The phone rang in my kitchen. It was my dad.
“Nooooooo” I sobbed, “she isn’t supposed to die!”
I lost it.
My heart felt like somebody ripped it out of my chest. It was more than I could handle.
I was 34 years-old when I got that call. Six years prior, was the Day I got the call… I was so weary of walking mountains. I didn’t want any more tragedy. I didn’t want to go to another funeral. I didn’t want to say another goodbye.
I hung up and ran out the back door of my kitchen. I ran straight to the corn field.
I screamed at the corn. I screamed at life. I screamed at death. I screamed at God.
Christa was my stepmom. She married my dad when I was 6 years-old. I called her “Christa”, but the reference of what I called her did not reflect the relationship; she was a mom to me.
We didn’t have a perfect relationship. When I was 15, I had a challenging time. It strained our relationship. My first marriage added to this strain. We didn’t always see eye to eye on things. But in all those years I never doubted that she loved me as her own. And I loved her as mine.
She had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met and her compassion for people surpassed my own understanding at times. She had an open-door policy and ‘stay as long as you’d like’ for anyone that ever needed a place to find refuge. She had a knack for all things in the kitchen and her cinnamon rolls were heaven-in-a-pan. At Christmas time, she baked dozens upon dozens of cookies and it was not uncommon for her to suggest we take some to an elderly person down the street, “Just to make their day a little brighter”. She was the type of woman that went the extra mile for many without asking anything in return. She had the heart of an angel and the will of a lion. Had it not been for her in my life, I cannot honestly say that I would’ve made it. She balanced out a lot of the negative things that I experienced in my childhood. In many ways, she was a light shining on dark times.
I remember the sky that morning. It was pink; many shades of pink.
Pink was her favorite color. I hated the irony. I screamed about that too.
Christa had been diagnosed several years earlier with Striatonigral Degeneration. It is now referred to as Multiple System Atrophy. It is a sporadic, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder. The average survival time for women is 7.3 years. Her survival time was roughly 9 years from the onset of symptoms.
Many people have no idea what that is or what it looks like.
She lost the ability to communicate. First with her voice.
We thought outside the box when she could no longer talk. She would blink.
Once for yes. Twice for no.
She lost the ability to walk. She lost the ability to move. She lost the ability to eat.
She never lost her mind. Eventually, she lost her life.
That is what Striatonigral Degeneration looks like.
I had a very hard time visiting her in the nursing home. She lived there the last seven years of her life. Nobody in their 40’s should ever live in a nursing home. But then again, I don’t believe anyone should ever live there. People go to nursing homes to die. No, I am not a fan of nursing homes.
I visited her very little the last year of her life. I didn’t expect her to die. And honestly, it was so difficult to see her there. I was a horrible nursing home visitor. No matter how many times I went there, I would cry. I once told her that I was a downer. She laughed.
My step-mom’s death plunged me off an emotional cliff. My grief ran very deep. I learned that when one loss occurs, it can bring to light all other losses; and at times that became a lot to handle.
But I also learned that life goes on. And I was blessed to have her in my life for the years that she was here. She is part of who I am today and for that I am thankful. I still miss her and would give anything to hug her just one more time or ya know, have one of those cinnamon rolls of hers. Happy Mother’s Day – fly high Christa!
© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.