Today has been a little bit emotional for me, as every January 12th has been for the past four years. It’s the anniversary of my Mom’s death. Her life, and her death, both readied me for my current role in Nick’s recovery. She was sick my entire life. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of visiting her in the hospital. But in 1999, when I was only 18, she had her first stroke, leaving her unable to care for herself. I went from daughter to mother in an instant. I withdrew from my first semester of college at Cal State Long Beach, and took on the role of caretaker for her for the next five years. After almost a year, when things settled down, I was able to return to college, and eventually get a job as well. But she was never independent again. Coincidently, she had her second stroke a few days prior to my first skydive in 2004, which debilitated her even further, to the point that I could no longer care for her myself. Sadly, I was forced to transfer her to live in a rehabilitation facility, where she lived for the rest of her life.
Taking care of her, at such a young age, certainly was not the same as taking care of Nick now. I was bitter then, much less patient, and constantly wondering “why me?” But despite my emotional immaturity, I gained invaluable experience throughout my trials. Medicines, hospitals, doctors, comas, therapy, social workers, pain. Nick’s hospital experiences often reminded me of the good ol’ days. Our current day-to-day is very similar to what it was then, except that Nick and I are always laughing, smiling and feeling gratitude for what we have.
My Mom was an interesting person, living with a head full of turmoil. She never liked any of my boyfriends, and very few of my friends. But she loved Nick. (Who doesn’t?) She felt comfortable with him, she trusted him, and probably understood that he was here to stay. Nick never complained when I’d drag him around to my Mom’s place. He used to have fun with her, pushing her wheelchair, tipping her back, and telling her jokes. She felt so comfortable with him, that she eventually took her last breath while he was holding her hand. They were alone in her hospital room while I stepped out to make a quick phone call. I think she felt safe with him, and relied upon his strength to make that ultimate transition out of this life and into the next great adventure. That was the first time I ever saw Nick cry. He realized the significance of her choosing to die in his company. What an emotional time. He lifted my spirit when I needed him the most. If it weren’t for Nick’s love and support that day and that year, I may have never made it out of there with my sanity. These days, I like to think that I’m just repaying him that favor.