This picture was taken exactly one month ago today, the night my Father passed away. At the time, I was dancing the night away with some friends and clients in a little club in Macon, Georgia. An hour after this picture was taken, I received the call that would forever change my life. I have looked at the photo many times since then. I have felt ashamed because it showed me smiling and being silly while my poor Father was possibly taking his very last breath. It simply hurt too badly to share with anyone else.
I have spent the last four weeks wondering when my Dad was leaving this earth, did he truly know how much I loved him? I would do anything to be able to go back to that day and to have one more conversation with him. I wish so very badly that I had not been so busy with all of my work activities during that trip and over those three previous days, that I did not take a moment to call him. Don’t get me wrong- my work is very important to me, but I could have spared ten minutes! That haunts me every day.
The last time I spoke to my Father was the afternoon of October 7th. It was just a normal conversation, nothing really important and nothing very memorable. Every day I have replayed in my mind all of the things that I should have said that day, and all the things I wish I would have done differently. If I had only known what was to happen in those next few days!
I know that I cannot go back and change time and I know that my Dad would not want me to have all of these regrets, but it is really hard not to. To say the least, this has been one of the hardest months, and absolutely the hardest year of my entire life. I worry every day about my Mother and I wonder how I can possibly make sure that she continues to feel loved and taken care of, just as she did those sixty plus years that she spent with my Father. Their dedication to one another was truly something special. They somehow gave one another just what the other needed. I only now truly see the extent of their love and devotion.
In the past year, I have experienced a great deal of loss. It began last Christmas when I lost my sweet Aunt Ina Maughon. You see Ina was the person I would speak with most about the challenges of living with CMT. She lived most of her adult life confined to a wheelchair from the effects of CMT. She taught me that just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a wonderful life. She also showed me how to work hard and to never allow your disability to define you.
She would always say that I should find something that I am passionate about (she always loved to write poetry and to paint) and to do it as much as I can. Ina worked many years at her job and she never took the easy way out or allowed her disability and physical challenges to stop her. She worked until her retirement, devoting her entire career with one company. The people there loved her very much, and her boss has said to me that he could never have made it as far as he did without Ina. With all of her physical challenges during all those years, she never complained. She was such an inspiration for me and for everyone she came in contact with.
Having never married or having had any children of her own, Ina sort of adopted all of her nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews. She was like a second Mother to many of us and she was very devoted to us all. She’d call us with a singing telegram on our birthdays and she was always concerned with our well being. She loved her friends just as dearly.
Ina also really loved my boy. They had a very special bond and even into his teens, Sammy would go and spend days with Ina. He would also come home telling all the wonderful people he met and the fun things they did. I was so very honored that my sweet Sammy was asked to eulogize Ina at her funeral. It meant the world to him. That week of her death (the week of his 18th birthday) in my eyes, my son became a man. Watching him the day of her funeral as he stood in front of a crowded church full of her friends and family speaking words so beautifully written straight from his heart. He was strong for her, and for all of us that day. I will always cherish that memory and he continues to make me proud every single day.
In May of this year we would lose our family dog Maggie. She was a constant companion to our family. Over the years, Maggie was always there to greet us and to keep us company on our journey through life. She would often lie next to me as I worked from home and she was always right beside me when I cooked a meal, hoping for a dropped crumb. Maggie was in our family for seventeen wonderful years and we all miss her every day.
Later that same month my son would graduate high school. Although those days were exciting for him, my heart was aching for I knew the days I would have him here with me were numbered. I knew that he would soon be leaving home. On August 16th my boy left for college, forever changing our household dynamic. My days that had previously been filled with activities and focus for him and his needs were suddenly empty. That day we left Sammy at school, I cried the entire way home.
In the weeks to follow, my husband and I would sit and stare at one another wondering “What do we do now?” Although I know it is a good thing for him and a right of passage for all children to go through, I couldn’t help but be very sad. I know it is just a transitional time for our family, but I feel a loss every day that he is not here with us.
As with every college kid, even when he is home there is a difference. The time I spend with him now feel like stolen moments. I now only get my moments when he does not have anything else planned and we can just sit on the couch together. I lay my head on his shoulder and I hold on to his arm and just breathe him in. I cherish every minute I have with him now. I see my friends that have younger children and I hear them speak about their chaotic lives shuffling kids about and all I can think is that I would trade places with them in an instant! I never really appreciated what I had all those years.
All I can think about today, one month to the day that my Father died, is how very much this past year has changed me. I will no longer take for granted the time I have here on this earth. I will try to make those around me understand how much they mean to me every time I am with them. I am working every day to live in the moment, to take in everything I experience and to really live it- right then, right there. Although I hope for great things for us in the future, I no longer wish my life away. I now know first hand that life and every moment of it, is most precious. You can never get back this very moment. You will never know when it may be your last time with that special person in your life.
With all the loss this year, I feel that I have also gained something great. I now have a focus on my family and friends, moreso than ever before. I also have a focus on my health, for I’ve learned that if I don’t take the time to take care of myself it will shorten the time I have with my loved ones and lesson my ability to create those wonderful new memories. I want to be with those that I love as long as I possibly can. I hope to be their biggest cheerleader, as they have always been for me.
Although this is a very difficult time for me, I do feel a sense of hope. I woke up this morning with the sun shining and with my love of over 24 years beside me. My son is happy, healthy and independent and that is a good thing! In the next few months, there are new opportunities and challenges coming my way that will allow me to grow. I also have a wonderful list of friends, too many to name, of which I could pick up the phone and call on any day and at any time and they would be there for me. The events of this past year have been evidence of that.
I had friends pick me up the minute we drove in the driveway from leaving Sammy at college to take me out because they knew I would be upset and need the company, I had over 250 people reach out to me after my Father’s death. I have been so very touched to know how many people truly care for me. I am simply in awe of the love I feel from all of the wonderful people in my life.
So, on this day of this Thanksgiving month, I say to all of you that I am so very thankful for my many blessings. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my job, my husband and for my life. I am thankful for my hard times and even for my CMT, for without my most challenging days I would never have learned to appreciate the good days. Without the bitter pain and sorrow, my joy would not be as sweet. Today I also want to thank Ina, sweet Maggie and my dear Dad. I thank you all for the impact you have had on my life and for making me a better person today than I have ever been. I promise that I will work very hard to make you all proud.
To all of you out there that continue to follow me on my journey, I thank you for your continued support. I make this promise to you all: I won’t waste a minute of the days that I have left. To my Mom: I will do my best to make you feel loved and cared for all the remaining days of your life. I love and admire you more than you will ever know.