“Sheila you have cancer” my dad shouts to my mother, from the bottom of the stairs in our old house. It was May of 1991 and in that brief moment in time, my life as I knew it had changed forever…..
There are quintessential times in your life, that no matter how much time has passed, it still feels like it was yesterday. You can remember exactly where you were and how you felt the first time you heard it. It might be something global such as, when the planes crashed into the world trade center on Sept 11, or the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting in December 2012. Or it might be something more personal. For me, that was when my mother was diagnosed with terminal Ovarian Cancer.
My mother, Sheila Popowitz Rubackin, was born on March 3, 1946 in the Bronx, NY. She would have been 70 years old today, but sadly we can’t celebrate this birthday with her, like so many times before, that have come and gone. The last one we were able to celebrate with her was her 49th birthday.
I was only twenty four years old when she passed away, and sometimes it feels like it only happened an hour ago, while other times I feel like I’ve lived a hundred lifetimes since seeing her face. The face that looks so similar to my own.
I find myself thinking about her so much lately. In October I will be the same age as she was when she found out she had terminal cancer. I want to know what went through her mind when she was diagnosed. There are so many questions I want to ask her now, and so many things I want to tell her.
I wish my mother could have hugged me tight when my heart was broken, in the comforting way that only a mother can. She missed so many milestones of my life. She was not at my graduation from podiatry school when I became a full fledged podiatrist. She will never hear a patient call me doctor. She never saw me as a blushing bride, or pregnant. And she never met the loves of my life, my husband and my two children.
I long to have more of my mother than the yellowing old pictures and the tiny, fleeting memories of family vacations long ago. The trips to California to see family, and how proud she was when she was around all her nieces and nephews. Her laugh, that oh so funny and contagious laugh. People who knew her say I have that same laugh. The laugh that is so unique. I am so glad to have that special part of her come through whenever I am happy.
I wonder what my mother would have thought of my own mothering skills. What words of wisdom would have instilled upon me about motherhood. I wonder what other life lessons I’m missing out on that other women receive from their mothers. I wonder what type of relationship we would have now that I am an adult. Would I call her everyday?
Of course, I wish I could have said goodbye, and given her one last big hug before she had to go. I wish my mother’s life could have ended in peace with out suffering. But like so many people who die of cancer, at the end her body was so ravaged that her final days were filled with suffering and pain.
I just hope that wherever she is now, still probably singing out of key to one of her favorite Billy Joel songs, or finding some great bargains. I hope she’s happy and not in any pain. And most of all, I hope she is smiling knowing that both of her girls will take her wherever they go. And that in both of her grandsons there is a little bit of her.
Happy Birthday Mom, I will love you forever.