Learning from My Mother’s Death

People often commented on how strong I am to have gone through so much. But I became strong because I often had to be, not because I wanted to be.

I pushed through the pain. I sucked it up, dried my tears and kept it moving. I’ve always done that. It’s the 1st survival technique I learned as a kid .

Mom had just come home from a month long stay at the hospital after being rushed in. In my 8 year old mind at the time, I was just glad that she was somewhere where I could see, hear and touch her again. She was home now and everything was normal…for a month. 

“Sam, Sam,” cries one of my brothers violently shaking me out of my after school nap, “Come upstairs, something’s wrong with Mom!”

Half asleep, I follow him as fast as my little legs could carry me. Last night, she was moving. Last night, she was talking. Last night, she was breathing. Today, she was still, lifeless on the bed I shared with her the night before. 

“Amy!” “Mom!” “Mommy!” sings a chorus of our voices. Shaking her body, moving her legs, splashing water on her face were all futile attempts to wake her up. An air of permanent silence radiated from her body in a language only death understood. She’s cold now. She’s paler now. I don’t know what woman lies on this bed, but it was no longer my mother.

What happened after that was a blur. My dad had to have directed us to leave the room because before I knew it, my brothers and I were sitting on the couch downstairs…waiting. Waiting for the ambulance. Waiting for help. Waiting for change. Waiting for someone to come and save her. 

When the ambulance arrives, the medics run upstairs. After a few minutes, they walk back down. 

“I’m sorry sir. There’s nothing else we could do,” laments a paramedic as they exit. 

I run over and wrap my arms around his waist: “Daddy, where’s Mommy? Is she coming back?” 

“No, Sam” tears falling onto my head as he holds me close, quick intakes of air between those words out of a heart that is breaking and breathing simultaneously “she’s gone. She’s not coming back.”

They escort what was left of her out of our home on a stretcher covered in a white sheet. I didn’t feel 8 years old anymore after that.

She had a preexisting condition known as a “heart murmur” and died of congestive heart failure at 37 years old. When she was hastily hospitalized for a month, the physicians wanted to operate on her while she was there, but she refused. 

She didn’t tell any of us that.

I wouldn’t find out that information until well into my 20s. By that time, I had already reasoned for 2 decades that her death was somehow my fault. 

It’s taking me some time to forgive her. I saw my dad self destruct silently as alcohol became his accompaniment to sleep over the years. My brothers and I coped in the best way we knew how.

For 2 decades, I held her death in personal guilt and inadvertently lived most of my life as an apology for it. My family realized life sucks, and the world doesn’t stop its rotation over broken hearts. So…we dried our own tears and rubbed dirt on our wounds. We picked up the remnants of our lives and reluctantly moved forward in this new normal. 

I didn’t get to say goodbye, because I didn’t expect to say it so soon so suddenly. Now, I’m prepared to tell anybody goodbye. Have you ever felt this way? May be the person didn’t die but both of you moved in different directions, the relationship didn’t work, trauma happened, but you still feel the loss? Have you ever felt like you were the only one carrying sorrow or hurt or anger? May be you felt like you were the only one who cared? It takes time to grieve and it’s ok to give yourself as much time as you need to do so.

I’m 27 years old, and I am still healing from it. There is no timeline for grieving. I don’t think there is a time where you’ll feel completely “over it.” But hey, if you needed someone to say it, here you go:

“I’m here. Take as much time as you need. All of your feelings and hurts are valid.I don’t have the perfect answer or a cure for the pain and I know it hurts; I know it sucks; but I’m here…even if you don’t need me.” 

If I didn’t love her or didn’t felt loved by her there would be no pain. In the end, though I don’t agree with the secrecy, I give her the benefit of the doubt that she may have thought it was for the best for all of us to not tell us. And in that, I respect her decision, no matter how much it hurt.

It’s ok to let go of what I wanted. It’s ok that life has not turned out to be my ideal. It’s ok that I don’t feel ok. It’s ok to pray that too. To be raw and open and honest with my God and beliefs, that I absolutely hate what I’m going through right now. The pain I feel, the memories I have, the hurt done to me. I don’t cover it up. It is what it is.

There are milestones in my life that now echo her absence. She wasn’t there when I got my first period. She wasn’t there when I was bullied in middle school. I couldn’t ask her (or cry to her) about guys. She didn’t get to see me graduate with my college degree debt free as a first generation college student. Dreams, hopes, and goals that I would have loved her physical presence can now only be imaginative or figurative. Sure, I’m grateful there were those that stepped in place for her, but it never compared. The fact is she’s not there in the way I want her to be. And she’s not going to be, but that doesn’t mean I died because she died. No, now I can live for the both of us.

Beyond Help: A Lesson on Relationships from a Therapy Session

“Now…Can you promise me you won’t try to hurt or kill yourself? Or that you would go to the ER if you wanted to?” says my therapist at the end of a session.

“I…can…try…” I reply hesitantly.

“Yeah, if you’re going to do that I don’t think we can work together. Very selfish I know, but I had a client that committed suicide and it was very hard for me.”

I had never felt so beyond help before. That March 2019 therapy session was the last one ever with that therapist in particular. Before him, I had tried for months to find someone. I reached out to multiple centers and private therapists and psychiatrists only to discover that they were not accepting new patients or my insurance. There were innumerous nights I prayed and cried myself to sleep because I didn’t have the courage to go to the ER for temptations of self harm. I reached out to family members and church friends throughout this waiting process and received advice such as “you shouldn’t feel that way” and “how have your times with God been?” Granted, this wasn’t all of them and some of them proved more helpful than not, but I still felt defeated. Not even a licensed professional was willing to truly work with me if I couldn’t get over this, I thought. I didn’t know how to respond to him. I can’t promise a stranger something I can’t even promise myself. I respect that he was straight forward, but over the course of the week following our meeting, I felt more pressure to stay alive just so he wouldn’t get hurt. I was terrified of myself after that session, and it made me want to let go of life even more. So, I fired him as a therapist and prayed for the hope to keep trying to find help elsewhere. I didn’t want to give up just because of one bad experience. Not all therapists would respond to me that way, right? That’s what I hoped for at least. Lesson learned that even the most professional human being with years of experience and more degrees than a thermometer is still only a human being. Despite it all, I try not to give up on trying. I did find another therapist (reluctantly might I add for fear of similar reproach), but I am still just taking everything a day at a time and proceeding with caution even with her. 

I’ve learned alot about people and the pain they cause me by our interactions with each other. I have surely contributed to my fair share of hurting others as well. Believe me when I quote 1 Corinthians 4:4 that my conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent. Not by a long shot. We all learn the hard way in some way with people though, don’t we?

Maybe you can relate?

  • Are there people whom you would move heaven and earth for who wouldn’t lift a finger to help you?
  • People who claimed to have your best interest at heart but had already worked out a deal for themselves in the process.
  • That not everyone who smiles in your face intended to put one on yours.
  • The ones who praises you up front would be the same ones who tarnish your reputation behind my back.
  • Where some of your deepest friendships were only short term.
  • Or maybe the ones who toted bibles or quoted religious doctrine were sometimes the most toxic you’ve met?

Over 7 billion people in the world as I write this and I still believe not all of you 7 billion people will intentionally try to do harm or wrong to me. Tally that to the last ounce of my belief in the good of humanity. Call me gullible. Call me naive. Fill in the blank. It hardly matters anymore. 

I pushed through the pain. I sucked it up, dried my tears and kept it moving. I’ve always done that. Surely…maybe…I won’t get that all the time?

My greatest fear is that I become the personalities that dealt me so much damage. It would devastate me to look in the mirror and see in me those who hurt or abused me. That’s why I try not to “get even.” For me, the only value I see is that revenge feels good in the moment but not if I have to sacrifice me to do it. Trying to be the “bigger person” and move on doesn’t always resonate with my desire for justice, and I don’t always pick it. But I try and I wonder if that’s enough.

Despite it all, I’ve gained a few relationships that I consider diamonds amongst the dusty coals, but they are diamonds nonetheless. It just took a long a time to discern which is which since both coals and diamonds come from the same material.

I think part of my problem was that I kept coals around seeing their potential to be diamonds and was so blinded by my hope and expectations that I neglected to see the reality of them. To turn a coal into a diamond, you need the carbon in it to be exposed to extreme pressure, a long time and high heat. Only life and maturity can provide that. In the end, I can not. Or rather, I know longer choose to do so. So…I have become content with letting coals become diamonds on their own, before letting them interact with my carats. I know what it took for me to become who I am. I don’t think that deserves anything less from those around me.

So I’ll keep looking. Better friends, better therapists, better things overall because well…I’ve grown to believe that may be next time, I’ll experience something much better than t

The Death of Me (Welcome!)

If I don’t write, whether you receive it or not, it’ll be the death of me. The blogs put here have no fireworks. Bummer right? It’s just a journey I live as sometimes to be honest…I don’t want to. You may believe I am seeking attention. You may believe it’s all in my head. You may believe a lot of things, but I. DO. NOT. CARE. I write because someone out there may relate. Because someone needs to know they are not alone.

Look…I don’t know what I am about post on this bad boy, but I can tell you, I won’t put up anything I don’t believe in when comes to death, mental illness, suicide, religious beliefs (I felt you cringe on that one, no worries, I did too) and life trying to be a “good” person who struggles with “bad” thoughts.

Why is my blog important enough for you to keep coming back?

  • How many people do you know personally struggling with a mental illness or has suicidal thoughts or attempts?
  • How many people have you met that had a career looking the data of a city’s violent deaths which resulted in viewing over 400 homicides and over 150 suicides?
  • How many people do you know who struggle mentally and emotionally while trying to see if it fits their faith or religious beliefs?
  • Do you identify with me in any way?
    • Physically (Considered overweight, but growing in loving my Blasian body),
    • Mentally or Emotionally (Depression and Anxiety with a dash of PTSD),
    • Spiritually (Actively Practicing Biblical Sacrificial, Non Judgemental Love),
    • Socially (letting go of toxic relationships or even relationships that were good, but not best for you)
    • Personally (Are you a living breathing human being trying to take life one step at a time, one day at time even when it hurts?)

Friggin fantastic. We’re friends already.

To be transparent:

  • I’m both blogging and journaling because I need to get my thoughts out of my own head and out to find comfort and maybe someone else who can identify with me.
  • You’ll mainly find thoughts I’ve been too ashamed or afraid to share, so welcome to my leap of faith
  • I want to connect somehow with you, yes YOU, personally. I’m convinced that there you can “touch” someone without ever physically touching them.
  • If this blog is successful, I’ll publish a book about what you’ve read here, so it’s available for anyone and everyone with or without technology for future generations

So…you ready? Let’s get this party started.