Posted by: CeCe | June 22, 2012

Three years

Three years ago today, I lost my mother.  It still seems so crazy to think about it, to realize that she’s really gone, and that I can only hear her voice and hug her in my dreams.  Even now, thinking about what I lost breaks my heart.  When my sister first told me that they had found a mass on our mom’s shoulder, I felt like my foundation had been shaken.  I spent weeks in a daze, alternately fighting tears, praying for peace and strength, praying for healing, and cursing God.  I wasn’t ready to lose my mom.  I’m still not, and she’s been gone for three years.

But believe it or not, I don’t want to whine about it as much as I want to share some of the events of the week after she died.  There were some pretty amazing things that happened.

The day my mom died, I had spent the night at her house because one of my cousins and my aunt had stayed over, and I was okay with staying in her house only if someone else was there (she was at the Hospice House).  I woke up at about 10:30 or so to the phone ringing, and it was my husband.  We talked for about three hours, which was nice since we’d hardly gotten a chance to talk for the three weeks that I had been here already (we were still stationed in Germany, and I was only back here in Washington to be with my mom).  After I was done talking to him, I jumped in the shower to get ready to go see my mom.  As I was getting dressed, I realized that it had gotten very dark.  I went outside to smoke a cigarette (I still smoked cigarettes at this point), and as I was sitting out on the porch, I heard a very loud rumble of thunder that shook the house.  And I thought, “Mom’s gone”.  Simple as that.

Not five minutes later, the phone rang, and it was my sister, telling me that mom had indeed just passed away.  Here’s where it gets a little weird.  That rumble of thunder I heard?  My sister was on the phone with the hospice nurse as my mom was taking her last breaths, and as she said, “Okay, she’s taking her last breath… right…. now”, BOOM!!  There went the thunder.  After I got off the phone with my sister, the storm actually reached where I was, and it poured and poured.  Not much later, my brother and sister-in-law showed up to pick me up.

Now here I have to back up a little bit.  In the weeks after I found out that Mom had cancer, I found a Christian song with which I quickly identified, called “Praise You in the Storm” by Casting Crowns.  I had my mom listen to it when she was still pretty lucid, and she agreed, it was perfect.  Two weeks before she died, we were listening to that song, and she, my brother and I linked hands and cried together.  It was our song for that time, and was exactly what we needed.

So I get into my brother’s car, and he starts the engine, and guess what song starts playing.  Yup, “Praise You in the Storm”.  At the same time, one of my mom’s favorite weather phenomena occurred: It was raining with the sun shining.  It was such an intense moment that I had goosebumps up and down my arms.  I still get goosebumps when I think about it.  I know that some of you at least may believe it was just a coincidence, and you know maybe it was, but by the end of the day, I was overwhelmed with all the little things that happened that brought us peace.  There were so many little things that it was just incredible.

The next day, we went to the funeral home to begin making The Arrangements.  If you’ve ever had to arrange a memorial service, you know how it is.  You have to pick out The Outfit, The Casket, The Urn, everything.  We had done this before, for my dad, so it was really not completely unfamiliar, though it was a little surreal.  I would imagine that the funeral directors had no idea what to make of us, because we spent almost the whole time laughing.  Yeah, laughing.  There were tears, but there was mostly laughter.  Why?  Well, for one thing, it was because of a suggestion made regarding the urn.  See, my parents were two of a kind in some ways, but they drank their coffee two completely different ways: My dad, since he was so opposed to the color black, drank his coffee with a little bit of cream, while my mom drank hers black.  They had this ongoing joke where my mom would say, “If God had intended us to drink coffee with cream, He would have made it that way!” to which my dad would respond, “If God had intended for us to drink coffee, He wouldn’t have made it a bean!”

My dad was so opposed to the color black that he wouldn’t wear it, nor would he drive a black car, nor would he eat dark chocolate (or even milk chocolate!), etc. etc.  It was just one of his things.  When we were making The Arrangements for my dad, at one point the funeral director came out and very formally asked us what we thought of this nice, beautiful black urn.  We all laughed and laughed, saying no, that would not do.  We wound up settling on a beautiful urn that looked like coffee and cream swirled together.  It was perfect.  So when we were deciding what to put Mom’s ashes in, the suggestion was made by my brother-in-law that we should use a black urn.  So of course we did.

There were many other things about making the arrangements that caused us to laugh hysterically, like choosing to use a picture of our parents when they were young and wearing their swimming suits in the PowerPoint presentation at Mom’s memorial service (we joked that if anything could get our parents to haunt us, that was it!).

Some may think that our reaction was disrespectful, but here’s the thing.  Our family has dealt with so much death that we’ve learned that sometimes to hold off the tears, it’s good to laugh.  It’s good to remember a loved one’s idiosyncrasies and laugh until your belly aches.  We loved our parents very much, and all four of us miss them terribly, but we just have to laugh sometimes.

Anyway.  What I want to remember is how to laugh.  It’s been so hard to talk about my parents without wanting to curl up in a ball and cry until the tears won’t come anymore.  There’s a huge chunk of my life that’s missing.  I was far too young to have lost both parents.  My siblings are, too.  But I have hope that someday I’ll be able to laugh without wanting to cry at the same time.  I’m just not ready yet.



  1. Cece, First of all, I have a feeling that your mom probably is very okay with the laughter. Especially as it was a bonding moment for your family. Secondly, your comment about the thunder reminds me when we unsuccessfully tried to perform CPR on a small child across the street. As the ambulance left the house, there was chain lightning, which was unusual at that time of the year, and he died around that same time. So, I like to believe that the thunder is God’s way of telling us that they are entering into a better place.

    • I know she is, it’s how our family often dealt with death. We laughed a lot when we were making the arrangements for my dad, too.

      I’d like to think that it’s true, that the thunder was a sign that my mom is in heaven with God. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

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