LaVerne G. Clark
Decades beginning or ending are about changes and transitions. In 1999, I prepared for change, but I never foresaw the losses I would have throughout the upcoming year. That was not the case when 2019 ended. My mother had been battling health issues since her brain aneurysm in October 1999. The grueling recovery process from two episodes of breast cancer, heart disease, and the varied rehabilitation in the aftermath was not easy. Each year we celebrated her birthday, I breathed a sigh of relief. But in mid-2019, after returning from Saint Mary’s, I noticed a change in her appetite and drastic weight loss. There were constant stomach problems, constipation, dark stools, and her reluctance to go to Alpine’s Adult Day Program by November. When I took her to Kaiser after a rash appeared all over her body, they said it was part of the symptoms of cancerous cells found in her small intestine. Knowing she was not likely to survive any procedure to remove it, we decided on palliative care. That began on November 21st. Over the years, we discussed the course of action if either one of us had a cancer recurrence, and we both agreed to stay in our home until the day Jesus arrived.
By Christmas, she could not walk and would not eat unless I fed her. Even then, there was that sparkle in her beautiful eyes….and the sunny disposition I learned to cherish was there. During that week, she slept most days and drank only small amounts of water with ice chips. Recognizing the transition(I had worked as a care administrator in several assisted living facilities for ten years before my cancer bout), I spent my days adjusting to the thought of living the rest of my life without her physical presence. I would be without my mother, who had always been my crutch in the clutch. She had been in my corner in all my struggles of coming to terms with my sexuality, cocaine addiction, prison incarceration, and the ongoing health issues I experienced since my premature birth.
New Year’s has been one of the holidays I celebrate because of the renewal aspect and the process of moving forward, leaving the past behind. This year, I prayed to God to give Mom a peaceful ending. I prayed He lessen the pain that comes with cancer’s finish. On the afternoon of January 2nd, with Angela, her only grandchild by her side, she quietly went with Jesus, ending her journey here on Earth. Today, I celebrate having her with me for seventy-one years. I never brought into commercializing the holiday aspect of honoring her. It is only a special day because she is no longer present physically. Knowing I will always have her in spirit to guide and encourage me is all the comfort I need.