This is part two of Mary Rogers’ story. You can read part one at this link
I am still in the process of healing with the help of a psychiatrist, a therapist, and the love of my life. He has been my lighthouse showing me my way home. He was my beacon in the night. I am working hard daily, to show up, be present, and deal. I am finding strength and have determined that maybe God doesn’t hate me and maybe hope isn’t bullshit after all.
My psychiatrist has been an angel in disguise. When I first came to her, I was a shell of a person who had become used to having my cheeks stained with mascara as I could not stop nor contain my tears.
She immediately set me up with twice-weekly therapy appointments, started me on medication, and began working closely with me to offer me other alternatives.
I learned of the calming benefits contained within ashwagandha and about how your body can absorb magnesium through bathing with Epsom salts. I learned a lot about exercise (releasing endorphins while getting fresh air and sunshine). I learned about nutrition (and the mind/body connection). Most importantly, I learned the importance of communication.
At first I had a very difficult time converting my emotion into words. I was very “stuck” in the fourth stage of grief: depression. Under my therapist’s suggestion, I wrote my mother a letter.
Sandra J. Abernathy
01/25/1954 – 10/09/2014
I have started this letter a hundred times over the past several months. Each time I begin, I feel my heart break wide open and I am unable to continue. There are moments where I am involved in doing this or that- and I seem to be getting on just fine. But then the slow moments come, the alone (quiet) moments, in the midst of the night where a dream or a thought will shatter me all over again.
I have a memory of you sitting at the grand ornate desk that used to belong to your father. You were at the computer but had a faraway look in your eyes as you gazed out the window, tears running down your cheeks.
I remember you turning around and upon seeing me, your entire face lit up with a smile to melt the universe. You gave me a huge bear hug and explained that you were remembering your mother and father.
You sat me down and explained that when grief rears its ugly head, there is no controlling or taming the beast. You explained how important it was to go through the emotions and sit with them as they come. You said it was just as important to then release it so it wouldn’t become crippling.
You also told me that one day I would understand this kind of loss. You told me that one day I would need to remember your words and that no matter what; I was to never give up.
I have died a thousand deaths since the day you took your last breath.
There are so many things I want to say. So many things I want to apologize for; even though I know you forgave me long before I could have ever asked.
I look back to when you and my father divorced. I was so young. I had no idea of what was happening; it was far beyond my comprehension. I was six. I wonder how you felt. What you went through? I never asked.
So much during that time is a blur. I remember we moved from my childhood home into an apartment. I remember we left Idaho and went to live with Grandma in California. It all just seemed like an adventure. I think I am grateful I don’t remember more.
It wasn’t long after that I remember sitting in a judge’s chamber talking about my relationship with my mom and dad. I remember being asked who I wanted to live with. I chose you.
I remember you taking me to my dad’s. We had lawn and leaf bags full of the contents of our lives. You told us we were only “visiting” and that you would be back to get us in two weeks. Two weeks came and went and you never returned. We started school. You were gone.
You were given supervised visitation. You always were stubborn. You lived by your own rules and refused to have someone watch and observe you — studying your mental health.
You came to visit once. It was a short visit, but you looked gorgeous- and happy. You brought a gift of a baby blue Smith-Corona typewriter. I remember others scoffing at the gift. “Why would she buy them that old thing?” I cherished it. You were brilliant and I got it. I got you.
The next time we crossed paths many moons and seasons had passed. I was ten years old. It was awkward and I didn’t know how to act towards you. I felt self-conscience with every action and every word as I didn’t want my dad to feel betrayed. You chose freedom. He chose responsibility.
You asked me for a hug that day. I declined and shyly backed away. As we drove away, I remember looking out the backseat window and watched you get smaller and smaller. I cried myself to sleep that night from regret. I wished I had hugged you. That guilt sat with me for years. I didn’t know if I would ever see you again.
Fast forward to age nineteen. I have no idea how I connected with you- but we talked briefly on the phone and without hesitation, you drove all night to Idaho to pick me up. We talked the entire trip back to California. I felt whole. I needed my mom all along. We laughed as we were so much alike. You became my best friend and we did everything together.
As time went by, I saw you less and less. One of the last phone messages I have from you is you asking me to come visit. You cried. You said you loved and missed me. You said you didn’t understand what I was going through or why I stayed away for such long periods of time.
And then the call came. You were being hospitalized. I should have understood the seriousness of the situation. But, I didn’t. Once I arrived, I was convinced you were exaggerating and I’m ashamed to admit that. The nurses told me you were passing gallstones – fairly routine stuff.
The next day, you had been moved to ICU. I still could not wrap my stubborn head around the fact that something was really wrong. You barely made eye contact with me and barely acknowledged I was there. I thought you were angry at me. I was so stupid.
It had nothing to do with me. Your soul was leaving your body and I was too blind to see it. I had somehow, once again, made it all about me. I didn’t really understand you were suffering. I left at 4:30pm.
I should have stayed. My brother did. He stayed with you the entire time. He never once left your side.
And then the call came: “Ms. Rogers, you need to come to the hospital at your earliest convenience. During the night, your mom took a turn for the worse.” I immediately jumped in my car and bawled the entire thirty minutes to the hospital. What had I done? Why didn’t I stay? Oh, the guilt was overwhelming.
You passed away that evening at 11:05pm. I watched your blood pressure plummet and then watched as your heart rate decreased to zero. I stayed. I stayed with you at the end- when it was too late to matter. I sang a lullaby to you as you took your last breath.
I brushed the hair from your eyes, kissed your forehead…and then I crumbled…my heart shattered in a million little pieces.
I remember, after we had reconnected as adults, you told me this story: Shortly after you lost custody of us, you said you were with some friends at the park, picnicking. Others were fishing in a nearby pond. There were children laughing and squealing on the playground. You turned around to check on us kids and had the wind knocked out of you as the realization kicked in that we weren’t there and we weren’t going to be.
That’s what the loss of you has done to me. Sometimes, I feel suffocated — like I just can’t breathe. Other times, I think of you in different situations and laugh or smile. Something will happen and I want to call you. The realization sinks in that I can’t and I am struck with grief all over again. It feels like a swift kick to the gut and its crippling- it’s debilitating. I know they say time heals. I’m still waiting for time to work its magic.
I’ve learned a great deal over the past few months and years — about life, about love and regret:
– Don’t make someone your world; they simply may not want the weight of it.
– Live hard and passionately, follow your heart, because one day will be your last and the chance to do it all will be lost.
– Don’t rely on others to piece you together, because only you know exactly where the pieces went before you broke.
– If you change, do it with your own good in mind.
– Listen to good music.
– Learn to be at ease with being alone.
– Learn to listen to your intuition — sometimes it gets muffled by the hum of routine.
– Do cry — it cleanses your soul.
– Grow — every day.
– Accept that you cannot change fate, but that it will change you.
– Be patient, be kind, and be polite, even with the people you see every day.
– Realize that love is no excuse for rudeness or cruelty. It is no reason to let go and trust that you will always be forgiven and understood.
– Unconditional love is not something that everyone knows how to give.
– Always keep your hope alive. You will be lost if you lose that.
– Find a lover or friend that will hold you through your darkest hours, who will lead you to the river of life when all you see is darkness and death — someone who will show your beauty and strength — someone who will carry you when you cannot walk and who will show you how to dance through life when you have forgotten the steps.
– Choose life and choose to really live. I do not profess to have all the answers but I do know this: we always have a choice, even when it feels like we don’t.
– Even the lotus grows in the mud.