Grieving My Mom, Plus a Boat Race

I lost my mother very suddenly this summer to a cancer we didn’t know she had. I’ve been reeling from that all year. I thought I’d run the gamut of emotions already. I went through shock, grief, anger, and deep depression.

I’ve spent countless hours discussing it with my sisters, debating whether it was better for her that it was so quick, or if we should have fought harder to get her doctors to pay attention to her symptoms when they first appeared. Could we have saved her, or would she have suffered more going through the surgeries and chemo treatments?

I’ve reminded myself again and again that she lived a full, long life – the life she wanted. I’ve struggled to convince myself that it is selfish of me to be angry that I didn’t get a couple more decades with her.

Finally, I came to a place of acceptance.

Then came the holidays. That started the whole cycle over again.

Last night, I had this stressful dream.

She and I had taken a vacation together to Chicago and were about to come home on the train. We were smiling as we waited in line. She stepped aboard and, to be polite, I let an old man step ahead of me.

I didn’t realize we’d gotten separated until suddenly the train was in motion and I was still standing at the station.

The notion that I’d lost her was so bizarre that I didn’t register it at first. I kept asking people when the train was going to back up so I could get on with her. I didn’t realize she was actually gone – without me – until I saw the pitying looks of everyone in the crowd.

That’s when I turned manic, running down every street, trying to get someone to come up with a way for me to catch that train. At one point, Vin Diesel drove me in a speedboat along the Chicago River, gunning the engine and zigzagging between tour boats, Fast and Furious style.

It’s pretty easy to interpret this dream, right? I lost her suddenly. I felt like it was all my fault. She’d been a strong. independent woman all my life, but in the end she was so fragile I wanted to protect her. And when I couldn’t, I felt like I’d let her down.

Above all else, I wanted so desperately to be with her again. And I couldn’t.

Even Vin Diesel, bless his heart, couldn’t help me.

At the end of my dream, when I’d hit the point of hysteria, I got a phone call from my mother. She was just as shaken up as I was. She told me she’d been looking all over but couldn’t find me.

I told her that I’d missed the train and, in between hiccups from crying, I promised her I’d find a way to get to her. I would rent a car and drive 100 miles an hour, or I’d rent a private plane that could land on top of the train, or …

But mom cut me off by saying, “Oh, honey. You don’t need to do all that. I’ll be fine.”

And, you know, I think that’s exactly what she would say if I could talk to her today. She wouldn’t want me to fuss over her. She’d just make her mind up to do things a different way, and next thing you know, she’d be turning it into a new adventure.

… And cataloging every exciting detail in her mind to tell me about the next time we get together.

Photo by Balazs Busznyak,

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