It’s been a year since that frozen moment in the Atlanta airport waiting for my connection home. It was expected. I knew it was coming. It still brought me to my knees.
My phone rang and I saw who was calling, my phone dangling from the cord where it was charging after my first flight toward home, in the middle of the airport near the gate I needed to make it back to Savannah.
I’d flown to Sacramento because Pat was in the hospital after falling at home early one morning. The call was frantic. The details filling up my head, my head spinning, my surroundings blurring in a wave of confusion and disbelief.
The racking sobs and realization that by the time I got to California, she may be gone.
But she wasn’t.
Days filled with doctors and teeter-totter details. Preparing for rehab for an injured back, then preparing for comfort care.
Trying to stay in the back ground because this wasn’t my real mom by birth or legality. Not knowing my place. Feeling, more now than ever, that it wasn’t my place. I wasn’t part of the family. I was there for others.
But in the airport when she said, ‘She’s gone.’ the loss was great. So much more than when my real mom died so many years ago. The childhood loss of a mother in such a dysfunctional setting was devasting, but different.
This loss was the end of the connection to a mother who saved me in young adulthood; who saved the life of my unborn child; who led me through those years of struggle, gave me guidance, accepted me for who I was and the choices I’d made. This was the loss of my girl’s grandmother.
I knew it was coming. I knew she didn’t want us there in the room when she left. She managed to make her journey back to her beloved husband how she wanted, but I was devastated to not be holding her hand; to not see her eyes one more time.
But I know she is okay now.
I have a short flight home to compose myself.
I missed my daughter’s 18th birthday.
But I use all the love and lessons I learned from Pat; her love for her children, her love of life, her ability to give so much without knowing how much she gave.
She never believed she literally saved my life.
But she did.
I love you, Pat! I will see you again.