12 Months

8 Feb

On a site many people are talking about a mother is dying.

Maybe not today. Or tomorrow. But cancer is eating at her, and it’s unlikely she’ll win.

She poses the question-What would you do if you knew you only had 1 year left to live? Spending the last 2 weeks or so struggling for breath and ignoring the usual paranoid feeling that it would be something horrible, I stopped to think about it.

The kneejerk answer is stay home with my children and husband, die surrounded with their love.

But when I think about it, when I think of my mother, that’s not how I would want to spend the last days of my life.

My memories of my mother are mainly of her in a bed, sick, or of our daily routines, the grocery store, my father’s store, the fabric shop. They are the little usual things that don’t stick out in your mind and so don’t stick our 20 years later. My mother suffered from too much hope, living in denial about her illness until my father forced the doctors to tell her that yes, she really was dying.

I have no real baseline for who my mother was-her likes, her dislikes, her dreams. What she wanted for me, who she saw me as becoming. I remember she drank vanilla ensure since she couldn’t taste it anyway. I remember she had a special fork because it was lighter and didn’t bother her teeth. But I don’t know what she read.  I think she loved Elvis and Liberace.

If I was to die-if 12 months was all that was handed to me right now, I would spend the time with my family doing things. Leaving memories for my children, in books, on tape, but also in action. We would finally go whale watching, so they could realize that big things can be gentle things. We would go camping so they could discover the world around them, feel part of a larger place. We would visit my mother’s grave so I could tell them about bravery, about sacrifice, the only things I know of my mother. We would walk where I grew up, the old streets where the stone buildings stay warm into the evenings in summer and a cool breeze sweeps up the river.

I would write them poetry, reams of it so their father could hand them out slowly through the years, so my voice would pass like the wind into their memories and souls. Each would tell them how my body knows theirs, recognizes them, and misses them.

I would love my husband so they will know what love looks like-that it’s falliable, scary, wonderful and breathtaking. And we would laugh. We would laugh at a life I’ve never fully appreciated, or been thankful for.

I would buy them all the books I believe are important to read. Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang. Dune. Cosmos. The movies they need to watch. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Heathers. Delicatessen. L.A. Confidential.

I would spend 12 months making sure I die with as much me left to them as possible. Losing my mother young meant losing a part of me-who I was as a baby, as a small child. Losing all those dreams. I lost track of what being a girl, and then a woman meant. She left me no guideposts, no meaning.

Mostly, I’d want to spend 12 months making sure that my daughters, my lovely, willful, intelligent daughters knew that the light that shines around me is not the sun-it’s my love for them, the clear glimmers of how my my heart would break if I was to die on them.

15 Responses to “12 Months”

  1. Gabriel... February 8, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    I’d definitely stop wearing clothes…

  2. sweetsalty kate February 9, 2008 at 12:23 am #

    That would be Jen Ballantyne – http://thecomfyplace.blogspot.com

    She’s on my mind, too. Beautiful post, thor. So eloquent and true and so full.

  3. ann adams February 9, 2008 at 12:53 am #

    The only good thing about my sons’ dad dying five years after initial diagnosis of the prostate cancer that eventually killed him was the time we had to spend with each other and the boys. We had the chance to say everything that should be said and to do many things we might otherwise have put off until “later”.

  4. Bon February 9, 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    oy, thor. tears. this was a beautiful and wise post that…well…that makes me want to pick up little 11 year old you and rock you on my knee. but i know that nothing brings back the history you lost, on top of losing your mom.

    my mom lost her mother to cancer at the same age, and with the same finality, no ties, no legacies.

  5. daisybones February 9, 2008 at 3:07 pm #

    Beautiful, Thordora.

    I would write until my fingers bled for my Molly. I’d try so hard to create some meaning in it for her and I’d try to find a way to leave her with a strength and sureness that left me when my mother died. I’d bore Bu to tears with instructions and plans for their lives, I’d be a psycho trying to maintain my control over her upbringing- it’s crazy, but I would do that.

  6. marcelarhodus February 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    on my worst days I try to remember this, and pull myself together and think “what if this was my last day/week/month”… it definetely brings me perspective and a breath of air when I’m not doing well.
    We must try to live each day as if we knew how many we have left… it’s not easy, but we must try nonetheless.

  7. whymommy February 10, 2008 at 2:28 am #

    Shit. I didn’t write my boys the letters I wanted to. I was afraid that it would mean that I was succumbing. Thanks for the reminder. We all should remember that nothing, nothing is guaranteed.

    Beautiful post.

  8. Julie Pippert February 10, 2008 at 8:11 am #


    I, too, would try to leave as much of myself behind for my girls as I could. They will have questions, so many questions I am sure, about what-where-when-how.

  9. Julie Pippert February 10, 2008 at 8:11 am #

    Look at that. I left out the biggest ones: who and why.

  10. karriew February 10, 2008 at 10:05 am #

    Seriously? I would sit and cry. I’m not half as brave as the blogger you linked to.

    Then I hope I would have the courage to go someplace cool with Max and create more memories for him. Then sit and cry some more. And probably get very, very angry, and when the time got near I would walk off the Grand Canyon or something equally selfish and outrageous.

    I was angry for her reading about her cancer and until 10 minutes ago did not even know she existed. Her son is beautiful.

  11. Nat February 10, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    That was a very inspiring post! I loved it….

  12. Missy February 10, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Thor, you write beautifully and you have such a wonderful head on your shoulders. Very inspiring. AFter visiting Jen’s site I’m overwhelmed by the sadness of it all. That gorgeous little boy with the eyelashes you can mop a floor with. And a baby. Yes, it’s undeniable that a legacy of love and memories is the best thing you can leave your children.

  13. thordora February 10, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    I already write to my daughters, but not enough. I need to do more, but we all think it would never happen to us, that we have nothing to worry about.

    I think having knowledge of your end is in a way a gift, a gift you can give your children. A chance to leave a legacy that will mean something to them.

    Somedays I’m very angry at my mother for not doing this.

    Karrie-I’d be pissed, and sad, so sad too. If it came down to it, I don’t know if I could be so brave either.

  14. Candy February 11, 2008 at 10:43 am #

    It’s too sad to contemplate, today.

    The other day, my 15 year old son told me that sometimes, he lies in his bed and forces himself to think about what his life would be like if I died. And then he cries himself to sleep.

    And because I understand that need to force yourself to the edge of despair, I didn’t judge him. It just made me sad.


  1. Funky, funky, but chic? « Candy’s Corner - September 16, 2008

    […] the kicker came when Thordora linked me to this site. Good God I have read me some absolutely horrific stories about people […]

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