Saturday, August 30, 2014

Four Years. Out.

Verna died four years ago today. I clasped her left hand in both of mine and watched her chest rise and fall, rise and fall, until she took her last breath at four minutes past midnight. Tears filled my eyes as I lowered my head to her hand. I was numb.

Four years later, I am still numb and shocked and sad without Verna. I am also blessed with two children I adore, a supportive family, and a village of friends who have simply been amazing.

Four years later, I can honestly say it’s been the best and worst of times. Watching the kids grow up and hit those memorable milestones without Verna always brings me to tears. I constantly wish Verna is at my side most during these moments. When Maya “graduated” from preschool and shyly said into the microphone that she hoped to be a “doctor someday and a rock star.” Or when Miguel walked proudly down the aisle during middle school graduation and I furiously snapped pictures of him.

The older they get the more the impact her absence has on me, and I constantly wonder how it affects them. I wish she’d been here to celebrate with Miguel as he got his driver’s license and first job or when Maya rode her big girl 24” bike around our park. She’d have been proud of Maya, who has struggled somewhat with reading and math, when she came home yesterday
with a perfect score on her first spelling test in 3rd grade.

Last summer, as Miguel, Maya, and I biked 150 miles in the altitude of Colorado from Silverthorne up to Vail Pass and down into Glenwood Springs over five days, I thought of Verna, who loved cycling, all the time. At one point, as Maya was riding on the trailer bike behind me, she said, “Why did Mommy leave the planet so soon?” her profound words filled with such melancholy that I almost cried.

Most days, though, there are no tears, just life. I put my head down and just barrel forward as I go through my daily routine of making meals, working, chauffeuring kids. I wish I could say I have learned some deep lessons about life. Yes, I know it’s important to make each day count, but the reality is life is hard and frustrating and maddening and some days you just want to curl up on the couch and stare at Sports Center.

What I have learned about myself is I constantly need to monitor my moods. When I am tired, especially after work, I need to count or breathe before I react to my kids. I’ve also learned that life is a blessing. Verna used to same thing even after she was diagnosed. Even with all the crap she dealt with, being robbed of breastfeeding Maya (as she’d done with Miguel), losing her breasts, and having such an acute sense of mortality, Verna still felt blessed. And I do, too.

But I can still see Verna frolicking with me in the crystal clear blue-green waters off of Cabo or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge in the summer of 1990, two weeks after our first date. I can hear her laugh, see her smile, remember her soft skin, and almost feel our hands clasped together.

It’s probably just a coincidence that Verna picked as our wedding song “Unchained Melody”, from the movie Ghost, about a young woman, Demi Moore, who is able to contact via a medium her recently murdered husband played by Patrick Swayze.

Moore aches for one last moment with Swayze so the medium, Whoopi Goldberg, channels Swayze as the couple share cosmic intimacy. I would give anything for that opportunity.

From the last verse of the song:

Oh, my love, my darling
I've hungered, for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me.