I never called her momma when she was alive, always mom, but somehow momma sounds better now, more personal in a way.

When we lived together we didn't get along very well. But when we were apart we were very close. She would drive down to where my girlfriend, Erin, and I were living at least once a month and usually she brought food. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was so bad the dog wouldn't eat it. But the thought always touched me. I think I was finally starting to appreciate her that last year.

One day she said she didn't have much energy, but took my Erin to a museum exhibit they wanted to see anyway. When she came back she was exhausted and apparently had to stop and rest a number of times at the museum, which was unheard of for her. The next day she went to a doctor who told her she was extremely anemic and ordered a round of tests.

She was in the hospital almost instantly.

Time is a blur for me. Her husband had died from cancer maybe six, eight, months before, and her mother died not too long before then. But she took care of both of them. I lived in a room over my grandmothers head when she came back from her surgery, a lifetime of cigarettes had given her emphysema and affected her heart. The doctors had gone in with stainless steel tools and ratcheted apart the ribcage of a 90 pound woman to work on her heart. When she came back she was never the same. Permanently attached to an oxygen rich air supply and lacking any physical strength she had her life was gone. I remember seeing her in that blue and white striped chair just sitting there. There was nothing left for her, no more gardening, no more working, no more keeping up the house, all the things that kept her happy were no longer within her reach. I don't think she even watched her sports any more. She would sit in that chair for hours and I knew, knew in the bottom of my heart, that she wanted to go. I don't remember her dying, I think I had moved out a week before. It was as if she just wasn't around any more.

I love my grandmomma. I speak to her every night I see the moon.

My stepfather was a good man, but I never loved him. He grew up in a time when men were not allowed to show weakness. For one year he peed blood before he would tell my mom or go see a doctor. When he finally told her she made him see one the next day. It was cancer, and by then it was too far gone. They tried chemotherapy but it was a long shot and everybody knew it. In the end all they could do was make him comfortable. A hospice nurse came by every day and helped us out while the morphine quickly ate his mind. That was the hardest part, watching one of the most intelligent men I knew go insane before my eyes. By the end he was alternating through paranoia, hallucinations, anger at my mother, deep sadness, and moments of clarity. His body was being eaten from the inside and afterwards my mother made one of her most haunting paintings. It looked down on his face from above with his red flannel sheets pulled up to his neck in bed. He wasn't alive.

When my mother went into the hospital the MRI images revealed the tumors in her liver and kidneys. I stood in the hospital room holding the images up to the light. Step by step slices of my mothers abdomen, proof of what I already knew, and they were oddly beautiful. She had two months to live. That was three years ago, and I think it is only now that I have actually started to grieve for her. She didn't stay in the hospital long; there wasn't anything the doctors could do for her. We called in our homeopath who drove out of her way to see her more times than I know. We made her last days as comfortable as possible. Friends drove from halfway across the country to take care of her those last two months. I would drive two hours to see her at least once a week. But she held on longer than she needed to. She was worried about me.  She wanted to know I was safe. She wanted to know I would be ok without her there for me. One night I came over, held her hand, and talked to her. I told her I was ok with her dying, that I had accepted it, and that I wasn't worried about seeing her again because I knew I would. I was honest, not patronizing. I told her the truth.

After I left they said she seemed as if a huge weight had fallen away from her. She was almost ready to go but she still hung on even when it was far to late. I had called my father and had him fly out without telling her. I wanted to surprise her. One sunny afternoon I walked in the door with my father behind me. And it was what she had been waiting for. He would be there for me always. Twenty minutes later I sat holding her hand as she passed away. We knew the time had come and the people who loved her were there for her. We told her how much we cared and we told her it was time to let go. We told her to just let go, everything would be ok here. We loved her, but we loved her enough to not keep her here in pain.

I loved my momma more than I can ever explain. I don't talk to her very much, and I hear from her even less. But she is my momma and I thank the universe for every second I had with her.

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