First off, I’ll leave these two links here: God Went North & Nothing More Talk “God Went North” This is a personal post. But this song made me think I should write what I’m thinking down. To learn, and grow from it. And express what I’m thankful for this holiday season.
Eight years ago, I remember moving back to college for my sophomore year. It was a very exciting time for me. I had finally made new friends, I was living in an on campus apartment with seniors and having a social life. Something I lacked my entire freshman year thanks to my social anxiety.
It was two weeks into the semester when I received a phone call after returning to my room from class. It was my mom. She delivered news that she had been holding off on telling me for a while. She had cancer, for a second time. The first time she had been diagnosed, I was around 5 years old. Although I’m not 100% sure of my age at the time, I remember her laying on the couch, sick. I just sat there, hovering around her. I’m pretty sure I annoyed her because I wouldn’t let her out of my sight.
And here we are, over a decade after they told her she was fine, with the same terrible illness again. My stomach dropped, and I began to cry. In my head, I started to make plans. Move back home, enroll in a community college to keep taking classes, and be at home to take care of her. The woman nearly cussed me out. And this was a lady who hardly EVER cursed, let alone said the word “crap.” She wasn’t about to have me leave school to help take care of her. She wouldn’t hear it.
Although devastated, I decided to do as she asked. I stayed in school. The entire year went by slowly. Weekend trips home to see her dealing with the illness, trying to keep up with my classes, and trying to stay in touch with my extracurricular activities. Any weekends I did stay at school, I handled her illness poorly. She never knew.
The weekends would start out well. Hanging out with friends, drinking, playing video games, etc. But almost every time…at the end of the night…I would break down. My closest friends knew how much I hated to cry and how I did my best to hide it. So when I did break down, I broke down hard. I used alcohol to maintain, and it only made things worse. But they knew why. They knew, and never criticized me or tried to stop me. They let me deal the only way I knew how.
Come summer, things were beginning to look positive. They were starting to believe things could finally start moving forward again, and she would be healthy again. But something in the pit of my stomach always lingered. From the first day I received that phone call, to the summer, something never felt right. To this day, I believe I drank as heavily as I did, because I knew the truth. I knew she was going to die.
They were dark thoughts I kept to myself. Only my closest friends knew my fears. They tried to tell me to stay positive. And I put on a smile. I put it on, and to this day, I’m still wearing the mask.
Then it was time for vacation. July came and everyone was excited to go to the lake. My mother had received what we thought was positive news from the doctor a bit before that, so things were looking up.
I had gone to my sister’s apartment the night before so I could ride with her to the lake. Everything was normal, and happy. The next day came and we started to get ready to go. Until we received a phone call from my father. Mom had fallen down the stairs while having a seizure.
For two weeks, my father lived at the hospital. He never left her side. She was never really conscious, only in pain.
My sister and I visited her daily, but stayed at the house to take care of the animals. I handled my pain in an odd manner. Every day, I would play my video games. I remember it was the .Hack//sign games for the PS2. It helped me maintain…because I knew and had already accepted what was about to happen.
Even at the hospital, I would stick as close as I could to my dad. When he stepped out of the room to let the “ladies of the family” spend time with her, I had to leave with him. Listening to them talk about how “she’ll get through this,” and “she’ll be fine,” made me sick to my stomach. So instead, I sat with her in silence when no one was there, or I sat and leaned on my dad while we waited.
This lead to the fights. Every night, for two weeks, things would start out fine between myself and my sister. But the closer it got to midnight, the angrier we got and the more we began to scream. My sister still had hope, and she was angry. Angry at the situation, angry at God, and angry at me. My acceptance of the situation angered her. Although we made up every night, we still screamed and cried angrily at each other for two weeks straight.
I was angry. Angry at my sister for her false hope, angry at God for not letting me take my mom’s place, and angry at the world (an anger I haven’t fully let go of yet). I begged God, every night, to let me switch places. She had a husband, children, nieces, nephews, a family that loved her more than anything. They were my family too, but I didn’t have a family of my own or a husband of my own. She was worth more than I was. So I begged and pleaded, knowing the prayers would go unanswered. Then I finally did it. I told God, “If she’s not going to get better, then please just take her. Don’t let her suffer like this anymore. It’s not fair.”
That was one prayer, He would grant. On July 29th, 2010 it began to rain. Before 5 pm, my sister and I received a phone call from my aunt. She was rushing to pick us up, because it was time. The doctors said she was almost gone. As soon as we were in the car, the rain began to fall. And it didn’t stop.
We ran into the hospice. My sister ran in ahead of me and practically flew onto her body, while I trailed behind. Before I could enter the room, I heard the nurses say, “They don’t know…” It was done. She was gone.
I called my best friend to tell her. But then my family brought me back into the room. Even my extended family was even there. I found a corner, across from the bed. Across from her. I couldn’t tell you what anyone was saying. My mind was spinning and my body kept crushing itself into a corner, wanting to run away. To be alone in my grief, to be away from her empty shell. But I was trapped. Prayers were being said, people offering their condolences, anything to help me. But all it did was suffocate me. My mother was dead. And none of their words could bring her back.
It has been seven years this July. And only this year did I discover the band Nothing More. Slowly, I started to listen to their music more and more. Finally, I listened to the song God Went North. I first heard it was while I driving home for the weekend. The lyrics quickly began to sink in:
If You won’t save her
Please just take her
Nothing breaks her away
From the promise of a better day
And just recently, I found the video of Jonny Hawkins explaining how this song was written for his mother. It is rare to find someone who has experienced something like this. For me at least. Mainly because I don’t join support groups, or try to relate to people with this subject. But his lyrics hit home. And I was jealous. He was able to make it to her side before she passed away. He made it on time. He was 5 hours away and he made it. I was thirty minutes away and didn’t make it.
Maybe this song brought the experience back to me. Maybe it’s because the last two years have been nothing but one shit show after another. Meeting new friends, other friend(s) using and throwing me away, moving, job changes, etc. I’ve wished she was here to talk to. There are some things that you can only talk to your mom about. I have a strong support system around me, should I ask for it. But sometimes, all you want is your mother.
Since it’s getting closer to Thanksgiving, I’ll say what I’m thankful for now. I’m thankful God ended her pain and she isn’t suffering anymore. I’m thankful for the time I had with her. If I could trade years of my own life to bring her back, I would. But I can’t.
Be thankful for what you have while you can. Think about how you treat and talk to other people. You don’t know what they’re going through or what they’re thinking. And tomorrow, they could be gone for good.