Ahh, and I’m back. Wow, this has been an intense month, full of so much love and emotion. The last time I wrote to you guys on February 3rd, I talked about how mama Dot was having a tough week, and that she’d really taken a turn for the worse.
My sweet mom passed and went to heaven on February 11, 2017 at 9:37 AM. The moment she passed, I swear the world got brighter as she shone over us as an angel.
I’ve known for the past few weeks that upon my return I wanted to begin with a post celebrating my mom, sharing what this past year has been like, what this month has been like, what those final days where like, and how I am doing now. That’s what I am going to share about today.
I am an open book with this journey. I WANT to be an open book with this journey in hopes that even one person would be inspired and/or feel supported by our story. I believe with all of my heart that our challenges can be our greatest gifts. Plus, mama Dot was ALWAYS okay with me sharing our journey.
One year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to understand someones story who had lost a loved one like I can today. I wouldn’t have been able to understand someones story who had to care for a loved one like I do today. Or someones story who has/had someone close to them be diagnosed with cancer.
I would have felt compassion for all, but I wouldn’t have ACTUALLY understood like I do today. And for that, this challenge I know is sure to be another gift (just like my own personal story with food is).
I am going to break this post down for you guys… I want you to know our story. I want you to find encouragement within it, because I know that’s what my sweet mama would have wanted. Plus, I love you all and the amazing support you’ve given us this past year.
Before we dive in… I want to say that I’m going to be very real and raw and open and write straight from my heart with this post. I’m going to share exactly what this process has looked like – the good and the bad.
So, please, from the kindness of your heart, only read this post if you’re prepared to handle and appreciate all of it with good will and grace. I’m sharing this story openly, completely from love, and I expect only the same in return.
Last February, my mom had just visited SLO with my dad. We had such a great time. I took them to a restaurant here in Santa Margarita called “The Range.” We ordered the most amazing lamb we’d ever had. It was so special. I wanted to treat my parents.
Shortly after, Marcos family came to visit… and I got the phone call on February 11th that they’d found a tumor in my moms side.
For those who are wondering how she knew to go in, my mom had been having pain in her abdomen for about a year. It finally started to get painful enough that she knew something was wrong. So, on a day where she was supposed to be babysitting her grand baby, she stayed home and went to the doctor.
They took x-rays, found the tumor, and called me. For a week we waited to hear the news. I went down to Ventura to spend time with my mom. I remember one night we had just made turkey burgers. We were sitting in the backyard and the boys went inside. My mom broke down. She was so afraid that it was cancer. I cried with her. I remember feeling like I never wanted to leave her side.
That night, Marco and I went to his grandparents house to use their jacuzzi. We talked through the “what if’s.” What IF it IS cancer? What will we do? We talked through buying a truck camper (which we did months later) and living in it. We talked through moving back to Ventura. We were so unsure. We were in such unknown territory. Marco promised me that night that we would do whatever it took if that’s what we needed to do. And we did.
One week later on February 18th, 2016, I got the call from my mom. It was after my last evening client (of course, my sweet mom waited until she knew I was off work to call) and I remember her exact words and the sound of her voice so clearly. “It’s cancer.” And then she began to cry. My heart sank. I wrote this post at that time to you all.
I SO vividly remember this moment. It was like our whole lives took a huge left turn. I couldn’t believe it. None of us knew what to do. We didn’t know how to feel, we just knew we wanted to be together.
I hung up the phone after a million “I love you’s” and called Marco at work. This would be the first time I’d ever called him at work, so he knew something was up. I told him the news, and he was home 15 minutes later with the next week off work. We drove to Ventura that night without telling my mom. We got there around 8:00 PM and her and my dad were sitting on the couch. I walked in the house and just sat with her. We cried…
The first few weeks were so surreal. They were sad, scary, and really overwhelming. When someone you love has cancer, all of the sudden you’re researching, calling people, asking questions… People are emailing you with every next cure they think they’ve found. Recommendations are flying in. It’s SO overwhelming.
Everyone has good intentions, but you’re literally just like… OVERLOAD.
Three weeks later
Three weeks later life felt a little more more normal. The high energy around the cancer and what was going on calmed. Mom was okay. We had started chemotherapy, and life was different, but it was okay. I remember feeling like “okay, we can do this.” There was no pain, just treatment, appointments, and spending a whole lot of time together.
As you can imagine, pretty quickly, within the first three months, my moms physical body started to change. She started to lose a lot of weight, she became much pickier with food (only certain things sounded good) and pain started to set in. It was so hard to see. I remember three months after February I was looking back thinking “it’s gotten this bad in just three months of finding out?” It was scary.
Then in June the doctor told us that my mom had six-months to live (we asked). This news crushed me. I remember driving back home to San Luis Obispo after this trip, and my heart just sank. I cried the whole way home.
I tried to go for a run when I got home to feel better. I cried the whole run. I tried to shower to feel better, I cried the whole shower. I went for a walk and called several friends and they all so encouraged me. The best phone call I made was to my cousin Holly who just cried with me. She said “I have no words. This just sucks.”
Then she said “you know what encourages me most? To think about heaven, and how one day in heaven is one thousand days on earth. Really, we’re all going to be there in just a few days.” This encouraged me more than I can put into words.
I went and picked up the book “Heaven is for Real” and took it with me on our Catalina trip a few weeks later. My heart felt uplifted, I felt excited about heaven, and death has not looked the same since.
The time spent together
After hearing this news, the time we spent with my mom only became more and more frequent. Someone told me that you can never prepare for death, so I decided to put that news on the back burner. I wouldn’t focus on that number. I’d only focus on the fact that she was alive, with us another day, and that I was living in a time where my earthly mama was WITH me.
I called her all day. I sent her texts. I told her all of the things I wanted to tell her. When I felt grateful for her, I shared it. When I wanted to see her, I went to Ventura. Looking back, there is not a moment of time spent with my mom that I regret. Every drive down. Every minute of saying no to something else. It was all worth it.
What I will say for anyone who is going through this, is that you ALSO have to take care of yourself. Amidst spending SO much time with my mom, I ALSO had to say yes to taking walks, going to the gym for an hour with Marco, and taking little one or two night trips with just he and I.
Looking back, I also do not regret any time spent taking care of myself. I knew that if I was about to experience a grieving process that I had never experienced before (which was going to be HARD) I’d better keep myself in a pattern of taking care of myself. And that’s exactly what I did.
In September my mom ended up in the hospital. The doctor told us she would likely make it through the holidays (which for us go through January 2nd, my moms birthday) and then progress downhill after that. That’s pretty much exactly what happened. When I got the “two month” news in October I packed my things and headed to Ventura. I stayed with my mom in Ventura for 5 weeks. During this time, I wrote the post that you all loved so much called “You Can Do Hard Things.”
That was a HARD and tiring time. I wouldn’t take a minute of it back – for my sweet mom, every minute was worth it. God gave me the grace I needed to get through that time. But man, was it hard.
My favorite thing during this time were the evenings where the house was quiet and it would just be her and I. We’d lay in bed together at night and talk… She’d tell me how much she’d missed her mom when she passed. I’d tell her how much I was going to miss her, but assure her that I’d be okay and take care of myself. She’d tell me how happy she was that I had Marco (she loves Marco). There were so many things we got to talk about. She told me that I’d see her in my children, and today, I see my mom every time I see any baby children. I see her joy in them. It warms my heart. She also told me to take care of myself and that happiness was so important.
This past year has been more FULL of LOVE than any other year in my life. What does this look like? It looks like fully expressing myself to my mom and others. The good, the bad, the easy, the hard. All of it. Being real with each other. For mom, saying when she was in pain and asking for help. For me, asking for help when I needed it. Being okay with saying “I’m tired” or “I need to stay home in SLO and recharge for a few days.” Being vocal and letting our needs be known. Sharing with each other how much we love each other. Having really honest conversations about family life, etc… all of it. Just HONEST.
Her final trip to visit me
In January (2017), my aunt Shelly brought my mom to San Luis Obispo to visit me. It was my favorite trip. We stayed inside almost all weekend, except for a 45 minute trip to Home Goods. Mom really wanted to go. It was raining, and I remember it like it was yesterday.
We pulled up outside of Home Goods, Shelly jumped out of the car, got moms wheelchair ready. We ran her inside, and for 45 minutes we looked around. Mom kept going ahead of me by grabbing the shelves using both arms to pull herself forward. I guess I wasn’t moving fast enough for her (haha).
During this shopping trip mom got tired and said she needed to lay down. We went back to my house and laid around in the living room, talking. Mom took a nap on our love-seat sofa. I have a picture of her with one foot on the floor and one foot on the arm of the sofa. One hand is hanging off the sofa, also touching the floor, and the other hand is tucked behind her head. You’ve never seen someone make themselves at home more than that (haha!). I love that photo.
Each night of this trip we’d lay in bed and pray before we went to sleep. My sweet mom would always start her talks with Jesus with “thank you for…” She’d proceed to thank Him for every little thing He’d given her that day and ask for more special moments, which He gave her until her final breath.
On that trip mom told me how she loves coming to my house and sleeping in my office because she loves to look at all of the things on my walls. She was so proud of me and my office… It sounds like such a small thing, but it meant the whole world to me. Now my office reminds me of my mom, and I feel happy that she felt happy in my space.
The final weeks
The final weeks WERE HARD. The whole year, time was going going going, and then all of the sudden, one day mom took a turn and it all went so fast. It’s bizarre actually.
My mom had an incredible Monday on February 6th. The maids came over early that morning (just one of the ways my moms brothers and sisters helped our family was by hiring house keepers to come every month for the past year – an incredible gift!).
I made mom a cup of coffee, sat her in her wheelchair, and we went into the garage with the door open to get some sun. She had her adorable lavender jacket on over her nightgown. I loved this day so much. My mom was laughing, she was happy, and she had such a fun energy about her. She even yelled to Marco “who wants to race?!” and took off down the driveway in her wheelchair. Little did she know that thing would catch the speed that it did. I ran after her as she was screaming and turned her around as quickly as I could. She goes “MAN! That REALLY scared me!” Then we all laughed.
My moms neighbor Kelly, who is incredible and so generous came over to visit that morning. We got out the second wheelchair and they sat together. After about half an hour Kelly said she had something things for my mom and I. She Brought over a handful of Pottery Barn baskets and said we could have them. Fun! Then she said she had another gift.
She went next door, grabbed the gift, and walked back into our garage with it. I could hear Marco say “OH DANG!” I heard him and ran back outside into the garage. She was carrying a VITAMIX. She said “I never use this and I know you’ve always wanted one – here you go!” She gave it to me… I was on cloud nine. Mom was having a good day, we were in the sun, AND I’d just been given a Vitamix. Life was good.
My moms sisters pulled up, then a couple of her girlfriends, and the garage party just kept getting bigger. I made mom and all of her friends smoothies, and life was good. It was great. This day felt like a birthday – like the best birthday I’d ever been given.
When the maids were done we brought mom back inside and the pain started in later that evening. We got a text from the house keepers after they left saying that they were overjoyed by my moms laughter that morning. That’s how we felt too.
The next day sweet mama was in so much pain. It was all downhill from there, physically. I called my aunts and brothers to let them know something had changed. They came over and agreed. My mom couldn’t walk anymore. She couldn’t use the restroom by herself, she slowed down on eating, and she was really tired. Her pain increased all the way to a 10. I knew things had taken a turn.
The final days
The final days were the absolute mind-blowingly hardest times I’ve ever been through. You so deeply want the suffering for your loved one to end. They cannot walk, they cannot talk, swallow, or eat… They cannot communicate with you, but they can hear you.
For days, we sat next to my mom, held her hand, and talked to her. I told her I loved her a million times. When she could still talk she’d say sweet things like “where’s my mom and dad?” And I’d remind her that they were in heaven waiting for her.
She’d say things like “I saw my mom.” I’d say “what did she look like?” And she’d say “just the same, except she was smoking.” The family would laugh…! Gosh, did she make us laugh…
My mom told me things like “you saved your family.” I’d say “mom, it’s Paige, I saved my family? Is that what you said?” and she’d say “Yes, you saved your family.” I tell people now that I think that was Jesus talking to HER and she just said it out loud. She definitely saved our family. Her loyalty to the people she loves is beyond my comprehension. She LOVED hard.
The final days, for anyone who has gone through this or is going through it… are SO so hard. Everyday you’re not sure what will happen. You’re not sure if you have minutes, hours, days, or weeks. It’s so unknown. You’re so tired, and you’re just… waiting. It’s PAINFUL. What made me feel the best during this time was to take little walks, or little gym breaks. To sit with my mom MOST of the time, but then take little moments away so I didn’t get stuck in the waiting. I wanted to be stuck in the LOVING and embracing her, instead.
The final day
On the night before my mom passed, Marco and I went to a hotel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be there or not. I was afraid of seeing her in pain. My moms sisters and my cousins (about 12 people) spent the night with her. I woke super early on the day she passed thinking about her. I started a new devotional that morning on grief, knowing I needed to prepare. I listened to music and thought of her constantly.
I called my cousins and they told me her heart rate was speeding up and that her blood pressure was dropping fast. I prayed and told God that I would go to her house after breakfast and if I were supposed to be there I would. And if not, she would go before I got there. I had already said my goodbyes and felt peace about this.
My cousin, who I told not to call me UNLESS… called me at 9:37 that morning while Marco and I were at breakfast. I broke down in tears. It was such an anticipated and emotional moment. My mom was no longer suffering, yet I’d never have her again… that is, until I get to heaven. For about two minutes I just kept repeating the words “okay, okay, okay, okay, okay” as it sunk in. My mom is gone. No longer here. Wow.
Marco held me and we walked outside. The moment we stepped outside the sun shone bright. It had been raining all week. The whole world felt light and absolutely silent. God gave me a vision of my mom that was so extremely vivid. It was only her face and it was just huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge and sooooo happy. It was like the whole sky was my moms sweet face. She looked about 35 and had this amazing beautiful graceful and totally peaceful healthy smile… she looked absolutely healthy and pain free. The INSTANT I walked outside. They say… heaven is only a breathe away. That’s exactly how it was for my sweet mom. Her final breath was absolutely peaceful.
Marco and I went to the house after saw her… my family was there. But she was not. It was so obvious that my moms spirit had lifted. It was intense to see, but I’m glad I went. She looked so peaceful. The day didn’t feel real. It felt other worldly… That day was soo… soooo surreal.
The day after
The day after was Marco’s birthday. I woke up missing my mom. I sat next to a photo of her, drank my coffee, had a little cry, and talked to her. We went to Church that morning, and for the rest of the day I felt her presence with me heavily. She was RIGHT there. This brought me so much joy, and Marco and I had a great, great time celebrating his birthday. I felt so peaceful.
The week after
The week after was harder. Marco and I went back to San Luis Obispo, then attempted to go to the snow for a couple of days, and both got the flu. It was so intense, and we both felt awful. This was nooooot pleasant. However, we got to be together, and I loved that.
Once we started feeling better, I was able to do a few normal things like go to Trader Joe’s, cook dinner, and visit with friends… all of these things have lifted me up so much… incredible friends, girls nights, cooking dinner with Marco at home… all of it has encouraged my soul.
The memorial was amazing. Absolutely amazing. Like, could not have gone better. My mom was SO HONORED at her memorial, and so was God. It was so special, and since, I have felt so much joy. I have felt the strength of my sweet mom. I have felt her love so heavily… I feel peace knowing where she is.
Before the service, I was extremely emotional. I was so overwhelmed in most supported way by the flowers, the people, the cards, the hugs, the love… It was hard. But once we got in that auditorium and started sharing about my mom… it was incredible. I never wanted it to end.
My aunt Shelly started out the service. She set the tone for an amazing, uplifting, and positive memorial. She got up on stage and said “Hi, I’m Shelly, and I am Dottie’s favorite sister.” We all laughed… She then proceeded to share how her husband told her to get up on stage and pretend like she was only talking with Dot-Dot… so she did. She slipped on one of my moms nightgowns over her clothes and began her speech. We all laughhhhhed. It was so great. My mom ALWAYS wore nightgowns. She told a funny story about my mom and retirement… She said she called my mom one day to ask her what she was doing. My mom told her about her day and said that she was going to be cozy around the house until about 2:00. Then at 2:00 she’d shower, put on her clothes, and do a little bit of cleaning up. Then about 3:00, she’d get back into her nightgown. This had us all in our seats just filled with laughter as we remembered my sweet mom and her nightgowns. Shelly then said “it didn’t take much to make my sis happy.” Which is so true… my mom loved each day, just as it was. She was soo… happy. She cared most about her family. She was so easy going. I love this sweet woman.
Next, my aunt Rhonda got up and said “I’m Rhonda, Dottie’s other sister. And I have to make one correction… I’m actually her favorite sister.” This set the theme for much of the memorial. Until the Chaplin got up and explained how we ALL felt like Dottie’s favorite because that’s truly how she made EACH of us feel – like her favorite… and then he said “So, I’m Paul. Dottie’s favorite Chaplin.” And so the service went 🙂
There was a slideshow of my mom, we told stories, we showed photos, we shared memories, we talked about how big my mom loved… everyone shared how my mom and dads house was their safe space where they always felt welcome and free of judgement. They talked about how there was always food and laughter. How mom would always make an effort to show up for people and make them feel special… We talked about how she was selfless and always helping… So many beautiful stories.
I have received countless emails, cards, letters, phone calls, and text messages sharing what an impact my moms service had on people. People sharing how they want to be better, how they want to make amends with people in their lives, how they want to hug their loved ones, etc…
I’m so well aware (from what people have shared) that this grief process is going to be just that… a process. But in this current moment, I am not devastated. I am uplifted, I have grown, and my mom has left me with such a strength and heart full of love.
I think of her all the time, and though I miss her, I am happy for her that she is in perfect peace. It’s been three weeks, which is not long at all. But I am doing so much to take care of myself. I’m seeing friends, I’m back to work today, I’m planning programs and launches, I’m giving myself the space to cry and to miss her, to read and to relax, to exercise and take care of myself, to hangout with my hubby, to cuddle, to watch movies… all of it… and I feel so encouraged as I write this post.
It feels pretty much just like I shared in my “Strength and Joy Through Hard Times” video, it’s just that now my sweet mama is in heaven. I. love. heaven. I love reading about it. I love everything about it… There’s a certain peace that God’s given me that I didn’t have before. It’s like we’re told… we’ll be given the grace we need when we need it. No later, no sooner. I truly feel that God has given me such grace through this time. And He’s going to use this time in HUGE ways. I feel so much growth coming.
I will continue to be completely honest and transparent about this growth and grief process with all of you through my blog and on Instagram @healthyhitsthespot. I appreciate your love and support, and all of your sweet comments and messages. It all encourages me, and shows me how good this world is (even amongst all of the hard parts that come with it). I love you all so much.
Marco and I will be staying home in SLO for all of March (unless an itch to travel pops up and we just can’t shake it!) and feel super happy about that. No plans to leave, just stay.
In April, I’ll be visiting Simi as we prepare for our next Finally Free launch (cannot wait to meet her little guy Osh!!!). I can’t wait to see her. We’ll have a busy but fulfilling week while there. And I cannot wait for the next round of Finally Free (we’ll be going through it live as a group with you gals!).
I’ve got tons of creative projects and ideas swimming around my brain right now, I’m excited to get to meet with all of my clients this week, as I’ve taken the past three weeks off, and I’m super looking forward to having space to onboard three new clients in March (you can request a spot here).
Have any questions? Comments? Want to share some love with me (I love hearing from you)? Leave them all below in the comment section, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to connect with you girls again on a daily basis now 💋 Talk to you so soon!