Remembering my mom: Fall is bittersweet for one Chicago mom

I LOVE fall in Chicagoland. I love the colors, the scents, and the football! Growing up a Chicago girl, I can’t imagine living anywhere without colorful fall leaves and sweatshirt weather. It truly is my favorite season.

However, four years ago, I spent my favorite season slowly and painfully saying goodbye to my mom. You see, she had already won two battles against cancer, but she eventually lost the war when it raged back viciously for a third time. The time we had with her, after it was determined that treatment was not helping and only making her feel worse, was longer than anyone expected. She was one of the toughest women I’ve ever known and she showed that until the very end.

As she spent her last weeks in hospice, I spent as much time with her as I could, fearful that my mom and best friend might spend her last moments alone. But I also knew that, being as amazing of a grandmother as she was, she wouldn’t have wanted my boys to miss out on all of our favorite fall traditions – ones she most often was a part of. So, in between stints at her bedside, I put on the happiest face I could muster and did those fun things which made us love fall so much. We went to the pumpkin farm, we played in the leaves, and we simply tried to enjoy the days that my mom no longer could.

Each year since my mom’s passing, I find reasons to smile while watching my boys enjoying the traditions I too love so much. But there’s an ache that accompanies those traditions because they make me think of my mom and wish she was still with us. Some of my favorite sights and smells take me back to the days when I barely knew how to function because watching her suffer was more painful than I can ever put into words, and I hurt remembering.

 It's a weird thing, to feel joy and such pain at the same time. 

I know some people would probably avoid the things that bring back the hard memories and I believe everyone has to deal with their loss in their own way. But I try to focus on the fact that I was blessed with 15 years with my mom after first cancer diagnosis.

I take my moments to feel the pain of missing her, then I pick myself up and I get out there and live life. Losing my mom at what feels like an early age, and having had the fear of losing her at an even younger age, reminds me that we aren’t promised tomorrow. There are no guarantees for another chance.

So this month, and every month, I choose to find the joy in the days I am given. I choose to honor the memory of my amazing mother by taking the chances I have to make memories today because we can never know for sure that we’ll be here tomorrow.

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