It was Fall. I was in my second semester at college.
My mom had undergone an autologous bone marrow transplant, and she was being kept in the hospital because her immune system was super weak and she needed time to rebuild. I was 19, maybe, and honestly, had no clue what the hell an autologous bone marrow transplant was. I just knew that mom was going to the hospital for a procedure and that she would be fine, totally fine. After-all, people go to hospitals to get better - the sweetness of ignorance has turned into the bitterness of regret.
That night, I visited my mom with paint supplies and canvases in hand. Hospitals were not knew to me. They were like a second home - it’s where our mom worked and it's where she went when she wasn't feeling well. I adjusted quickly: eating there, sleeping there, studying there, even showering there!
Tonight would be paint night.
As usual, she drew her typical image: sunshine, grass, trees and birds. We laughed and talked all the while existing in two very different realities. She in one where the white walls of the hospital, the complex medicine schedule and the physical and emotional pain reverberated illness. Me in one where the walls of the hospital were just walls and medicine was just medicine and its all a matter of time until this is just a memory. She in one of life and death. Me in one of mommy and me, forever and always - a fog of innocence.
Early that morning, we got a call that our mother was in septic shock. Again I had no idea what that meant and even when the doctors claimed that she wouldn't make it, I felt confident that she would. Moms don’t die. And love can save them. I went to the hospital with all of my tools: Guitar, Ipod, popsicles, paints etc. I sang to her. Read to her. Fed her. Massaged her. Joked with her. Shabbated with her. I even fanned her vagina when the heat was unbearable. I never left her side.
Even though she was swollen and red and blistered and teary eyed and pussing from every crevice, I just saw my mom.
I didn’t feel the pain or discomfort that haunted my father. I couldn't see what clearly was the angel of death hovering in the room. The numbness of naivete.
Thank G-d. That time my hero complex worked. Mom recovered. She healed. It was over. Was it me? Was it the doctors? Was it luck? Was it G-d? Who knows what it was. But after that event, my mom would call me her angel.
This shift in our dynamic created a new kind of attachment that was both beautiful and destructive, uplifting and burdensome. After all, being a sick person’s angel is a full time job!
I struggled to be there for her while living my own life.
I struggled/struggle to be self-less and selfish.
I struggled/struggle to express my own needs and be present in a way that felt comfortable for me.
I never did find the balance.... And that's ok. It's hard. It' messy. It's life.
It truly is a process that never ends and that continues to push us to be the best version of ourselves and build stronger relationships.
So mom, thank you for teaching me what it means to love others and also what it means to love ourselves.