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I have been writing about emotional pain and suffering since I started this blog, but until last week I hadn’t had much experience with the concept of dealing with so much emotional pain and physical pain all at once. I like to believe I’m a very compassionate person, but until I suffered from what I’m going through right now I didn’t know I had ways to open up even more.

In a matter of weeks, I found out my “Gifted mother” (GM) (my dad’s partner of 21 years and too special to consider step or anything less) had stage 4 lung cancer and would not be fighting it. She was ready to be with my dad once again on the other side; a strange foot thing making my foot swell and sharp pains run over the top of my foot; discovering I had a basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) right above my lip; my book proposal needing to be finished; and my kid’s father stopped paying child support. I showed up for my GM as much as I could, and dealt with my foot issue including having to wear a soft cast on my right foot as I traveled  an hour and a half to go be with my GM as frequently as I possible.

I had surgery on my face that turned out to be a lot more intense than I thought it would be. The worst news I got from my Dr. was that I wasn’t supposed to smile, laugh, or excessively move my mouth for three weeks. I’m a positive person and all I could think about was not being able to help my GM feel comfortable in what could be her last week of life. After leaving my surgery, I get a text letting me know that my GM was unresponsive. I drove right down with a fully bandaged face. Her friend sent me a message saying she was waiting for me, and that she was talking now.

When I got there she didn’t recognize me because I had a bandage covering most of my face. If I had painted a little nose on, I would have looked like on of Dr. Seuss’ Who characters from Whoville. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. She talked and laughed all night passing messages of love and even humor with one of her best friends and I, then later her daughter arrived from a very long drive to get to her. She still was having beautiful moments until I left late that night. I wouldn’t have missed that time for the world. The next morning, I came in and sat quietly across the room as her and her daughter slept. My GM had a rough night and was now on a morphine drip and anti-anxiety  meds. She was so peaceful, we thought we would have a little more time, but at 9:43am, I was holding her hand in my hands as she took her last breath.  All of this happened within six long, never-ending weeks.

I sit here now with stitches still in my face, feeling out of sorts and not quite like myself. I didn’t have any idea of how much of my identity I put into expressing my emotions through my face. I have never stuffed any kind of pain, so to have to constantly restrict what I can do and how my face moves, along with watching my tears because I need to make sure to keep my wound clean, has proven to be more challenging than I thought it would be. I see now how people can feel like they lose their identities when they have an injury or illness that restricts them from doing and acting the way they usually do. I get how it takes time to process the feelings that I never even knew I had inside.

My lesson is one of compassion for others. As I walk by people and they look at me and smile a sympathetic smile, I have to look down instead of smile back, because it causes too much physical pain. I am now more understanding to people who are suffering from emotional, mental, physical, and financial distress, because I truly have no idea what might have happened to that person in the last week, month or year.

On a logical and practical level, I know not to take other’s actions personally, but going through everything I just did in these last six weeks, I finally fully understand it in the heart now. I have had to let people have their journeys and experiences through all of this. Everyone views the end of life journey so differently. My kids had to see me after surgery and get the news that their JoJo passed all at once. I had to understand how scary seeing me stitched up and covered in bandages was for them and that it was also embarrassing in a way. I get that, I still get a little embarrassed, I can’t expect they wouldn’t. I feel like I could talk about it openly and help them deal with the guilt of feeling embarrassed. I could also let them feel the way they needed to about their JoJo, which is still not quite real to any of us yet.

I know there is still a lot of powerful lessons in all that happened over these last six weeks, but I also know how blessed I am. So many showed up and helped me and my kids through this piece of a very big and unfinished puzzle. I’m blessed because all the right things came together for my GM to have the most peaceful journey possible. I’m blessed because though these next few weeks will be rough as I have to control how my feelings release on the outside, I still have my fingers to type and so much love in my heart to continue on and know I will smile again.

I believe the world is filled with Earth Angels and I’m so grateful that so many have crossed my path and helped me to continue to see all the beauty in humanity. Though I’m going through some tough life lessons, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be-Itchy stitches and all. Even when the pain is SO real! The love can still always shine through if we keep our hearts open.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

 

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