Sunday, December 19, 2010

Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Linda Rettberg, 10/16/1946 - 12/11/2010

One week ago yesterday I lost one of my best friends, my confidante, my hero, The person who gave me drive to want better. The woman who taught me to speak up for myself. This beautiful, loving, generous woman who is my Mom.

Saying goodbye to my Mother is something I don’t think I have even begun to absorb. One thing that struck me these past few weeks as I spoke with family members and Mom’s friends was something I have always known about her. They all said to me that Mom was the strongest woman that they knew, she inspired them with her courage and happiness. Mom was a fighter, she was strong and she was a hero to me.

For twelve years we watched her battle cancer with strength, resolve and dignity. Even when she was scared, she was strong for her family and reassured us she would fight it and win.  All during this time she continued to work and live her life, although she may have slowed down more recently, she still kept busy with the life she loved. She loved decorating and taking care of her home, spending time with her husband Dion and cuddling with her three little dogs: Brandi, Megan and Missy.

She still worked through almost 7 years of non-stop chemotherapy treatment, only stopping work after starting treatments for the cancer that had spread to her bone marrow. A treatment that would leave her so tired, she would not be able to go to work. That was just about 5 weeks before she left us.

Shortly after starting the bone marrow chemotherapy, she was very sick. She was sent of an MRI and was told the cancer had spread to her brain. She started chemotherapy within days. After 3 treatments she was so weak she couldn't eat or drink. She went to the hospital for the first time since having her mastectomy over 12 years ago. 

She never regained her strength and after a week my Mom chose to go into hospice care. We hoped she would come home under this care and we would have a few more months. But there was another plan. Just 4 days after arriving at the hospice facility, she passed peacefully with Dion and me at her side. 

I have so many memories of my Mom that I will be able to hold in my heart. We looked forward to Sunday afternoons when she would come by to visit us. She always brought cookies and treats for Nicholas and Jackson.  Nicholas calls her Nana Cookie. Today was Sunday and earlier I thought I wonder if Mom is coming over today, and realized she wouldn't be.

She loved being a Nana and after we had Nicholas and Jackson she was happy to get to see them often.  My brothers children live out of state and she always wished she could see them more than once or twice a year. It will be my mission to make sure my boys know their Nana, although she is no longer here with us, she loved and adored all of her grandsons. And I want them to know that. Nicholas was very attached to her and I still haven't found the words to explain to him that she is not with us here anymore, but will always be looking out for us. I want to cry everytime he asks if Nana feels better or asks Where's Nana?

I loved to make Thanksgiving dinner with my mom each year. Most years all the dishes were  made from scratch. I ran "Thanksgiving Boot Camp" and my Mom and I worked along side each other preparing several things we loved. My stuffing may never be the same, as she was a key ingredient, she would taste test it until it was seasoned perfectly. Thanksgiving was one of her favorite holidays.

This year Mom had just started radiation therapy for the brain cancer, so it took all her energy to just come for a couple of hours. And sadly it turned out to be the last actual meal she really ate in her last 2 weeks with us.

When we were kids Mom would take us on the weekends to get fried chicken or a hot dog for a treat out. Simple things, that made us happy.When we were growing up Mom would sacrifice for herself to make sure we didn't go without anything. At times it must have been hard when she was on her own, but looking back, she made it look easy. She always let us know that my brother and I were very important to her.

When it was just Mom and me living at her townhouse in Aliso Viejo, we would take walks after work and then chat some more over a glass of wine. Saturdays, of course, were spent cleaning and she taught me everything I could ever want to know about that.

We talked on the phone often about anything and everything. I will miss being able to just pick up the phone and know she will be there. When I had good news or was upset she was who I wanted to talk to. I looked forward to just chatting with her about anything and everything. Yesterday I thought, I should call Mom, and realized I no longer could.

Today, my Mom's husband, Dion came by and brought me a mini album I had made for my Mom in 2004 for Mother's Day. As I looked at it through tears the words I wrote then were very much the same I would write today. 

These were two of my favorite pages from the album:

What I Love About You
There are so many things I love about you. I love that you are my friend. I love that you like to have fun and aren't afraid to be silly. I love that you take good care of yourself. I love your smile. I love your laugh. I love that you love your kids so much. I love that you always have an opinion. I love that you have so much energy. I love that you are my little mom. I love that your house looks like it belongs in a magazine. I love that we cook Thanksgiving dinner together each year and have fun doing it. But most of all I love you.

What You Taught Me
  • To have fun
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • To love your family
  • To treat others with respect
  • To take care of myself
  • How to clean anything
  • To be myself
  • To be silly sometimes
  • To go after my dreams
  • How to shop

All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my Mother.

The book closed with the lyrics to Celine Dion's song, "Because You Loved Me". I know I am a better person, because my Mother loved me.

We laid Mom to rest on Friday in a beautiful service that celebrated who she was. I was thankful for her friends that came and talked to us about their memories of Mom. 

Now I must figure out how to pick up the pieces and go on.

I love you mama. You will always be in my heart. 


beccaf1970 said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your mom.

Denise said...

I, too, am sorry for your loss. My dad died when I was 21, so I know what you are feeling. It is hard. My heart goes out to you.

Katie said...

As I read this post, I could feel your love for your Mom. What an amazing relationship you had with her and wonderful, happy memories. My thoughts are with you and your family as you go through this time of loss.

VanessaB said...

exactly what Katie said. what a beautiful post. i'm sorry for your loss. :(

Rebecca said...

I am so so sorry for the loss of your Mom. She sounds like such an amazing woman. Your tribute to her is absolutely beautiful.