Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. She would have turned 86 if lung cancer hadn’t ended her life 14 year ago. There are days when I’d give anything to spend a few more hours with her.
It’s funny how I remember every little detail about her last three weeks of life: How I packed up my kids and told my husband I’d be home after she died – the doctor said she had anywhere from two weeks to three months. How I told my daughter’s second grade teacher we’d do school by mail since there was no Internet. How I knew I had to be there for her no matter how long or how short she lived.
Luckily for her she didn’t sufferer long. Three weeks into the New Year she passed away silently early one morning. My three brothers and three sisters were a constant presence in her hospital room during her final days. We were en route to my sister’s house to shower and get something to eat when we got the call. I had even planned to take my kids sight seeing at one of the local museums to help cope with the intense sadness that had permeated every area of our lives.
A few days later my husband made the long drive from Chicago to D.C. and I felt guilty for not wanting to stay in the hotel with him. I knew I needed to be with my family and I did just that.
The night before her funeral I slept in her bed. I knew this would be my last chance to do so because I would probably drive home with my husband in a day or two. I also knew that I needed to speak at her funeral. We wanted it to be a celebration of her life. She wasn’t a sappy kind of person and we knew she wanted a happy and lively home going..
I tossed and turned all night hoping the right words would come. They did at 3am. I hastily wrote them down on the only writing surface I could find – a small napkin on the nightstand.
I wrote about her kind spirit and hearty laugh. I wrote about her ability to make a stranger feel like an old friend in a matter of minutes. I shared how our house was the neighborhood-gathering place where all were welcome. I shared stories about her unconditional love for all of her friends and family.
What I loved most about my mother was how she always told the truth and learned how to conquer the demons that plagued her most of her life. I remember her jubilant greeting every time I called and knew that would be one of the things I’d miss most about her passing and it was.
My mom was an amazing person, a great friend and extremely giving.
So it’s no wonder a large group of people crowded the neighborhood Catholic Church even though below freezing temperatures and 10 inches of fresh snow blanketed the area.
I prayed I’d be able to deliver the message I hastily scribbled just a few hours earlier without tears and I did.
You see the morning of her funeral was challenging. There were close to 15 people who slept at my sister’s three-bedroom apartment and I knew getting in the bathroom would be difficult so I showered early to avoid the rush. It was during the shower that I heard a voice say, “She’s okay. She’s here with me. It’s not her you’ll see in the casket. It’s just her shell. It’s just her earthly shell.” This experience left me a little shaken at first. Then I felt a peace I’d never felt before. At that moment I knew I’d be okay to speak at the funeral and help everyone else make it through that difficult day.
After the repast my sister’s asked if I had taken some sort of prescription drugs. I told her no and explained the message I had received in the shower and she asked why I didn’t share it with her earlier. I told her I didn’t know I was supposed to and we laughed and hugged and cried.
My husband drove home alone the next day because I needed more time with my family. We all went sightseeing and laughed and hugged and cried.
Two days later – on my 35th birthday my kids and I boarded an Amtrak train home. The hardest part was grieving all alone.
I guess today’s message is to love your family; especially your parents, if they’re still alive and you have a functional relationship with them.
Cherish the time you spend with them because some day they will be gone.
I’m grateful I was able to spend the last few weeks with my mom and I know she’d be proud of me and the woman I’ve become.
Happy Birthday Mommy! I’ll love you forever.

Author's Bio: 

Sheryl Jones is a Happiness Expert who founded R U Happe Life Coaching in 2005. She has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show several times and is the author of the book "Love U: 30 Days to a Happier Life". She loves motivating small and large groups of people who want to live a happier lives and don't know how to do it.