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In Last Breaths.

One year ago today, I was in the car driving to one of the most heartbreaking days/night of my life.

I had been sober two months to the day when I received the call that we were losing my grandmother–Mombow–as we called her.  She had fallen, suffered a head trauma, and was said she not survive it.

I have never been more thankful for sobriety in that moment, as I drove and drove.

I knew I could drive the rush-hour trip, that I could be 100% present, that I could give, that I would not be jonesing for booze, that I could do what was needed of me during that time.

She passed away at five o’clock in the morning, with my mom and I sitting, holding her chilly, paper-skin hands as tightly, yet as gently as we could.

Over this last year, I have experienced several moments where I asked myself, in a situation:
“Is this something that Mombow would have smiled about?” or “Would this make her proud?”

The wonderful thing about Mombow, is that anything that made me happy …would have made her proud.  She didn’t judge like people tend to do.  She just watched, listened.  And was there.

My God, she was there for us.

On the phone with my mom over the weekend, she said something that struck me:
“Mombow always worried about you.  She would say to me all the time, ‘I am worried about Meredith.””

I felt that from Mombow, before she began to slip slightly into dementia–I felt that kind of genuine worry. A worry that was not the busy-body type of worry.  She worried genuinely about me. [I think that I, in turn, have learned to genuinely worry-wart about people too.]

But Mombow, I think, over the years could sense my hurt and the pain (whether self-inflicted, or shallow, or not)–she could feel what I felt.  Like I was Elliott and she was E.T.— not to make her be a two-foot tall alien—but you know what I mean. She understood me, in her silent way, without saying a word.

And I swear, I feel her presence with me, on a daily basis.

This last year without her in the world has felt strange–like maybe I had lost my compass or something.

But then I realize what is so strange:  I feel like my compass is finally settled and pointing true North. 

Through her death, I learned to stop wasting time on some things, and also some people. I realized that I don’t need to spend a second living someone else’s expectations or dreams or lies.

I learned from her how to LOVE people. I am more ardent in teaching my children to love as you believe love should be. Love how you pray love can be.  And love means boundaries, too.  Love doesn’t mean that we are required to put up with nonsense, abuse or lies. To love does not mean to self-sacrifice your beliefs or your convictions to serve someone’s ego.  Love is not mistreating people.

Also. Any sort of path to fulfillment? Well, that love has to start with self-love. (Which is way easier said than done.)

The problem with most of us is that we started out learning what love is from a place we didn’t choose. That maybe as we grow older and set boundaries, the line of love, the definitions of love and what we believe versus what we learned is changed, blurred or even cracked wide open. But it’s hard to sometimes figure out how to love ourselves with this sort of confusion.

Mombow loved me and was worried about me.  I wish I had loved me with the same worry and care she had for me over the years.  Maybe everything wouldn’t have felt so hard. Maybe, just maybe.

But I am who I am today, because of every experience–good or bad.

I am grateful for the time I had with her.  It shaped me more than I ever knew.

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Dear Mombow,

The good news, is that I am okay.  Really.  You really can stop worrying now.  Though I know you probably won’t.

I continue to find strength in your life, your love, and the little red birds that are everywhere in our yard.  The kids love the red birds, and say, “Mombow is here!” 

Yes, I will fight fiercely another year–with all of my heart. I will work hard, stay sober, and continue to live the best version of myself–as best as I can.  I hope I can keep my mouth shut when necessary–like you always did.  I hope that I can also rise up when necessary–just like I know you wish you had sometimes. 

I will do it, because with every breath I have, I remember your last ones… the gift that you gave me–being present as your soul lifted and left this world.

In your last breaths, you gave me more life than I have ever known.

I love you. 

M

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