To be completely honest, I don't remember much about Friday, February 9, 2018.
I remember the Saturday before she died. It was the last time she was in our house. Even though she would be alive almost another week, by the time she left our house and went to the hospital in Philadelphia, she was already gone. For the month leading up to this moment, the woman who had raised me was slowly being sucked away, little by little. And by Saturday, February 3, 2018, that woman was gone. There was no surgery and no treatment that could make her go back to my mom like the other times.
I remember the Wednesday before she died. I remember sitting in my room when my dad came in with my brother and sat us both down. He explained that we had to go to Philadelphia. At this point, I had begun to understand what was going on. When we got to the hospital, I saw all my aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit waiting room that I had spent far too much time in.
Shortly after we got there, my dad, my brothers, and I went into a room and someone from the hospital explained that our mom’s time in this world was coming to an end. I don’t remember a single word from that interaction, only the feeling. The way my eyes stung and burned. The way the world blurred. The way the bright white fluorescent lights felt like I was looking into the sun. The way my jaw clenched as if I were trying to break my teeth. The way the walls seemed to be swallowing me. The way my ears refused to let any sound in because of the overload of thoughts running through my mind. And then I walked back to that waiting room.
The overwhelming feelings had now been replaced by nothingness. My mind, which had been unable to process the simplest of questions just a moment ago, was now completely blank. I felt nothing.
February 9, 2018
The doctors had said, “it could be three hours or it could be three days”. We had no doubt that it would be three days. Throughout her entire battle, my mom had hit the far end of the range. Only about 25% of patients with glioblastoma live for over a year. She lived for a year and four months. But eventually, she had to hit the end of the range. Karen Stevenson, my mom, died on February 9, 2018. She was 43.
I don’t remember much from that day. I remember the drive home. I felt sorry. For myself sure, but more so for my mom because of everything that she wouldn’t get to experience. My mom never got to see me go to high school or prom, or drive a car. She won’t get to see me pick a college, graduate high school, or go to college. She won’t get to see me graduate college, find a job, or buy a house. She won’t see me get married or dance with me at my wedding. She won’t meet her grandkids, spoil them, or see them grow up. And then multiply all of that by three to account for my brothers. She won’t get to see us grow into the men that she raised us to be.
It isn’t fair to her.
In the four years since she died, there are some things that haven’t changed. There hasn’t been a single day that I have not thought of my mom. I can still hear her laugh and the way it would stand out over everyone else’s. I still get the same feeling every time that I have to actually say the words “my mom died,” or when someone asks why I want to be a doctor. I have to swallow when I say it or else the words get caught in my throat. The feeling where I am transported back into that room in the hospital. The feeling where, for a second, it feels as if my heart has bottomed out. It’s not that I don’t like talking about my mom, because I do, it is just different to say it.
Four Years Later
The microscopic part of me that hasn’t been forced to grow up and is clinging to the innocence of childhood still hopes that none of this really ever happened. That one day, I will go downstairs and there will be my mom, just like four years ago.
I miss my mom more than words could ever say. It’s been four years since I have talked to or seen her and I will have to go through many more years without her, which seems almost impossible. But as a close friend said to me once, I just have to get through each day and remember how proud my mom would have been of me. I will continue to make her proud throughout the rest of my life in everything that I do.
So to my mom, I say thank you. Thank you for showing me how to live my life: with kindness, compassion, gratitude, joy, and courage. Thank you for being my harshest critic and fiercest supporter. Thank you for being the usually sole bright spot in the toughest of times. Thank you for loving me and everyone else you knew with your whole heart. Thank you for instilling ambition, humility, and perseverance in me. Thank you for sharing your loving personality with the unforgiving world. But most of all, thank you for being my mom.