Have grace Madison. Be kind.

October 20, 2017

“Have grace Madison. Be kind.” These words played over, and over in my head as I stood at the exit of my mother’s funeral. August 22, 2015 a large gathering was held at Advent Lutheran Church in memorial of my mother who we lost to cancer a few weeks earlier. The church was decent size, but there was standing room only. The service was simple, and quick. My sister, and I both said a few words. I briefly remember looking out into the room as I stood in front of the podium, and feeling a moment of realization. Realization of how many lives my mom touched, and realization of why we were all sitting in this warm room together. After the service, I was quickly escorted past everyone to the front of the church to thank people as they left. The doors exiting the church were large, but I felt claustrophobic as if the walls were closing in on me. I felt nauseous as the room seemed to be spinning as my chest tightened. My vision was blurred, and my cheeks warm and damp from all the tears. On the right side stood my father whom I could barely look at because it felt like he was untouched by this. He truly never showed any form of emotion. It became difficult to seek comfort from him, but we all truly cope in different ways. Even more painfully to my left side was my beautiful baby sister. Payton was 11 when my mom passed away, and looking into her eyes made my chest tighten even more. Payton was always tough. She had a strong presence, nothing broke her down much like my mom. But on this afternoon, her normally bright green eyes were grey with grief. She glanced at me for comfort, but I could hardly reassure myself this was okay. I muttered “Thank you for coming’s” to everyone as they passed through the doors, and out to the parking lot for their cars. I wiped other people’s tears in a blur of my own as more people went through the line. “Have grace Madison. Be kind,” played through my head again as I mustered up the courage to just get through this day. You see I thought it would get better. I thought if I got through the funeral I would hopefully have grieved enough to return to my everyday life. Yet, here I am over two years later still dragging through the stages of grief. I spend sleepless nights praying to a God that I struggle to believe in for a sign of her safety. Even as time goes on, I can barely mutter out the word “cancer” fast enough when someone asks “How did your mom die?”
As time passes the quick “thank yous” and “its okays” all as attempts to change the topic before tears fall never stop. These moments give me flashbacks of crying in the bathroom stalls at school between classes, screaming when I am home alone, and sleepless nights wiping tears off my sister’s face as she struggles to understand too. I felt naked in front of people. The constant attention, and lack of privacy as the most vulnerable part of my life was played out in public, talked about during school and tip toed around between the walls of my home. I wanted an escape. Cancer seems so simple, but it is responsible for emotional turmoil in more, and more people. You see cancer on a scientific level, is one abnormal cell that did not properly divide during mitosis. One cell seems so simple, but emotions do not understand science. Understand the scientific fundamentals behind things does not mean we can bypass the stages of grief. Just like everyone else I felt this loss in the deepest part of my soul. This one cell took everything I loved. Growing up, my mom and I were inseparable. From the moment, I was born until she took her last breath we were connected. I took her passion for cycling, stole her lipstick, and tried to be just like her. Her presence was warm, and nothing was ever too much for my mother. After the diagnosis, I was fortunate to have 8 years with my mom. I watched her endure surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, time in a wheelchair, and ridicule for a shaved head. Most of this would break any one down, but she fought for my sister and I. She encouraged us to have strength, and reminded us that we can do absolutely anything we set our mind to. One cell seems so small, but the impact is immense. Over the years, I have taken the role of caretaker, stepped in to be “mom” for my sister, and held my mom’s hand as she wept in pain. In the midst of all of this, I truly did not get the short end of the stick. I watched my role model slip away, but I didn’t endure years of treatment with little hope. My body wasn’t harassed by this horrible disease, and I wasn’t taken from this world. This means I still have a chance to make a difference. Before my mom passed on, she worked hard to prepare me for what it would be like afterwards. She encouraged me to move forward, and to do something impactful. My mom said my unconditional love for people was her favorite thing about me. As the days pass on, I work every day towards loving myself, and filling my heart full of more love for others. Such a traumatizing event would take the wind out of any person, but I have found the fortitude to progressively move forward. I constantly search for moments full of my mom every minute of every day. However, blooming sunflowers, peaceful afternoons, and my sister’s laughter remind me I am exactly where she would want me to be, and for this I am thankful.
Madison Rasmussen