I Can’t Call My Mom

My Mother died of Stage IV pancreatic cancer at 8:49 p.m. on January 26, 2023, less than three months after her diagnosis.

For the first 10 weeks after learning the news she felt better than she had in years. Then 10 days before she died all of a sudden the cancer made itself known, and she started on the morphine and it was never enough. I gave her a double dose when the 0.25 milligrams wasn’t helping, and the hospice nurse called the social worker on me, fearing perhaps that I was trying to kill her. No, the cancer was killing her. I was trying to stop the pain.

I guess it’s good that it happened so swiftly. But there wasn’t time for me to adjust. When she first got the diagnosis she was doing so well that it seemed as if we’d have a long time to be together still, and plenty of time for final words. By the time I flew home for her last few days, the medicine meant she was either in too much pain for conversation, her mind too muddled to think clearly, or asleep.

It seems like every day something happens and I think, “I’ll call Mom.” To brag about her granddaughter’s grad school grads. To share with her grandson’s photo standing beside the fourth grade class he teaches. To ask which of the three chicken spaghetti recipes she gave me is the one she likes the best. To find out what it was like, to be home with me all day when I was three and she had left her full-time job to stay at home when no babysitting options seemed to work. I go to pick up the phone and then it hits me that she won’t be on the other end of the line. My Dad answers the phone now, and wants to talk. Which is weird, because he’s always been anxious to get off the phone — “Here’s your Mom,” he’d say as quickly as he could, passing the call to her. Now the silence makes him anxious to talk, instead of to hand off the phone. But he doesn’t know anything about the chicken spaghetti, or how it was with me and Mom, since he was at work all day. I still brag to him about the grandkids, but it isn’t the same.

I wish I could call my Mom.

Life Can End In An Instant … My Friend’s Did, This Week

Life is Short

Life is Short

Each of us gets a limited number of days.  Tuesday was the last day Melissa got.  That morning she woke up, dressed, dropped her three children off at school, went to work, then ran some errands before lunch … never knowing it would be the last time she’d ever do any of those things again.  She was having an ordinary day when an extraordinary tragedy took away all the wonderful things she had yet to do.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

It was close to noon when she likely thought herself lucky to find one of the diagonal parking spaces on Girard, in the heart of the village of La Jolla, near the shop where she needed to drop something off before grabbing lunch.  Did she hear the revving engine of the car across the street when she reached into get something out of the car?  She had no reason to suspect she was in any danger.  It wasn’t dark, she wasn’t in a sketchy part of town, there was no reason at all for her senses to be on alert.  But seconds later she was hit, by a 91-year-old woman who inexplicably gunned her car when backing out of her space on the other side of the street, speeding across two lanes of traffic and ramming straight into my friend, pinning her between the two cars.

Before the lunch hour was over, Melissa’s life ended. This beautiful, talented mother, killed on a sunny street in an almost-perfect village on the Pacific Ocean.  Because someone was driving when they shouldn’t have been, Melissa couldn’t pick her children up from school, cook them dinner or help with their homework. Now she won’t see them graduate from high school or help them pick colleges or dance at their weddings or babysit their children. She can’t share her recipes with her daughters when they move off to live on their own, or tell her son how proud she is for the man he has become.  She can’t give me brilliant advice on communicating ideas or hosting events.  She can’t wake to the beams of sunlight streaming in her window or walk along the beach, toes in the sand, watching the sun set as the sky glows orange and purple as she listens to the surf pound against the rocks.

What a sad and brutal reminder that life is short and unpredictable.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the importance of living each moment well, of appreciating every day I get to spend on this earth, of leaving my many computer passwords accessible and updating my will and making sure my children know how much I love them. But this week the lesson that I must be mindful and appreciative of each moment came home to me in the worst possible way.

Ocean Beach Pier

I will miss you Melissa. You are loved.

Melissa's Smiling Face

Melissa’s Smiling Face