A few of my mother’s last words frequently replay in my mind followed by what resembles being punched in the gut and the wind being knocked out of me.
“This is going to be hard,” she managed to utter those six, mostly single syllable English words heard and utilized in millions of day-to-day conversation.
This is going to be hard – Those words couldn’t ring truer and at the same time, they couldn’t begin to suffice. Those words embody everything from a single second memory to a half recalled dream to an observation of mother with child to the holidays that creep up on us like an unexpected spine-tingling draft during a Los Angeles fall evening. They have no semblance of time nor of space and even their perhaps, more impactful synonyms: difficult, trying, troubling, challenging, incomprehensible do not begin to illustrate the reality.
Those words, this is going to be hard, transport me back to the dull sound of an oxygen tank, the stench of stale air recycled and cooled by the hum of an old window box air conditioner and the agonizing visual of my mother’s weakened body that was no longer physically able to fight a cancer that swiftly began attacking all of her organs including her skeletal system. This is going to be hard doesn’t even begin to fathom the mental and physical pain that she certainly endured for the eight months between her diagnosis to her death.
It actually gets old, ya know – this feeling of “hard,” of what many easily cast off as “life.” It gets so old I often push it back, cover it up, and tuck it away, anything to not have to “deal with it.” I’ve gotten so good at it these past three years that it’s almost like I harbor my very own life-saving light switch. It truly feels like finding a life vest in the middle of a shark-infested ocean with no sight of land or raft.
My therapist recently told me that she believes I am finally allowing how much I miss my mother not to be pushed back, covered up or tucked away, that, in other words, I’m allowing myself to grieve more. Some consider this is a “good” thing. I think this is a “hard” thing. It’s no longer going to be hard. It is hard.