Life Travel – The Journey’s End…

Fresno, California

This site is dedicated to celebrating the adage that “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination.”  It was created to bring the positive and inspiring journeys in our life into focus, whether we travel the world or just through this thing called Life.  I have shared both here, but this last year has shown me that the Journey does end…many will argue where the final Destination lies.  That’s for the Universe to know.  For now, I know I am facing one of the most difficult “journeys” of my life…I am headed back to my hometown to witness the ending of my mother’s journey on this Earth.  And I am at a loss already….

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With my mother, Patti Leeper

My mom is 73 years old.  She is the second of four children, raised by a widow after the death of my grandfather Noah to Polio when my mother was only ten.   She was the rebel of the gang – and remains that way even now.  I don’t know what formidable things happened in her youth to make her uniquely her – she has never shared much.  But she has always been the most stubborn, ornery, charming, generous, maddening, funny, engaging woman I have ever known.  A beautiful mix of sexy and sinister – she did life her way, sometimes shooting herself in her own foot, and other times showing her only child how to make friendships last 50 plus years through the sheer unselfish giving of yourself and your love to a friend.  She is a contradiction and a blessing all at once.

Last week, she once again found herself in the hospital.  She was there twice in April, when we made a decision to move her from her apartment to an assisted living facility.  Eight years ago, she had three back-to-back, very invasive and traumatizing back surgeries.  Her entire lumbar region was caged and fused, and she has since worn 36 screws and two rods in her spine.  Her pain since then, can be described in two words, constant excruciation.  Her reliance on pain medication is both understandable and concerning to those of us who love her, and we have watched her slow down, weaken and fail.  And we’ve laid blame on the meds, and the pain, and her maddening way of not taking care of herself, as an excuse.  She is a smoker, a poor eater.  She hasn’t exercised since Jazzercize was a fad in the 70’s.  So when she began having more pain, trouble swallowing, vomiting, weight loss and extreme weakness, she had given us a lot of things to hang her condition on.

Cancer was not one of them.

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With her brother and sister – Bev Garfoot & Ron Noble. Uncle Kenny was missed…

Less than 48 hours ago, I got a call from the oncologist on her case.  My family had told me that they had found a tumor in her throat.  That it didn’t look good.  That there would be more tests.  The doctor’s call, while expected, brought news worse than I had imagined.  Like my father, who passed away in 1989, she has lung cancer.

And the tumor has grown into her esophagus and stomach.  It is massive, it is inoperable, it is advanced.   “What is the prognosis?,” I asked the doctor.  “A few days,” he said “maybe weeks, but not many.  I would say a month would be a surprise.”

I was driving down the highway, trying to comprehend what I was hearing and not roll my Jeep in the rains that have engulfed my home state of Colorado.   Days?  Days?  I did not hear this right – it doesn’t happen like this.  Days?

I am no fool.  I have said to many over the years that it is amazing she has not already been hit with a major disease or illness.  I have always known that when “it” hit her, whatever “it” would be, “it” would hit hard and fast.  I have never hated being right so much in my life, because recognition and reality are vastly different pools to swim in.

In my recognition of her life choices, and their consequences, I was angry at her.  Because she wouldn’t change her lifestyle.  Because she continued to smoke and eat Taco Bell for breakfast and KFC for dinner.  Because she remained stubborn, argumentative, defensive when we pushed and defiant when she pushed back even harder.  And as her condition worsened, I got angrier and less understanding.  Frustrated and fearful.

But here I am now, swimming in a reality that feels more like a foggy nightmare – like the kind when you are on the edge of waking but it won’t let you go.  I’m not angry, I’m gutted.  I’m not frustrated, I’m regretful.  I’m not proud, I am sorry.

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A young us…

Sorry that I somehow didn’t see this for what it was.  Sorry that I didn’t get to Fresno more often to see her slow demise and help her.  Sorry that we fought.  Sorry that I wasn’t in each doctor’s face at every visit – maybe they would have found this mass earlier rather than too late.  Sorry I was impatient and short-tempered.

Sorry that I was not the daughter that I will now not have the chance to be.

Days.  Just days now.  Last year, I said goodbye to my grandmother.  This year my mother.  Next year….it could be a loved one, a friend.  It could be me.

I am learning that the journey is short, no matter when it ends.  It should not be wasted.  It should not be taken for granted.  It should not be put off.

It should be celebrated.  And in the remaining days with my mom, I will celebrate her.  I will whisper in her ear all the things I should have always said.  She will know my love for her.  She will know my appreciation for what she did as a single mother.  She will know my pride in being her daughter.  She will know I am glad to be with her.  She will know the memories of our lifetime will be forever stitched in the fabric of my very being.

Yes, she has been a pain in the ass a lot of times, but aren’t we all?  But like every life, hers is worth celebrating.  And I hope in the coming days, I can perhaps be the daughter I should have been all along.

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Three generations of women – Mom, me and my daughter Jessica

“Life is a Journey, Not a Destination…”  Yes.  But the journey has an end, and as my mother’s comes to its end I feel my heart ripping apart, with regret and forgiveness and screams and shock…and love.  So I will walk the hard part of the path with her in the days to come.  We will do this together, because our journeys are bound together.  We are not on our own journey, as many say, we are all a part of the journeys of the people we share our life with.

And I realize just how much I will miss this maddening, complicated, loving, crazy, stubborn woman.  This woman who gave me life, who supported everything I ever did and who is and always will be a part of me, for better or worse.

My mother … my mom.

MY mom.  Mine.

The loss will be felt forever.  But she will forever be alive in me.

This is dedicated to my mother, Patricia Darlene Noble Leeper.  And the time we have left before we say goodbye.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Tod Philip Garfoot says:

    Absolutely beautiful my Cousin…. I’m sitting here in my mail truck with tears running down my face. I love you like a sister Allison.

  2. chon morales says:

    This is a beautiful, well written story. I’m sorry you had to write it. As your mothers journey ends, it is my hope that you find peace together. Not many people get the opportunity to say goodbye and to express their love. I’m quite sure your mother knows how much you love her. She’s known you for fifty years. What transpires between you two over the next few days will comfort you as much as her. God bless you and your mother. I think he already has. May you find peace in your heart and live the rest of your life without regret. I wish I could ease your pain.
    Simply, Chon

  3. Daryl Hall says:

    Dear Allison,
    There are no words to describe the fear and the pain of your upcoming loss. My Mother was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, in early 07 and decided that she would not go through the whole fighting this horrible disease, no treatment with anything else but strong pain meds towards the end of her journey. She had not been to church in many years but contacted a local priest and made her peace with our lord. I was able to come up here in Idaho to visit her two weeks prior to her passing and see what the disease had done to her body. However I was taken aback at how sharp and clear she was about the fact that she was good with her life and she was ready for whatever was to happen with her soul after she passed. I had been angry at my mom for years and had so many things I wanted to talk to her about, things that had probably left me scarred and also made me feel a sense of betrayal that she didn’t do more to stop the physical and mental abuse that my constantly angry father had for years rained down upon me.
    The thing is I had pretty much accepted my fathers attempts at forgiveness when he suddenly passed away in 95 and even though I still harbor regrets and questions I have come to a place in my life where I would give anything to spend just one more day with both of them and just be together, no anger, no questions, just to be in there presence and tell them I love them.
    I know this may not in any way relate to what you and your family are facing now but I want to let you know that at some point in time we are all going to go through this excruciating loss of our parents and other family members.
    If I have learned anything it is to forgive not only them for any slights are injuries to our minds, but also to let go and rejoice that they are in a better place and they would be proud of the men and women we al have become.
    Wow I guess this all struck a chord after James post the other day about having trouble with an ageing parent and me thinking I would at this time in my be comfortable with whatever issues there were if I could just spend more time with both my parents.
    Take the opportunity to look inside yourself and if there are any issues that you have, address them now with your mom while you still can. I am sure you will express your love for her, but please ask those questions that you may have, hold her hand and tell her how much you love her and let go of anything that might be holding you back from feeling your grief and have a good cry together.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings and thank you for allowing me to actually let out my own feelings about my losses.
    I wish you the best in the upcoming weeks and I will certainly pray for you and and your mother, God Bless my friend be strong .
    Daryl Hall …..

    • Allison says:

      Darryl – I am touched that you would share your own journey with me, here. You have the biggest heart and I am so honored you are my friend. Sending much love to you…

      • Carre Brainard Boniface says:

        You’re brave courageous honest and simply inspiring. Please know my thoughts prayers and love are with you. Give her a hug and please let me know if I can help you. Beautiful tribute

  4. Andrea Noble-Faber says:

    Dear Allison,
    You will get through this-all of us are here for you. Despite time and distance you and your Mom are never far from our hearts and prayers. Become the memory keeper and the teacher of what you have learned from Pat to those of us left behind. And please take comfort that you will have this time together.
    She has loved you through it all and we love you.
    Take care of yourself.
    To Auntie Pat, we love you and I smile at the memories from a life shared. God bless.
    Andrea

    • Allison says:

      My long-lost cousin – thank you for your sweet and poignant message. Miss you and wish you all could be here. I passed along your message when she was awake earlier and it brought smiles. I hope you are doing well – please give my love to my family in the North…miss you all.

  5. Nancy says:

    Dear Allison, thank you for the beautiful tribute to your mom. Not sure if tribute is a good word to use but you know what I mean. Your mom will be the last of my good friends lost to cancer or some other quick acting disease. I called and talked to you mom last Tuesday. Told her I loved her and how very sorry I was and will miss her so much. I am unable to come see her due to my health issues but I think about her all the time. Take care of yourself Allisonl. Love. Nancy

    • Allison says:

      Nancy, your friendship with Mom has always been one of her greatest examples of true friends. She knows you love her – you came up in some of the lucid conversations we’ve had. Thank you for your message – you take care of yourself, k. We all love you – me especially…

  6. Terri Caske says:

    Allison, what you wrote is so beautiful! It is obvious how much love you have for your mom. These are the times that we never imagined.having to experience. Darryl said it all and so well, so touching. I pray that you make the most of every minute you have with your mom in these next few days or weeks. If you need a break or just want to get away from it all to scream or cry or have a glass of wine, just give me a call, you are always welcome. Give your mom a hug for me.

    • Allison says:

      Terri – thank you for your constant support. Will be calling soon and would really love to get together while I’m here. You are and always have been such a dear and great friend. Wine soon k! Big hug to you until I can give you a real one in person.

  7. rachelle (sedra) koch says:

    I’m so sorry for this time in your life, moms are special, even when they frustrate the heck out of us, as kids and adults, but where would we be without them. I’ll say a prayer for this time you have with your mom.

    Love, Rachelle (Sedra) Koch

    P.S. I know we haven’t kept in touch, besides H.S. reunions, but glad for Facebook.

    • Allison says:

      Rachelle – Thank you so much. You know, even though I’ve been gone from Fresno for almost 30 years I have been so touched by friends like you from my youth who have reached out with so much love and support. It is overwhelming and I am so grateful. I hope you and yours are doing well – sending much love back to you.

  8. Tom R says:

    As her son-in-law, I came to know Patti well. Allison, you have done an amazing job of characterizing a woman who defies characterization. I have missed her these past few years – especially our consistent teasing. To her credit, she gave as well as she got. Please tell her that I love her and my prayers are with her – and the rest of the family.

  9. Kathy U says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have been where you are and I’ll tell you the best thing you can do for yourself and your mom, you are doing right now!!! Being on the journey together will allow you to eventually forgive yourself and your mom will know how much you love her and that you always have her back!!! Iove you, be strong even though it sucks

  10. Lilli Stammler- Almon says:

    Dear Allison, I am sorry to hear this sad news. I have been dealing with my own parents and their depression about my father selling his business (at almost 80), and the fact that he now has no place to go everyday, and is hanging around the house cramping my mother’s style. They should be celebrating this event in their lives and thankful that they have their health and the finances to do the things that they put off because he was always at work. I was feeling sorry for them, but this put’s things in perspective.I will hug them both a little tighter next time we get together. Take care of yourself and your kids. God Bless you and your Mom. Lilli

  11. Lisa Egger says:

    I’m touched and feel so much for you. I am so very sorry Allison. You were blessed to have your Mom in your life. She sounds like a strong and wonderful person – a gift from God truly. My prayers and thoughts are with you. Lisa Egger

    • Allison says:

      Thank you so much Lisa…it’s only through the love and support of our family and friends that we’re getting through this. And yes, she’s strong and stubborn. She’s fighting this every inch of the way…proud she’s my mom. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers – it means so much.

  12. Sherri Fritsch says:

    Dear Allison,

    I’m blessed to be one of those friends that your mother taught you how to give unselfishly to. Those twin baby boys that moved in down the street from you are now 15 and I know our friendship will continue throughout the years and over the miles! Please thank your mom for teaching you how to love your many friends! You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers! I love you! xo, Sherri

  13. Mark says:

    Fantastic tribute to your Mother Allison. I am sorry for what you are about to experience. All I can offer is that there is nothing better when a loved one passes than then having first an opportunity to say everything you’ve ever wanted to say. There is incredible closer that comes with a proper goodbye and I hope the next days, weeks, or months with your Mom are cherished. Very Sorry – Mark

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