Happy Birthday, Momma

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This is a blog I have been unsure about writing, nonetheless posting. I dappled with a variety of questions: Do I want to be vulnerable; Do I really want to tell people how I feel; How will others perceive me? But then, quite frankly, I thought f*** it. I’m going to write it, because expressing myself through writing has always been a release for me. And, it’s Adrie’s first birthday in heaven. So what better way to celebrate, than to celebrate her.

I’m just going to get down to it.

To be quite honest,  I never expected my mom to die. Yes, I knew she was ill, but I really did think somehow she would fight through the hardships and once again kick cancer’s ass. Sadly, I was wrong. When I arrived home on a Thursday morning in July, I knew my family didn’t have much longer with my sweet Momma. I had been in this position twice before, but this time I knew it was different. I am so thankful that when I did get home, my mom recognized my voice, gave me a hug, and told me she loved me. If I would have come home one day later, I wouldn’t have gotten that precious moment. I never once thought that would be the last hug, or her last words spoken to me, but they were. The next day, my mom went into a comatose state, and four days later, passed away.

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Some people have told me how unlucky I am. Yes, I do agree. I was born with one grandparent who passed away at the age of eight, and now at 25, I am left with one parent. Unfair. But, I also consider myself lucky. I know what some of you may be thinking…”Um.. what?”, but I really do feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to have had a mom like mine, and to have been with her during her last moments of life. So many people have their loved ones taken away from them without warning, but I was able to hold hands, say I Love Yous, and do/say everything else I needed to. I have no guilt about things I should have said or things I should have done. And that my friends, makes me lucky. Some people have a mother who isn’t present in their life, doesn’t say I love you, or just doesn’t care. I am BLESSED to have had 25 years with a mom who loved me unconditionally.

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I’m also lucky in the sense that most people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) {advanced breast cancer that’s spread to other parts of the body} have an average life expectancy of three years. We were given four. That’s lucky. I have no doubt that being Irish played a part in that! We were lucky, I know that.

Death is a weird thing. In the moments and days after my mom’s passing, I felt like I was in a twilight zone. The days passed quickly with the commotion of visitors, two services to plan, dealing with emotions, and eating all the food that came to my house (HAHA I swear I gained like 50lbs). During that time I wasn’t sleeping properly and I started experiencing anxiety attacks. I would find myself being “normal” and moments later I would be struggling to keep my heart rate down, would develop a rash on my neck, and felt like I was losing control of myself.

Luckily, I am sleeping better now, but I’m still learning how to keep the anxiety under control. Why am I telling you all this? Because I want people to know it’s ok to struggle during a time of grief or anytime at all. Everyone kept telling me how strong I was for being put together, but little did they know, I was falling apart on the inside. No one can be ok after a loss that severe. Hell, I’ll never be the same. A part of me will always be missing.

I dealt with so many emotions: grief, exhaustion, stress, attachment issues, happiness, and relief among others. The latter two seem odd, I know. But hear me out. Those last few days, my mom was not the same person she had always been. She was a different person whose body was being overcome by a terrible disease. When she passed, I felt a slight sense of relief, knowing she was no longer suffering. As for the happiness factor- well you must not know my mom if you don’t understand how happiness could have played a role. In the days after her passing, the amount of love shown to my family was unreal. People sharing their stories of my mom and what she meant to them brought so much comfort into my life. It was so heartwarming to see the amount of lives touched by Adrienne Newson.

One of the weirdest emotions came after her cremation. Attachment. I felt like I constantly needed to be with my mom’s ashes- to talk to them, to touch the urn, to have it with me all the time. It wasn’t until we buried my mom’s ashes (her wishes) that the feeling somewhat subsided. Even still, I have this odd connection. The majority of mom’s ashes were buried in Ireland, but my dad, brother, and I each have a small urn. Mine is with me in DC, and I still find myself thinking that I need to be more connected with it. I’m learning to get over that guilt feeling. I don’t think my mom is looking down on me, pissed that I’m not bringing her to work with me or out to the bars. I think she would be content knowing she is resting easy in my apartment. Knowing part of her is with me though, is a very comforting feeling.

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If you didn’t make it to her service, A Celebration of Life, you missed out. Hate to say it, but you did. Again, a weird statement to make. How can funerals be nice? But wow, it was beautiful. My dad, brother and I delivered small eulogies, and her friends and other family members shared stories. There were pearls and sunflowers everywhere and we released butterflies in her honor. There were over 250 people there, brightly dressed. What an amazing testament to a life well lived. When we started to plan the service and told the funeral director our plan to have a service in our garden with food, beer and wine, he looked at us and said, “Ok…” But after the service, he said he had never seen or been to anything like it. And y’all, shout out to people who do that as a living. They were incredible.

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Since my mom’s service, nearly $3,000 has been donated to Susan G. Komen in my mom’s honor. Again, WOW. Thank you to the kind souls who honored my mom that way. If you’d like to donate, you can still do so. You can click here and make a memorial contribution in her name. Or you can snail mail.

Susan G. Komen Central TN

ATTN: Karla Clarke

370 Reagan St.

Cookeville, TN 38501

Memo: On behalf of Adrienne Newson

I pray one day there will be a cure, and no more lives are lost to this disease, and no families have to grieve the lost of a loved one.

Now, I feel the need to share some statistics with you. One in eight women will develop breast cancer. That’s an alarming number. Early detection is key so, I encourage you, yes-women AND men, to know your bodies. Don’t be scared to see a doctor if something feels wrong. Know what your ta-tas feel like, and if that’s too awkward for you, ask your significant other to do it for you. I’m sure he/she wouldn’t mind 😉  But real talk, my mom detected her lump through a self-examine. In turn, she lived with cancer for eight years, four of those being stage four! The five year survival right for MBC patients is 22%. Early detection is key, y’all. Did you know if a parent, sibling or child has/had breast cancer, your risk chance double? Please, please, please learn when you are eligible for mammograms. For me, I can start at 38. And if you aren’t getting annual checkups with your OB, do it! They will feel you to make sure nothing is abnormal. Please don’t have the excuse that “it’s too awkward”. Just think, feeling yourself in the shower every day could save your life. And if you think that sounds disgusting, bye.

Adrie was one heck of a woman who will be so terribly missed. It’s hard to imagine the rest of my life without her. I get teary-eyed just thinking of the things she will miss- mine and Colm’s weddings, the birth of our future children and other big milestones. I find myself after work thinking I need to call her and fill her in on my day, only to realize the reality. Instead, my dad gets those calls and gets the pleasure of listening to me babble on.

People have told me that it will get easier as time goes on. I’m here to say that’s a lie. In my opinion, it’s only gotten more difficult. Those first few days were a whirlwind, and as time goes on, reality sets in. The longest I ever went without seeing my mom was probably two and a half months. In a few days, she will have been gone for two months. I dread time moving on after that. It’s hard, y’all. So very hard. Yes, maybe you learn to manage your emotions more as time goes on, but the fact of the matter is still there.

One thing I know for sure, is how proud my mom was of me and how much she loved me. How do I know this? Because she told me all the time. I’ll forever be grateful for the relationship I had with her- the constant conversations, the laughs, the tears, and everything in between. The last “normal” conversation I had with my mom was when she and my dad were dropping me off to the airport in late June. As I was getting out of the car, both of us crying per usual, she said, “Alana, you are my best friend. I love you. Don’t you ever forget that.” Looking back now, I wonder if we both knew that was going to be our last “normal” moment together. It’s interesting the way things play out like that.

During my speech at my mom’s service, I asked people to live life to the fullest with no fear. I am asking you all to do the same. Life is way too short. Not just your life, but others lives too. Something or someone can be taken away from you in a split second. Don’t live your life with fear or regret. That will haunt you. Live a life with purpose. I promise you, it’s a better one.

One thing I have learned from all of this, is that when it comes to death, the smallest gestures from others mean the most. I received the most touching gifts from people, was brought food from the kindest people, and received an enormous amount of calls and texts. I wish I could thank you all again, because it all meant so much to me. These are things I will treasure forever, and for that, I thank you.

I have no doubt in my mind that my mom is now my guardian angel. I can feel her presence with me and know she is smiling down and looking over not just me and my family, but all of her family and friends. I hope you may find comfort in that, too. It’s ok to talk to her, to miss her, to mourn her, and to cry over her. I do it almost daily. But know she is with you. Floating around like a butterfly.

Last, but not least, I have to acknowledge my amazing dad and brother. They have held me when I cried, calmed me down and comforted me in ways I cannot thank them enough for. I am fortunate to be going through this process with them. Thank you.

And thank you for taking the time to read this! Send a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my angel today.

xoxo,
Lana

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6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Momma

  1. Patricia Brandenberger says:

    I am so grateful I was able to make it to your mom’s Celebration of Life. It was touching, happy, sad and a perfect tribute to your mom. Most of all, it was inspirational. I was, and am, constantly inspired by your mom, you and your family. I will never be the same . I am both inspired and challenged to live each day completely. Thank you for your words, spoken so well from the heart. Scheduling my mammogram today (just a well check)and seizing each moment. If you ever make it to Arizona I’d love to show you around. I will be in DC at the end of the month for a few days. Love to y’all.

    Like

  2. Rosalind kilduff says:

    Dearest Alana, your Mamma would be so proud of you as we all are. Your comforting and sincere words meant so much to me , as you know she is sadly missed by all her family, friends and admirers.
    Lol Rosie x

    Like

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