The Motherless Mothers Day

Today has been exactly one month to the day since my mother passed away. Yesterday I went to see a grief counselor, to help in this healing process. She told me that all of the “firsts” are going to be the hardest. The first Mothers Day, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, etc. Unfortunately for me my first motherless Mothers Day is so soon, this Sunday to be exact.

My mom is not here, so I can’t spend the day with her or lavish her with gifts. The only thing I can do is celebrate her, and pour myself into my own children. One thing I want to do for her this Mothers Day though is tell you about her. I want my readers to know about the woman who made me into what I am, because if you ever see a good quality in me, you can be sure it came from her.

I could tell you that my mothers favorite color was purple, or that her favorite flowers were lilies. I could tell you that she was a petite woman with dark blonde hair, and greenish- hazel colored eyes. I could tell you that she wore Hanae Mori perfume from the “Butterfly” collection, which is ironic because she hated butterflies. I could tell you that she tanned well in the summer, and how much she loved bathing in the sun. I could tell you that she loved to read, and her favorite kind of stories were mysteries and science fiction. I could tell you all of these things but they wouldn’t matter to you if you never knew her. So I want you to know her, at least how I knew her.

My mom was the oldest of her 3 sisters, born an identical twin though sadly her twin sister, Rhonda, passed away shortly after birth. Her parents were divorced, though both of her parents remained very involved with their girls. She grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, where she would later raise my brother and myself as well. She was beautiful and outgoing. Somewhat rebellious, but never reckless. She loved aqua-net hairspray, and was a perfectionist with a bottle of nail polish. She liked to chat over a cup of coffee on the front porch in the fall. She loved to think about the conspiracies of the world, like “is Big Foot real,” and “what is really hiding at Area 51?” She loved to sing even though she wasn’t very good at it. She was goofy in a good way. For example, she liked to pretend she had a British or an Irish accent and get to talking about anything and everything just to make people laugh. She enjoyed making fairy gardens, and painting rocks with her grand kids. We had our own secret language that few could understand, and we would speak it to each other when a message needed to be relayed for our ears only. She was feisty with a kind spirit, and had an amazing capability to care for others. Her grand children meant everything to her, and there’s no argument that she was absolutely the best mother she could be.

She had me when she was young. She was 16 when she became pregnant with me, and 17 when she gave birth to me. The first selfless thing she ever did for me was make the choice to keep me. A scared teenage mother chose to give up her own dreams and devote herself to a baby who didn’t ask to be born. Some people might think that a teenage mom couldn’t be a great mother, but boy would she prove those people wrong. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother if I was able to hand pick her myself. Since she was young when she had me, we got to grow up together. To give you a visual, think “Gilmore Girls” but blonde. In a lot of ways my mom and I also had a sister-like relationship, and she was my best friend all of my life. I am glad she didn’t wait, even though I’m sure that it put a lot of hardship on her to be such a young mother. Knowing now her fate to die early in life, being a young mom gave us more time together.

My mom was the kind of mom that would give you the last of her ice cream just because you asked for it, even if you already scarfed down your own, and even though it was chocolate with peanut butter cups which was her favorite. She was the mom who picked you up for lunch every day in second grade to make your favorite lunch and help you with your school work, because your ADD was holding you back in school but she wanted to help you catch up instead of medicate you. She was the mom that wouldn’t allow you watch scary movies, but still let you sleep in her bed late at night when you got scared because you sneakily watched them anyways at a friends house.

She was the kind of mom that woke you up early every morning in junior high school to do your hair and makeup for you, because your coming of age self didn’t know how to apply eyeliner to save your life. She was the kind of mom that helped you late night cram the project for school that you procrastinated for weeks. She was the kind of mom that stayed up all hours curled up on the sofa consoling you through your first heart break. She was also the kind of mom that helped you plot revenge against the first boy who broke your heart. She was the kind of mom who forgave you for being a rotten teenager, and loved you through all your mistakes.

She was the kind of mom who helped you move across the country when you became married at 18, even though it broke her heart. She was the kind of mom who put you on her cell phone plan because the two of you talked so often that the bill was outrageous (this was back before everything was unlimited). She was the kind of mom that couldn’t stand the distance between the two of you so she also moved across the country just to be near you and your children. She was the kind of mom that gave you good advice when you had marriage quarrels instead of just getting mad with you.

She was the kind of mom that even when she got sick she watched your kids for you until she couldn’t anymore. She was the kind of mom that you stayed every night you could at the hospital when she wasn’t doing well, because you know she would do the same for you. She was the kind of mom that you prayed fervently for that God would give her just one more day. She was the kind of mom that even in her suffering she would comfort you and tell you that everything is going to be okay. She was the kind of mom who used her last breath to tell you that she loves you always. She was the kind of mom that leaves an imprint in your heart forever, even after she is gone. She was the kind of mom that you want to be for your children, and that’s how she will live on.

This Mothers Day my mom isn’t with me. However she does get to be in heaven with her mom, and I’m sure you can probably guess that her mom was just as great as her. So, happy Mothers Day in heaven this year mamma! Give Grandma a hug for me. If your mom is still here this mothers day please give her your love. Spend the day with her if you can. Send her (or bring her) flowers. Tell her you love her. Don’t take her for granted.

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The Day The World Didn’t Stop… But It Should Have.

My mother was very sick for a long time. She already beat cancer once, but in January of 2017 (just at the mark of what would have been her five year remission) it came back. She had cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus, however this time it came back in her lymph nodes. I remember standing there in a state of numbness while the doctor’s voice sounded like something from an episode of the Peanuts cartoon (Charlie Brown), “wa wa wa” as she told my mother that she had 6-18 months to live.

She put up a good fight but around 13 months after her re-diagnosis she became sick with an infection. Her immune system couldn’t handle much more and she ended up being admitted to the hospital. Eventually she went into respiratory failure and became intubated. She spent the last 3 months of her life in the hospital, and the last 3 weeks of that on a ventilator. They knew that she was going to be on the ventilator long term, so after a couple days they trached her. There is much more about her condition that contributed to that, but that is for another time. However due to the tracheotomy she was moved to a specialty hospital that was an hour away from our home town.

Between my brother, dad, grandfather, and myself we did our best to make sure that she was never alone. She was awake and very much aware. Often times she was capable of making her own decisions and could communicate with a dry erase board that I bought her. We got to spend a lot of quality time together, and I was really good a reading her lips. She was impressed with how well I could read her lips, because we were able to have full fluid conversations without the dry erase board for the most part. Little did she realize that I was able to read her lips long before she was in that condition. She was, and still is, my greatest idol, of course I could read her lips, I have been watching her in admiration before I could talk. Anyways, we never wanted her to be alone because her anxiety was very bad. One night when I stayed with her she asked me to make up my hospital chair bed right next to her bedside so that we could hold hands while we slept. I did, and I will always cherish that.

We were fortunate to get the chance to celebrate one last Easter together, and my 29th birthday too. On Easter my husband and I brought the kids up to see her, the whole family was there. We had taken the kids shopping the day before and made her an Easter basket full of goodies. The kids got to dye Easter eggs with her, fake ones that we can hold dear forever. For my birthday we got a cake (per her request) and we all met her up at the hospital to celebrate together. She was able to eat things of a certain consistency, so she enjoyed some jello while we had cake. We shared the left over cake with the hospital staff. My mom was so happy for this. There’s nothing she loved more than spending time with her family, especially getting to see her grand-kids.

Late one night after my husband and I had a wonderful visit with mom that day, I was at home sleeping when I got a phone call. It was 2 in the morning, and I knew that only meant bad news. My brother had stayed that night with my mom, but it was my dad that called me. He told me that my brother had called him and said we’d better get up there, that mom was passing away. My heart sank and I quickly jumped in my car. I must have cut that hour drive down to 40 minutes at least. When I got there she was still awake, but she was fading fast. I grabbed onto her hand and said, “mamma I’m here. I love you!” I read her lips and she said, “love you”. At a loss for words I said it again, “I love you”, and again she said, “love you”. Then she mouthed a word that even I had a hard time making out, but upon reflection I believe she said, “always”, and that was the last thing my beautiful mother ever said.

Shortly after I got there they gave her some medication to keep her comfortable, without pain, and help her to not be anxious. After that she became very relaxed. I held one of her hands and my brother held onto the other. We talked to her, and to each other. At one point she squeezed both of our hands very tightly, as if to tell us she was still there. I know she meant it as a hug goodbye.

My grandfather showed up and said a prayer over her. He couldn’t stand to stay and watch his little girl die, so my brother offered to walk him to his car. My dad took over holding her hand, the one that my brother was holding. As we both held her hands, we were talking about how we were partially glad for her that her suffering was coming to an end. With that my mom took one last breath and let it out, almost like a sigh of relief, and she was gone. At 5 o’clock in the morning on April 11th 2018, right in the palm of my hand my mommy left this world, and went home to be with Jesus. It’s amazing when you watch someone die, you realize how our bodies are really just shells for our souls. When she let out that breath her skin felt different almost immediately, her color changed, and I knew that she had left her body. What laid before me was a beautiful empty shell where my mother used to reside. I don’t care what anyone believes, but you cannot experience something like that without coming to the conclusion that there is definitely something- somewhere beyond us. I call it Heaven, but whatever you want to call it, its real.

As soon as she took her last breath my brother came back in. I was sad for him that he missed it, but if I know my mom (and I do) I really believe that she waited for him to step out so she could go. He was her baby, and she didn’t want him to see that. He rushed to her side and reclaimed the hand my dad kept warm for him. Eventually the nurses came in and offered to “make her look more comfortable” if we would step out for a moment. I just remember my brother not wanting to let go of her hand, because he said he didn’t want it to get cold. That shattered my already broken heart.

When my brother was ready we left the room, and went to sit in his car to wait. While we sat in the car in the silence of disbelief, the sun began to rise. The sun coming out felt like a slap in the face, like someone rubbing salt in the wound. That’s when it hit me… My whole world just stopped, yet the world around me was going to go on like nothing happened. How? How is it possible to keep going on like that? How can I rise up like the sun for a new day? How?

Charlene Dawne Stewart, she made it 15 months after her diagnosis. She was only 46 years young. November 18, 1971 – April 11, 2018.

This is my journey to finding out “how” to be me without her.

Under Attack!

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I haven’t posted in a long time. Ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, I have avoided the blog. I have decided that I really need to pick right back up. If you look around, you’ll notice some changes to the blog (and more to come) I am embarking on some fun adventures these days. But that will be another post, announcement pending.

Tonight’s post is going to be one that I have been dreading to post, the very reason I haven’t posted in so long. As a matter of fact it is hard for me to even form the words needed for this post. The things bouncing around in my head aren’t exactly easy to articulate, they’re more like feelings, so bare with me…

This year has been the worst year of my entire life, bar none. From my mom’s cancer, to my own mysterious health problems, other family emergencies, and every day there is seemingly something else. From an outsiders perspective it probably doesn’t look that bad. In fact I have accomplished a lot of great things this year, and from what people tell me I seem to be holding together very well! I get complimented all the time about how “strong” I am. I continue to push that on. I try not to complain often (hens the absence of posts), and when people ask me how I am doing I almost always answer with a “good” or “I’m doing alright!” But the truth is, I am not doing alright.

I have battled with diagnosed clinical depression and anxiety for the last decade. No one would really know it these days, because with the help of the Lord and great support of friends and doctors I considered myself to have overcome my depression, for at least the last 3-4 years. What does that mean exactly? Well, to put it simply I suppose I would say that for the last 3-4 years I have been able to live my life without the feeling of a thousand pound weight sitting on my chest.

I started feeling my depression sneaking back in a few months ago. It feels like you’re treading in deep dark waters, struggling to keep your head above the water while everyone just watches you drown… Believe me I have tried so hard to pray it away, unfortunately all that has seemed to accomplish is making me question if my faith is strong enough, because the dark and empty won’t stop. I haven’t said anything to anyone. I feel like as an outspoken Christian woman, I am supposed to set an example or something. People come to me for prayer, and what if they know that I struggle? I sit and minister to women weekly and what if they know that I can’t even help myself? How can they trust me? Am I a fraud? If people know, they’ll look at me differently… These are some of the thoughts that attack me, and hold me back from reaching out, from seeking help.

The truth is I know that I am not alone. I can’t be. Especially in the Christian community, I think a lot of us feel this way. Scared to talk about things, but we NEED to talk! Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Obviously Jesus is telling us to speak up when we are in need, so why wouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t I? I firmly believe that these thoughts that we can’t reach out for help in fear of judgment (or any other reason) are a tactic of the enemy. It is his intention to get us isolated, if we believe we are alone then we are easier for him to devour. Just like any predator will go after the straggler of a herd, the loner, the one that falls behind. Think animal kingdom, anytime you see a lion sink it’s teeth into a gazelle it’s always the one that the lion was able to isolate from the herd. Did you know that a single herd of gazelles can have up to 700 members in it? Still the lion will attack even when it is outnumbered. Think about that for a moment. No matter how big your church is, no matter how strong your faith is, if the enemy can isolate you, he will attack! No one is exempt from this.

So as my counter attack on the enemy, I am speaking out! I am not alone. I know there are others out there wanting to do the same, and I am here to tell you that you are not alone either. Despite what you think, people care… I care. God cares! I like to always think that God has a purpose for my pain. I don’t believe that He causes my pain, but I do believe that He won’t waste my suffering. If God can use my struggle to minister to someone I always allow myself to be used by the Lord. Maybe this post is His way of doing that, I dunno. But, what I do know is that I am suffering right now, and if you are too don’t be afraid to ask for help! I have overcome this before, and because of that I know that what God does one time, He will do it again.

One last thought before I go off to bed. If you know someone who struggles with depression, just be there for them. The other day I had a complete melt down. I mean, ugly crying okay. I was in that isolation and having terrible thoughts. I called my cousin in Hawaii (even though it was like 5 in the morning for her) and she stayed on the phone with me for nearly 4 hours (on and off). She isn’t a therapist or anything, she didn’t have magic words to make it all go away, but just by being on the phone with me, listening to me, and encouraging me, she really helped me off of a cliff that day. You don’t have to understand, you don’t even have to fix it, just be there.

Love you all,
Alyssa Joan

Love wins!

I don’t really know how to begin this blog post.

I guess I’ll just start with a back story. Five years ago as of January 18th my mom, Charlene was declared cancer free, and she was considered to be in remission. She is the strongest most beautiful woman I know. Even cancer couldn’t taint her beauty and grace. She had stage 3 cervical cancer and a 70% survival rate. She beat the odds and I never doubted for a moment that she would.

This week was particularly hard for my family. Just six days after the anniversary of her survival date, she landed in the hospital. Her lungs were filling with fluid among other things and her doctor had her admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital. After four days and three nights of being poked and prodded at the results came in.

We had waited intently for these results but as the doctor walked through the door I can remember thinking how I wanted to just stay in this limbo of not knowing. The doctor didn’t waste any time to let us know that her cancer has returned. This time in her lymph nodes. Everything sounded muffled as the doctor said things like, “now is the time to surround yourself with loved ones”. I felt a lump in my throat and I couldn’t even swallow.

I couldn’t say anything, all I could do was lift my tear filled eyes up to a cross that hung on the hospital room wall. I clung to that cross the entire time the doctor spoke, as she gave numbers I gave all my thoughts to God. I couldn’t find the words to pray in that moment but I just thought, “No, that cross has the final word, God has the final report.”

I don’t accept the doctor’s report. I respect the doctor and her report don’t get me wrong. But my faith is strong and I have hope that by the stripes of Jesus my mother will yet again overcome this. The Bible says that we may come boldly to God’s throne when we are sick asking for his mercy and healing. Jesus still has the power to heal us, and if what I am asking for is a miracle, then I come boldly to the throne of God and I declare that my Jesus is STILL in the business of making miracles, and I won’t move until I see it happen!

I ask that you will all believe this with me. Please pray for my mom and stand in agreeance with me today that in the name of Jesus she will be healed. Please add her to your prayer list’s and remember her in your nightly prayers.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
-Hebrews 4:16