Friday, October 28, 2011

Grandma Was One Tough Lady

I have thought a lot about writing about my mom.  I went back and forth about if I should write about her or not. We have thought about her so much since finding out about Dakota having cancer. I call my sister a lot and ask her "how did mom ever do this?"  Dakota came home this week and said, “man, grandma was one tough lady.” My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45. She went through three rounds of treatment before she succumbed to the disease at the age of 50. I have always shared stories of my mom with the kids and how tough she was but I don’t think any of us really understood how tough she was until going through it together. My mom was a very shy woman and many may have thought she was stand-offish but really she was extremely shy. I always thought it was sad that so few people really knew her but that’s the way she was. I see a lot of her in myself and my kids. We are often misunderstood and thought snobby when we are really just socially awkward. Another thing that we inherited from her is her strength. I don’t think we will ever be as strong as her but we did get a little of her backbone. Some people have said that we are so strong. I will never see myself as a strong person as I will always compare myself to her but I have a little bit of her in me.

Why do I think my mother was so strong? I will share a few things that are a testament of her strength. My father died unexpectedly at the age of 40. My mother and father were on vacation and my mom was gearing up to start her new job on the following Monday. My father stepped outside and was struck by lightening and died instantly. We buried my father that week and my mother started her new job on Monday and didn’t tell anyone that she had just buried her husband the week before, and that she was left with three kids to support.

She never missed a day of work for sickness and I don’t remember her ever being sick until she was diagnosed with cancer. Even going through chemo she made her appointments late in the day and still never missed work, even though she felt terrible. She always said “why would I stay home? To feel sorry for myself?“ By the time that she was diagnosed with cancer all of her kids were grown and out of the house and she lived alone. She went to work, chemo, came home and did it all again. Every time that we go to chemo now and see a woman sitting there by herself we all think about my mom and we instantly feel sad for the woman sitting there alone. Later in her fight with cancer she was diagnosed with bone and liver disease. Both are excruciating but she still went to work and tried chemo one more time to try to ease the pain. She worked until two weeks before she died. Her biggest fear was that she would be a burden on us and that we would have to take care of her. The first day that we would have had to take care of her by ourselves she died in her sleep at home. She never wanted to be in the hospital and never wanted oxygen or anything to help her in the final days. The last day she was struggling terribly. We tried to put oxygen on her so she could breathe and get some sleep. We tried everything to try to get her to put the oxygen on. My mom told us in no uncertain terms that she would not put the oxygen on. I had to laugh that even in her final hours we were not going to tell her what to do. That’s my mom and I loved her for it. I thought it was so her. Just a last reminder that she was one tough lady.

One other piece of advice that my mother gave me when I was whining about something. “Syndi, there are people in this world with a lot bigger problems than you will ever have.” My mother didn’t correct me often but when she did I took her words to heart. I have always remembered that and I know that no matter what my trial is, there is someone out there who has way bigger trials than I could ever imagine. Thank you for that.

We are her legacy and I hope that we are living up to what she expected of us. I know that this blog is about Dakota and his journey but she laid the groundwork for how we handle this. I love you mom and you will always be my hero and the strongest person that I ever knew, or ever will know. Thank you for being such a great example for me and making me the person that I am today. I am so thankful that you were picked especially for me. I love you Mom.
Grace Watkins - my mom

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