. I'll always miss her. This milestone for me, is most definitely...for her.