That Sunday Afternoon

THAT SUNDAY AFTERNOON

BY ASHLEY DONAHOO

Every person walking on earth has gone through their own good times, and bad. Every day is a new page in your own, personal book.

I grew up as an only child, and had a strong relationship with my mother. When I was seventeen, my mother was diagnosed with Leukemia. Leukemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow. One sunny summer day in May, my mother and I went to Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The doctors asked me to leave the room so they could extract and test her bone marrow. When I had returned, my mother looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me that the doctors thought she had Leukemia. In June, she checked into Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

I believed that everything would be okay, and that she would be home soon enough.

She lost her hair in what felt like seconds. When I would visit, my mother always looked healthy and happy. She never lost hope, or her positive outlook on the situation. On days I could not see her, she would call me and tell me all about her day and the people she would meet. Because of the chemo, my mother did not have any white blood cells to fight off sickness or infections. After her bone marrow transplant, she began to grow very sick. My mother caught pneumonia, and acquired a virus in her brain. She became delusional, and quickly lost the ability to talk. Her body weakened, and she was sedated for a breathing tube. I could not talk to her anymore, but I still expected a recovery. When I would sit next to her while she was sedated, I would look up at my dad. He talked to the doctors, crying quietly. As far as I knew, everything was still going to be okay.

One Sunday morning, I woke up ready for a warm August day. My dad was not home, which was not normal, but I figured he was already visiting my mother. I received a call from my grandmother, telling me we needed to go up to Boston. I was confused, and told her I was scheduled to work later that day. She told me it was serious; work was not an option for the day. We headed to Boston to join my father. Soon, my family began trickling in through the hospital doors. Two doctors arrived and took us to a conference room.

“I feel like this is the end of the battle…,” my dad told the doctors.

“We think so too. There’s nothing else we can do,” one responded.

I felt my heart drop; I was staring at the white hospital tiles hoping to wake up from this nightmare. They told us the medicine was not working, her organs were failing, and the “outcome was inevitable.” I felt like I was floating, lifeless and helpless. It was time for us to say our goodbyes.

She was still sedated, so it was not the ideal goodbye to my mother. I walked into the cold hospital room in the ICU and looked at her lying there motionless. I grabbed my mother’s hand and held it tight. After the nurse had confirmed she had passed away, everyone left the room, and told me I could be alone with her. I had to say goodbye. It was a moment I did not believe would happen so soon. A huge part of me died with my mother. It hurts to think about the days when we would bicker about silly things like laundry and wet towels; when I used to hear her voice everyday. See her, hug her, and touch her. She was my mother. As a child, I took advantage of everything she did, and everything she was to me.

I never saw my dad cry until that day. He was a wreck for about two weeks after she passed away. My grandma and I would hear my dad hysterically weeping in the shower, in bed, and wherever he was alone. I tried to be as strong as I could for my dad. With efforts of healing, he started to change our house. My dad got rid of our kitchen table and chairs. We got rid of a storage bureau from the living room and replaced it with a huge table. He even reorganized the kitchen. The whole house was changing. I hated the sight of it. This house didn’t look like my house any more. It was a constant reminder that my mom is gone. It was a constant reminder that I lost her so quickly. It was a constant reminder of how much I took advantage of my mother, and failed to appreciate her when she was here. And the saddest part is, there is nothing I can do. I feel helpless, like I lost my chance to have a voice.

I strongly encourage you to live and remember: what you have today is not promised tomorrow. Love the family you have, and try to understand one another. Everything can change on just another Sunday afternoon.

How to Cope with Grief and Regret: https://clairebidwellsmith.com/regret-grief/

To make an appointment with Fitchburg State University Counseling Services, stop by their office located in the Hammond Building on the third floor in room 317 or call their office at (978)-665-3152.