When I look back on the first few months of the New Year, it’s a blur. It rolled in like a freight train, picking up speed with each passing day. The ride it was about to take me on is one I am still working to accept, understand, and live in...
January was a ‘head down’ kind of a month. I was working on the first annual Wine Country Distillery Festival. Which was conceptualized, built and executed in roughly 4 months. Late nights, paperwork, email after email, confirming participation, the todo list went on forever.
Meanwhile I was still holding down my 9 to 5. Working remotely, watching as the writing on the wall became truth. With every round of layoffs and each pivot, knowing one day soon it would also be me. And while I was aware of that reality, the remote freedom was more important. It allowed me to work on all things Poppy & Vine, as well as and most importantly be present and available for my dying mother.
Now if you had asked her in January, she wasn’t dying. She was still working towards getting better, finding a cure or drug that would keep the Medullary Thyroid Cancer at bay and help with her severe Crohn’s Disease. I on the other hand, while trying to be optimistic and supportive (outwardly), felt like we were losing the battle. Buying ourselves 3 week increments of time.
As that freight train rolled into February, so did a handful of What The Fuck (WTF) moments. Those moments or events where you say to yourself, “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me, I couldn’t make this shit up even if I tried”...
So there I was, in the home stretch to the Wine Country Distillery Festival, 9 days away, when my mom ended up back in the ER. It was at this point we thought we had lost the battle and run out of options. Luckily doctors found us a bit more time. That following Monday my 9 to 5 announced the company had been sold and the CEO was leaving, Wednesday I was laid off… which I knew was coming. I even kind of laughed at the situation, as I received a phone call while sitting with my mom in her hospital room.The phone rang, I looked down at the number, looked up at her and said, "well I’m going to go get fired, be back in a minute". And of course to top it all off, I caught a cold. You know, just a little icing on the cake.
With everything happening at once, I didn’t know what to do, life was spinning faster than I could comprehend. A battle of, “Do I go through with the event, do I postpone, what will people think if I do or don’t hold the event, do I go get a job”? I needed what my mom called ‘a come to Jesus talk’. Now I’m not poking fun or being rude about religion, that’s just what she called those serious, take a good hard look at yourself convo’s. Luckily a good friend was available for a couch + wine session where she told me, “all we can do is make the next best decision and that right now for you is the Wine Country Distillery Festival. After that we can address everything else”.
‘The next best decision’, was exactly what I needed to hear and 4 days later the festival doors opened. It was a great success for a first year event, one I could not be more proud of. What made it even sweeter, mom was home from the hospital. She basked in the stories as I told her about the day, enjoying videos and photos from the event. It was rewarding to see her joy, her smile. Unfortunately 3 weeks later, at the end of February we were back in the hospital for a blood transfusion. Mom was losing blood through her ostomy bag, with no real indication as to why, other than we knew we were losing the battle.
The freight train rolled into March and Mom came home. The next few days were filled with visits to the house, meetings here and there, recording videos of my mom talking about how she and my step dad met. All questions I had been meaning to record and ask for months. I kept putting it off, she kept saying we’d get to it. Deep down, both wanting to believe we had more time.
As the afternoon of March 6th came to a close, I helped my mom get rearranged in bed. She was so tired and a little loopy. So I told her I would let her rest and would be back in the morning. As I leaned over to kiss her goodbye, she took my hand and said, “I’m fading pie”. I replied softly, “I know momma, it’s okay, get some rest”. She held my hand a little tighter and said, “No, Linds, I’m dying”. All I could muster was, “I know”.
I left the house that afternoon with an odd sense. Keeping my phone on me (physically), with the ringer on (also not something I do), waiting for that call, waiting for the train to derail.
Later that evening I received that call, my stepdad (aka Piggy) trying to be brave and strong, explaining, “I had to call 911, she was just in too much pain, she just kept screaming and all the drugs we had couldn’t make it better. There was so much blood in her ostomy, she needed to go to the hospital”. My stomach dropped and my adrenaline kicked into survival mode.That freight train was at full speed, approaching a turn and the brakes were starting to fail...
As she arrived to the ER and settled into her room, the doctor asked, “why did you come here this evening”?, she replied, “ I came here to die”.
The next 60 hours are still as clear as day in my mind. The sound of her breath, as it changed hour by hour. The stories told as dear friends and family came to visit. Holding her hand, sleeping like a pretzel, half on her hospital bed and half in a chair. Gently brushing my hand over her eyes, as she did to me as a child, letting her know it was okay to let go.
What would be our last night in the hospital was as close to a party as you could get. If I had to guess, we maxed the capacity of that Sutter hospital room with around 13 people. It radiated with laughter and love.
The following morning, March 9th, as my Stepdad and I woke, her oldest brother returned and a pair of her best friends arrived, she passed. She left on her terms; with a farewell party, one final night sleeping under the same roof as her husband and daughter and passed in comfort with her dearest family and friends surrounding her.
When leaving that space, the room, the hospital, without her, walking into a world that knew nothing of her passing, just going about it’s daily grind; to say it’s surreal is an understatement. Taking a shower felt strange, being in a place, this town she called home, I call home, without her felt wrong. To say, I wanted to hop on that runaway freight train and travel far far away is beyond true. But this ride was just getting started, little did I know what Spring had in store.