Monthly Archives: April 2015

It’s not about me



“Mother, I don’t understand! Why do you always pick your stupid drugs and alcohol over me? You have done it my entire life. Why do you keep doing it? It causes so much pain. I hate those stupid things! Don’t you love me? Why do you love the drugs more than you love me? If you didn’t you could stop. I need my mother! They stole you from me! Please stop! I can’t take it anymore. It’s killing me. Stop it”

I was in my early twenty’s talking to my mother on the phone. Early twenties. The other women I knew who were my mother’s age didn’t behave this way. They were grown up, responsible and helped guide their kids. I was at my wit’s end. I was always trying to guide my mother and get her to make better choices. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of this phone call because there were so many incidents. But the phone call sticks out in my mind. It wasn’t so much a conversation as it was me bombarding her with my disappointments, hurt and frustration. I was so mad at her. Maybe it was because I had received a phone call from the police after her neighbors had turned her in for rummaging through their medicine cabinet after she asked to use their bathroom. Or maybe it was after I had found out she had pawned a television my husband, Scott had loaned her. Or maybe it was after she stole a bunch of stuff from someone’s house and Scott and I had to return it on Christmas day. Then I had to listen to the lady tell me how horrible my mother was instead of her thinking about the bigger picture – a 20 year old girl just had to do the right thing on Christmas day and return a bunch of things her mother had stolen. It could have been a thousand different reasons. I don’t remember the exact reason for the phone call.

She could handle tough things better on the phone when she didn’t have to look at you. But it still wasn’t easy. It was excruciating for her. She didn’t say much. What could she say? Those words must have been terribly difficult and heartbreaking to hear from your daughter. I’m sure she was embarrassed and her sober kind, insecure, tenderhearted, timid self never would have behaved that way.  My mother hated confrontation. Unless she was drunk. And then she wanted to fight. She could get really mean. She wasn’t drunk when I asked her those hard questions. She was clean for the moment. I knew it was painful for her to hear but I had to ask. I had to express my feelings. I thought I could make her stop if she knew how much she was killing me. I don’t remember her answers. I remember her quietly and timidly trying to explain the impossible. She would start and then she would clam up like she always did. Almost as if she wanted to explain but didn’t have the courage or maybe she knew a person who wasn’t an addict would never really understand. Maybe there was no possible way she could explain how she was powerless to a substance and she was completely under its control. And honestly how could I ever understand. I hadn’t walked her walk and I thank God for that every day. She would tell me how thankful she was I hadn’t gone down the same dark path.

I’m sure over the years my questions, expectations, rules, boundaries, anger, looks, tones and obvious disappointments constantly made her feel judged and miserable. As if she didn’t have enough internal misery and guilt to deal with. I understand addiction pretty well. I have lived with it my entire life. I went to a couple of Alateen meetings but they weren’t really for me. I worked in a detox unit as a float pool nurse for several years. But mainly I have life experience. Lots of it. I hate addiction! I hate the destruction it causes. It’s not selective either. It wants everyone and anyone. It wants to destroy lives and cause as much destruction as possible. It wants to be passed down from generation to generation. Claiming everyone in its path. The more pain, the better.

As far back as I can remember mother was always using. She started around fourteen. It was just a little experimentation initially. Just sampling things and then it turned into so much more. It was how she dealt with things. It was her escape. That’s why I hated it so much. I wanted my mother to be strong and fight and quit being so weak. I wanted her to face things. Get some courage. Tell people what she really thought. I wanted my mother to love me and take care of me like other mothers. I wanted her to be at my school functions and events. I wanted her to pack my lunches, fix my hair and make sure my clothes were clean. I wanted her to take care of my basic needs and show me love all the time. I wanted to be first….before the drugs and alcohol. Instead, she struggled. A lot. She went to jail numerous times. She was messed up most of the time. She even spent time in the penitentiary. It was so hard to see my mother like that. She went to treatment several times and maintained sobriety for short periods. But I never had my mother. Not really. She had been stolen from me by a substance that was much stronger than I was.

I was naive back then. I didn’t understand the death grip it had on her. Her usage quickly escalated like a slow moving train working up speed slowly, then getting faster and faster and eventually traveling at an out of control high rate of speed…then crashing into the side of a mountain. It demolished most everything in its path….people, hopes, dreams, relationships, goals – everything!

I’m not exactly sure when my thinking actually changed…when I stopped taking her actions and choices personal. But somewhere along the way it changed. Maybe it was all the prayers that were being prayed for me or the stories my family told me to help me see my mother in a different light. Maybe it was the letter I got with a $10 check saying how sorry she was for pawning the television and she would send me a $10 check every month until I felt the debt was paid. She had very little money. That was who she truly was…a caring, kind, tenderhearted, broken soul.

Whatever it was, I am so thankful. Because after that, it wasn’t personal anymore. I understood mother never chose the drugs and alcohol over me. IT WAS NEVER ABOUT ME. It was about her and her issues. My hurt and pain no longer came from my mother’s mean words or awful selfish actions. Yes, she frustrated me and caused me great stress but most of my pain came from what she was missing, the pain she caused herself and the way she was living. I knew there was so much more to life. So much joy and love she was missing out on. That’s what made my heart hurt. That’s what made me cry myself to sleep at night. When I got to this place her hateful words didn’t have the sting or power. I forgave her as quickly as she spewed out her drunken venom. It was a much more peaceful place. I still cried a lot but it was for her pain not mine.

Instead of showing anger and resentment I tried to show empathy and love with healthy boundaries. I wasn’t perfect and failed a lot. But I knew it wasn’t about me. It had nothing to do with me. All of the fears about me not being good enough or something being wrong with me weren’t at the forefront of my mind. I was an innocent girl who had to watch the devastating destruction of my mother. It was painfully hard to watch and to feel but I knew it was nothing compared to what she was feeling. I had learned enough to know as long as she stayed messed up she didn’t have to deal with her own tough feelings. She could avoid the guilt temporarily. But as soon as she was clean she had to deal with all of the consequences, feelings of guilt and disappointment that had accumulated over the last forty plus years. I can’t even begin to imagine how painful it would be. I guess in some ways it was easier to stay messed up. It’s hard for me to deal with my own guilt sometimes. I can’t imagine trying to deal with a lifetime all at once.

I never really had my mother. She was sixty one when she died April 1, 2015. I was forty three.

It was never about me.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!





Savor the Sweet Stuff

photo (3)

See this cutie? I got to spend the day with him yesterday. Just he and I. I loved every minute of it. Every single minute. He made me laugh – like always. He asked me to watch one of his favorite movies with him. So I did. I had some one on one time with him…doing what he wanted. You know, getting in his world. I love my time alone with my boys. It is precious and invaluable.

Every year since the boys started school they have gotten a “hooky day” for their birthday (sorry teachers). They get checked out of school and I take the day off. If they have an event or a test on their actual birthday and need to be at school, we just try to pick a different day for our “hooky day.” We go eat or go to a movie or whatever they want to do. We just spend the day together. It is their day and my time with them. It’s a time to escape from normal routines. When they were little, both boys got to enjoy each other’s hooky days. But at 16 and 20 it’s not so easy anymore.

Madden used his hooky day yesterday for his driving test instead of on his actual birthday. We got up at 5:00 a.m., drove to Shawnee because the lines are shorter there. He took his driving test and passed. My baby is now a licensed driver! Yay Mad!  Then we drove back home to eat at the restaurant he chose because it was his day. He didn’t really want to go to a movie this time. He wanted to go home so we could watch one of his favorite movies. So that’s what we did. We curled up on the couch and watched his movie. These are my most favorite days. I savor the time. Because this chapter will be closed all too soon.

Karen Kingsbury wrote a book about enjoying the lasts and it made an impact on me. As parents we tend to focus on the “firsts.” The first time they sleep through the night, roll over, sit up, walk, the first day of school, first dance, first game, etc. We don’t tend to focus so much on the “lasts.” Since skimming through her book several years ago (I’m going to read it soon), I’ve made an effort to anticipate the lasts so I can savor them.

So in August being mindful this was my last year of taking Madden to school for his first day, I savored it. I knew in my mind it was my last. Next year he will drive himself. I try to proactively prepare for any lasts. The ones I can pinpoint anyway. I want to pinpoint them so I can purposefully savor them by being in the moment, enjoying, listening, breathing it in, knowing it is special and being mindful it is a last. For me, when I focus on this approach – anticipating and savoring, it is a positive experience. Otherwise, I think I would feel gloom and doom and I would be spending my time dreading instead of savoring. I want to savor.

For the last 6 months, I have been Madden’s driving instructor. I’ve been preparing myself for the last time I would drop him off at school and the last time he would actually “need” me to take him somewhere. So when he needed more driving time and asked if I wanted to get a snow cone or ice cream at 8:00 p.m. when I was already in my pajamas…I of course jumped up threw on some clothes and away we went. Even when I was ready to crawl in my bed. I have loved every minute of it. My waist line has not. But I never know when it might be my last snow cone or ice cream so I want to savor that too.

I told Madden I would need some sort of transition period to prepare myself for this major change in my own life. My baby got his license! I asked him if I could go ahead and just take him to school like I have been for the rest of the year, just to allow me more time to adjust. He of course said…a big fat “NO.”

Last evening, I followed Madden out to his truck and watched as he got in, started his vehicle and drove off for the first time completely by himself. He stopped long enough for me to take a couple of pictures. I drive him crazy with my pictures. But he reluctantly agreed only because he knows it is important to me. Well that and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. He said, “Okay but I’m only taking four.” I said great and took about 15. He has just started a completely different chapter of his life. A whole new world. A world of more independence and responsibility. It’s also a completely new chapter for Scott and me. He is our youngest so now our days of driving our kids to and from school are over. And let me tell you – they flew by. When they are little, you think it will never end…you will forever be their taxi service. And then one day, just like that…it’s over. It literally flashes before your eyes. I am thankful for the many firsts and lasts I have been able to savor. Bittersweet!

It’s days like this I find myself thinking back to my mother and all of the sweet stuff she missed.  It makes me want to savor even more.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!






A Letter from Addiction

your addiction

I found a copy of this in Mother’s things after she passed away April 1, 2015. I believe she received it while in a recovery program in 2010. It’s heartbreaking that a stupid substance can control and create such torment for so many people. It helps me have a better understanding of mother’s terrible battle she faced every year, month, day, hour and minute.

 A Letter from Addiction

 Dear Friend,

I have come to visit once again. I love to see you suffer mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. I want to make you restless so you can never relax. I want to make you jumpy, nervous, and anxious. I want to make you agitated and irritable so everything and everybody makes you uncomfortable.

I want you to be confused and depressed, so that you can’t think clearly and positively. I want you to feel guilty and remorseful for the things you have done in the past and you’ll never be able to let go of. I want to make you angry and hateful toward the world for the way it is and the way you are. I want you to feel sorry for yourself and blame everything but me for the way things are. I want you to be deceitful and untrustworthy and to manipulate and con as many people as possible. I want to make you feel fearful and paranoid for no reason at all. I want to make you wake up all hours of the night screaming for me. You know you can’t sleep without me, I’m even in your dreams. I want to be the first thing you think about every morning and the last thing you think about before you black-out.

I’d rather kill you, but I’d be happy enough to put you back in the hospital, another institution, or jail. But you know that I’ll be waiting for you when you get out. I love to watch you slowly go insane. I can’t help but sneer and chuckle when you shiver and shake; when you freeze and sweat at the same time; when you wake up with the sheets and blankets soaking wet. It’s amusing to watch you ignore yourself; not eating, not sleeping, not even attending your personal hygiene.

Yes, it’s amazing how much destruction I can be to your internal organs while at the same time working on your brain, destroying it bit by bit.

I deeply appreciate how much you are sacrificing for me. The countless good jobs you have given up for me; all the friends that you deeply cared for, you gave up for me.

And what’s more, the ones you turned yourself against because of your inexcusable actions. I am eternally grateful, especially for the loved ones, family and the more important people in the world that you have turned yourself against. You threw even those away for me!

But do not despair, my friend, for on me you can always depend. After you have lost all these things, you can still depend on me to take even more. You can depend on me to keep you in living HELL, mind, body, and soul. For I will not be satisfied until you ARE DEAD, my friend.

Forever Yours,

Your Addiction

-author unknown

Algebra Changed my Life

I can’t do algebra. I don’t understand it. There are a bunch of X’s, Y’s, other letters and numbers. You have to figure out what they equal. And why? I never really cared what they equaled. It never made any sense to me. I would say “I don’t understand why we have to take algebra. I’m never going to use it.”

I occasionally skipped the class to run to Sonic and get a drink which certainly didn’t’ help me learn. I feel bad now because our teacher was so nice and I showed him my ugly side. I didn’t get it and I never saw the importance of it…until now!

You know what? I’m so glad I took algebra! It taught me a very valuable lesson. It taught me positives cancel out negatives. Did you know that?  And I use it every day of my life! So I did need algebra.

Madden assures me this isn’t exactly correct. But whatever! That’s what stuck with me and I like it. He can do algebra his way and I’ll do it mine. Besides it changed my life. Algebra changed my life. Who knew? I bet my algebra teacher would be proud I learned so much! Just think what else I could have learned if I would have given 100 percent.

A positive cancels out a negative. The negative is the ugliness and craziness in your life – the hurt, disappointment, anger, sadness, etc. If we allow the ugliness to stay or be more present than the positive then we become more like the ugliness and craziness. That’s why we need to focus on some positive so we can drown out that old ugly junk.

The positive is the sweet stuff. The byproduct of the ugly you have to dig for. For every negative you have to have a positive because the positive cancels out the negative just like algebra taught me.

Now, I know nothing can cancel out the pain of losing a love one. I have friends and family who have lost children. I can’t even begin to imagine the excruciating pain. So I’m not suggesting Algebra taught me how to erase or cancel out those feelings. They can’t be erased. They have to be lived through.

I’m really talking more about what we focus on. What we seek is what we will find. Norman Vincent Peale said…“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

For me, if I had continually thought about the pain and disappointment mother’s addiction caused in my life, I would be miserable. Instead I focused on the positive things that came out of it. Like the lessons I learned inadvertently.

If you have too many negatives you feel bad, angry, weighted down, disappointed and sad. You have to find the positives to cancel out those negatives. But I’m not okay with just balancing them out. I like to flood those negatives with a bunch of positives. Then I feel more joy and love in my heart.

So I focus on the positive sweet moments. Like Godwinks! I love Godwinks! I had two today. Yes, two! They give me great peace and joy!

I typed an email and after I sent it I went back to look at something and I noticed the word “I’ve” had changed to “mom.” Weird. That may not seem like it means too much. But those who really know me, know I have never referred to mother as “mom.” I just never did – we didn’t have that kind of a relationship. Mom is so intimate and to me signifies a deep mother daughter relationship. She was always Mother. But I thought about seeing that word and the fact it isn’t a word I ever type so why did it change “I’ve” to “mom? Then as I was reviewing some patient information, I went to check a date and the date was 2/26/15. Her birthdate! Right after the “mom” thing had just happened! Another Godwink! I believe she is letting me know she is okay. She’s happy in Heaven surrounded by loved ones. At peace. Surrounded by beauty. Maybe she feels like a “mom” up there. That makes my heart really joyful!

Yes, algebra changed my life! It has helped me live in the positive.

Now I say… “If you haven’t taken algebra, do it! It might change your life too!”

Finding the sweet in the crazy!



A Reflection of Us

We had just recieved the news, my mother had been found dead on her couch by her neighbor and a maintenance man. I had been trying to prepare myself for her death for twenty years but somehow I still felt blindsided by the news. Still in shock and processing the information, we had just received, Scott and I started tossing around questions…what do we do with her things? She wanted to be donated to science. How do we do that? What do we do about a memorial service? Where do we have it? When do we have it? Who will come?

“Wait! Where is her body?”  I asked.

Scott didn’t know the answer to this question. He called the Police Department in the city she lived in and asked them. They didn’t know and said they would find out and call him back.

It was about 11:00 p.m. when Scott came into the bedroom where I was curled up in my bed. He laid down beside me and told me they had found my mother’s body. He told me the name of the funeral home. It felt weird. Not knowing where your mother’s body was and then being told they had found her and then thinking about her body  in a freezer at a funeral home. I knew it wasn’t her. I knew it was just a shell her soul had lived in. I knew she was in Heaven with family who had gone before her. I knew she had been saved years ago and we had talked about some of those things.  Even though she had done bad things, I believed she was in Heaven. When she wasn’t drinking or using she was kind, meek, quiet, thankful, pleasant, funny, anxious, embarrassed and full of guilt. When she was drinking or using she was mean, ugly, hateful, entitled, spewing nastiness, always looking for a fight, confrontational, and aggressive. She was the total opposite of her sober self. And lately, she had been more of the ugly side than kind side.

It reminded me of one of my favorite Native American Proverbs…

A Native American grandfather talking to his young grandson tells the boy he has two wolves inside of him struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. Which wolf will win, grandfather? Asks the young boy. Whichever one I feed, is the reply.

Mother had been feeding the wrong wolf for a lot of years. I knew she was happier now than she had ever been. I knew she was at peace and that she had a brand new beautiful body. And the truth was, I was also at peace for the first time in a long time. As she became more and more out of control, her behavior escalated. The more she escalated the more my world became disrupted and uneasy. And the more I had to try to keep my sanity and positive outlook.

I would get phone calls multiple times a week from hospitals, neighbors, case managers, life line and police. Sometimes I could get multiple calls in the middle of the night. Then the calls would stop for a week or so. I could always tell when she was on a binge. She was out of control and they didn’t know what to do with her and neither did I. She was of sound mind and could make her own choices. It was everyone else who had to deal with the fall out. When they called I had to tell them, no I can’t come and get her. I had to tell them I lived almost 2 hours away and have 2 boys and a full time job. What am I supposed to do with her? It would make me feel terrible and guilty and sad. But I knew I couldn’t race down there every time I got a call. We had already tried moving her closer and that had been a disaster. I wasn’t going to put my boys, family or myself through that again.

Now, all that had stopped. She was at peace and so was I. I was sad and I cried a lot. My heart ached for what could have been and the sweet stuff she missed out on. I cried for the sweet stuff I missed out on too. But I also knew for the first time in her life she was completely free of all the cravings that had controlled her for most of her life. But it was still weird and sad. My mother’s body had been lost and now it was found at a funeral home I had never heard of.

I went to sleep. I tossed and turned, dreamed and cried.

When I’m going through something tough, I like to be alone. I have to submerge myself in the junk – the ugly and the hard stuff. I have to process, think and try to make sense of things.   I don’t stay there very long because I don’t want to get stuck in the junk. After I have dealt with some of the junk, I dig really deep for the sweet because it’s always there. Sometimes it takes getting out the shovel and digging deep and hard but it’s there. It’s like a diamond in the rough. I can’t get in the junk and do what I need to do with people around me. I have to be alone with no distractions. After a little time by myself, I’m in a much better place. Scott knows this. So he let me have the next day alone to take care of myself and process.

When I woke up the next morning, after Scott and Mason had gone to work and I had taken Madden to school, I started picking up my house before I called the funeral home. I did some laundry, dishes, swept, vacuumed, made the beds, and such. I’m weird like that. It’s a control thing. I know I truly have very little control in this old world so I control the things I can. It makes me feel better for my house to be clean. For me, it’s like having a solid foundation to pour the junk on so I can sort, trash and file away. I know. It’s crazy.

After I was done picking up, I sat down on the couch and looked at the name and the number of the funeral home Scott had left for me. I dialed the number. Someone answered. What a weird feeling. I explained that I believed my mother’s body was there. The guy asked what her name was and said he would check. I thought to myself…”Really? You’re kidding me! Don’t you have a list by the phone so you are prepared and can sound more empathetic?” Instead – I felt like I’d called Wal-Mart to find out if they had a certain item in stock. He got back on the phone, “Yes, she’s here.” I told him I needed some information about donating a body to science. I explained that is what she had wanted. He told me I would have to speak with someone else and they would have to call me back. We hung up.

I waited. The man I needed to speak with returned my call. It sounded like an unenthusiastic uncaring sales call to me and when I explained she wanted to donate her body to science and asked if he could give me any resources or phone numbers, all care when out the door. I also asked about state aid for cremation just in case that’s what I decided to do. Mother had nothing. No money. Nothing. He said there was no money to help with her body. He said if she would have been homeless and didn’t have any family – the county would pay a very small amount of money to dispose of the body but that it actually cost so much more so they lost money. He told me what my cost would be.

It kind of irritated me the way he said it. I asked how my mother’s body had ended up there any way. He didn’t really know but from our conversation I got the impression the Medical Examiner or someone had made the decision to send her to that particular funeral home because they had their own crematory and would be paid the very small amount of money from the county. I got it. I understood their thinking. She was well known in the town with the police and hospitals. I’m sure they thought after my many “no’s” over the last couple of years that no one would claim her body. I made it clear we weren’t doing anything at the funeral home besides cremation if that is what we decided to do – no services, none of that stuff. We would handle that on a much more personal and less formal level.

I spent my time trying to find a place that would accept her body for science like she had wanted. I was unable to find anything. No one would accept the body because she had an infectious disease. Someone managed to tell me about “The Body Farm.” I was mortified by the name and googled it. I was just as mortified after finding out exactly what it was. I know there is a need for it but I certainly wasn’t making that decision.

When Scott got home, I told him I needed to see the body. It isn’t real to me if I don’t. He called the funeral home to arrange it. The guy said he wouldn’t recommend a viewing. Her body was decomposing. That really irritated me. Who was he to tell me what was or wasn’t appropriate for me. I’m sure he wouldn’t recommend a lot of the things I had been through and seen in my life!

I wasn’t sure when she had actually died. The guy at the funeral home said Friday night or Saturday. Which meant she would have died sometime soon after I had last seen her. That was a long time – almost a week now. I started second guessing myself. I know this is super creepy but I asked Scott to see if the funeral home man would send me a picture. That might help. I could view her body by phone and not have to deal with a lot of junk.

We felt really creepy asking such a question. The man said – it really wasn’t as uncommon as you might think. He said he would send one. I was grateful. They hung up.

Scott had my phone. I couldn’t bear to hold it knowing the text notification would be a picture of my mother’s dead body. I knew someone had to look at it before I did. I wasn’t that strong. Madden was standing next to Scott. The text notification came through. I was anxious. They both looked at it and looked concerned. I asked – “Is it bad?” They both nodded yes. I grabbed at the phone and said let me see it. I looked at the picture of my poor mother’s body. She had blood all down the side of her face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You can’t even wipe her freaking face! What the hell?? You send a daughter a picture of her dead mother and you can’t even wipe the blood from her face. What is wrong with you? You need a new freaking profession! That’s what I was screaming on the inside. I held it together. Fake it till you make it. I had learned how to do that as a child. Don’t ever let anyone know what you’re really feeling otherwise you might really let your crazy out. Besides, I hate being reactive. It’s another control thing. As the child of an addict, you learn at an early age how powerless you are so you control the things you can. I collected my emotions. I was thankful the man had sent her picture even if they hadn’t wiped the blood. I’m tough. I’m a nurse and I’ve seen numerous dead bodies over my career. I just wished they had treated her body or me with a little more respect. In healthcare, when someone dies. We take care to clean up the body and make it more presentable for the family. But this was different. And I understood.

The guy at the funeral home had told Scott to let him know after he saw the picture if I still wanted to see the body. He repeated that he wouldn’t recommend it. I was irritated after seeing the picture. I told Scott – “You tell that man when I make up my mind we’ll let him know.”

The next morning we (some family members and I) got up and drove the hour and 45 minutes to her apartment to gather the very few personal items she had. A man from the leasing company met us over at the apartment and let us in.

I asked him a few questions. Like – were you the one who found her? He said yes. I asked where he found her. He said on the couch. I asked when and he said Wednesday. He said he was sorry. I appreciated his condolences.

Mother’s place was a mess but that had become the norm. There wasn’t a death smell. There was lots of dried blood. Lots of blood. But that had become the norm as well. She knew she would eventually bleed to death. She would binge drink on vodka. She would bleed heavily for days after. She had told me Friday when we last saw her that she was bleeding. It made my heart heavy but I knew there wasn’t anything I could do. She had been to the hospital many times for this and it was a vicious cycle. She had to quit drinking and she knew it. It wasn’t as easily said as done. She was completely powerless and controlled by this demonic substance. It had a death grip on her. I understood my mother made the choice to drink but I also understood she never chose to be an addict. She never chose to be controlled and powerless. Who would choose a lifestyle like this? No she was a complete slave to those substances. The only way I could have saved her was to lock her in a cage and control where she went and who came to see her. And I’m pretty sure I would have gone to prison.

We gathered papers, wallet, pictures and anything that was personal. Her neighbor and friend came over. She was crying and telling us how much mother meant to her and how much she will miss her. She told me the last time she saw her was on Tuesday afternoon. It was nice to see this lady had truly cared about mother and would miss her. She had been able to see the sweet side of mother. Mother would tell me how her friend would bring her big stuffed baked potatoes and how good they were. I appreciated this lady for showing love to mother.

We found two large bottles of vodka. One was empty the other was almost empty. I poured the remaining vodka down the drain. I knew it was pointless but somehow in my crazy mind it made sense.

We found her stacks and stacks of Library books. We gathered them up and loaded up in the vehicles to return them. Mother always felt the lady at the library was always so kind to her. I appreciated that too. I wanted to make sure the books got returned.

We left her clothes, her toiletries, food and everything behind. We only took her papers, pictures and personal items. Normally I would have cleaned the apartment and not left a mess. But I wasn’t happy with the people she rented from. They didn’t require a background check so people like mother who had been kicked out of numerous places could live there. She had roaches. Her bathtub still hadn’t been fixed from Friday when I had called them. She wouldn’t let me look at it on Friday. I know she was embarrassed and didn’t want Scott and the boys to see it. She just told me it was covered in mold and please call the landlord. So I did. I wished I would have gone in there even though she had asked me not to. I wish I would have cleaned that bathtub myself. But we had been short on time, we were headed to a funeral that day. Everything in her apartment including the furniture which came with the apartment needed to be taken to the dump and burned. No, I didn’t feel too bad leaving all that stuff behind. Scum lords is what I called those type of people. I understood she was difficult and nasty to them, she tore up things, cussed them out. They did rent her a place to live. I wasn’t responsible for mother.  I needed to get out of that scary nasty place. I felt bad but I couldn’t deal with it. Maybe in some crazy way it was payback for them leaving her with an unusable molded shower and roaches.  They were receiving government money and had standards that weren’t meeting. But people like mother were caught between a rock and a hard place and everyone knew it – most of all people like mother.

Scott had already called the funeral home that morning and left a message that we would be stopping by to view the body and pay for the cremation.

When we got there we were taken to his office. The man asked if I was ready and said only one of us could view the body. Seriously? Have you been in this business too long? You are going to send a daughter in to view her mother’s body by herself? “No sir” I said. We are all three going in. My mother’s sister (who took me in as her own), one of my sister cousins (she was my biological cousin but we were raised as sisters) and myself. He tried to argue with me. I went on to tell him – “as far as the body decomposing – that’s not true. I know she didn’t die until sometime between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon. Today is Friday.” He knew I wasn’t giving up. He led us to her body. We walked through a dark room full of caskets and when we got to the other side of the room he switched on the light. He took us through a door to a large room that looked like a shop or something. Then we walked over to a metal container. He explained it was the freezer and she was the only one in it. As he put on his rubber gloves, he said I need your word that none of you will sue us for emotional distress because of what you are about to see. Seriously? We all nodded our heads. We walked in – her niece, me and her sister and the funeral home man followed us. There she was. My mother. Lying on a shelf in a cold freezer. The blood was still on the side of her face. Seriously? What is wrong with this funeral home? What is wrong with man? Did it cost extra to get blood wiped off? I wasn’t wanting them to dress the body but show a little compassion and respect. I tried not to be upset. It was only a shell. She wasn’t in that old body anyway. She was at peace, she was with family and had a whole new body.

The man told me not to touch her. I kept staring. After a few seconds, I looked at him and said – “Sorry, but I’m touching her. ” I touched her hand. It was cold. That was my mother. My poor troubled hurt mother was now free. I touched her forehead. We turned to walk out and he instructed me where the bathroom was and suggested I wash my hands. I did. I was disgusted by his behavior. My stomach hurt from the interaction with this man.

I’ve thought about this a lot, the way she lived and the way most people treated her in life and in death. Most treated her in life the same way this man was treating her in death.  But there were also some who were really good to her. They saw her as a person and they treated her with kindness just like they treated everyone else, like she was no less important. She was God’s creation just like everyone else. Sure she had free will and had made poor choices but every day of her life she lived with the consequences of those poor choices. We had to set limits with her – healthy boundaries and say no a lot. There were times I certainly said no a lot more than I said yes. It was exhausting and excruciating to watch and be a part of. She made me mad, cry and disappointed me. But the truth is she was hurting so much more. I tried to keep my sanity but still show love. I failed a lot. I know that’s true. You do as well as you can with what you have.

Addicts are hard and burn a lot of bridges but we should always remember – the ones who are the hardest to love need it the most. Anyone can love the loveable. It’s when we can love and show love to the unlovable that we are doing something special. I’m thankful for kind people like the meals on wheels man, the lady at the library, her case managers, a personal care assistant and people who were there for her when I wasn’t. There will be a special place in heaven for those kinds of people. They treated her with love even though she was sometimes mean and hateful and had nothing to give them. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

Some people haven’t learned that yet. While they may have seen mother as a poor woman who didn’t have much family and not worthy of being treated with care, love, respect and dignity – I saw the funeral home and that man as poor ignorant people  who didn’t have much sense.

The way we treat the difficult people says a lot about our character. The way we treat people is a direct reflection of us not them – another life lesson my mother inadvertently taught me.

Finding the sweet in the crazy!