Two Years, a Moment, and a Lifetime


Gracie and Molly when each was in 7th grade
The top right picture of Gracie has been on our fridge since April 2014. It is her bio picture for Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was in 7th grade. I remember putting it there feeling so excited and proud. That play would begin a two- year love affair with theater. The top left picture of Molly joined the fridge in April of 2016. Her bio pic for Bye Bye Birdie. I remember putting it there as well, how excited and hopeful I was and how I loved all that had transpired between these 7th grade pictures.

They are now bookends. The beginning and the end of their life together and their life in theater.

The bottom pictures were taken in May of 2015. Although Molly was on life support for seven days in May, she was already gone. The only actual Molly pictures for the month of May stop in 2015. What I love (and hate) about the bottom two pictures is how much they reflect how Molly and Gracie felt on April 30th 2016.

Molly’s last truly alive day.

I wonder sometimes If it would have been easier or less traumatic to know about Molly’s tumor and have time to fight it rather than having it present itself as Molly’s killer after it had done it’s rupturing. I know that aside from Molly’s frustration at the doctor’s office and her vomiting episodes, dying quickly like she did was better for her.

It decimated us.

We were not at all ready for her to die. The unexpectedness of her last breath left us shattered into stillness. Seven years later we remain shattered and still. Sure, we have mastered the navigation of life in loss. We have learned how to carry on with out Molly. We strive to keep her alive in ways that are positive and helpful so others will want to know who she was. Molly’s death hobbled us. Me especially, as her mother, but Gracie lost her other half and Kenny his “Pip”.

What if we had been given time to fight her brain tumor. I ponder this often. Time to talk about heaven with Molly, sharing all of our gratitude’s and what ifs. Gracie could have snuggled her and shared her version of all of these things. The goodbyes from her friends could have had a response. I would have stayed home.

Would this have been better?

Molly’s last night with Gracie they were snuggling and sharing. Together in Gracie’s bed. And all of their emotions were on being alive and what awaited them. Other than me not being home for them, all they had was happiness and excitement over growing up. Their thoughts and words, their last ever “good night Gracie, I love you”, “I love you too Molly” had only anticipation and excitement.

When someone is sick for a long time before dying all of life becomes consumed with the inevitable. The death. The physical exit from our human reality. While I will never be at all who I was before Molly died, while I will question and challenge and rage for my whole life the events that allowed her to die at age thirteen, I will be forever grateful that even with the headaches and the vomiting, Molly was alive until she wasn’t.

She didn’t have time to be afraid.

Time. This takes on a whole new way of being in a life filled with loss and grief. She has been gone forever and yet it was just yesterday she fell asleep happy. I look at 7th grade for Gracie and 7th grade for Molly. Two short years filled with a lifetime of experiences. My tummy gets nervous as I write this.

I want her back so very much. I just want her back.

Two of my favorite shows, A Million Little Things and Fire Fly Lane are coming to an end. They are both filled with loss and grief. Both have main characters dying of cancer. All of the characters who survive them have time to be ready. They also spend months being nervous and sad and anxious.

The dying gets in the way of the living.

There is no right way to do this. No operations manual or instruction booklet describing the rest of my life. So here I sit in my pajamas, Jack at “Big Boy School”, Gracie there with him watching the little babies. Kenny at the YMCA working out. I am in the living room. The last room in which Molly lay on May 1st, 2016. My mother and Gracie watching her. Kenny calling 911.

Me trying to get home.

We have begun year eight now of her absence from the house. By this time, noon, she had already left. She has been gone more than half the time she was here. Her thirteen years getting smaller and smaller. I sobbed out loud at the tv all morning, watching those sad episodes, crying alongside the actors, feeling their pain.

It made me feel better somehow.

A chance to cry at someone else’s loss. To relate to what was similar and experience what was not. To give myself an emotional break from the busyness in my brain and the knots in my stomach. Fire Fly Lane’s Kate will not come back for Tully.  A Million Little Thing’s Gary won’t see his children grow up. Molly won’t come back for Gracie. We will not experience the life we assumed would happen on April 30th 2016.

No one will.

Seven years down, a lifetime to go. I could live 50 more years or die tomorrow. It matters not. Each breath is now deliberate. Put one foot in front of the other. Lift the weight. Teach the class. Nurse Jack. Care for Gracie. Work with Kenny to keep them happy. In spite of the sadness, I love much about these tasks.

I am lucky.

I will now go workout. Organize clothing in the garage. Clean the office. Eat and go to a school board meeting. Snuggle all night with Jack. Get up tomorrow and do much of this again. There is comfort in the movement and gratitude in the people.

I will just keep moving.

A Thousand Tiny Steps.

One at a time.

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