I won’t lie. It’s a difficult holiday to enjoy since my mom died Nov. 30, 2010, just a few days after that year’s Thanksgiving.
Two years ago, Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 25. My mother was in her final days of battling a myelodisplastic syndrome, a blood cancer that’s ordinarily treatable in younger, healthier patients. She had elected to forego treatment, and so her days were numbered. My wife and kids and I ate Thanksgiving dinner at home, hoping my mother would be well enough to enjoy a family get-together that Saturday, the only day everyone in the family could manage to clear their schedules.
It didn’t work out. By Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, it was clear her death was imminent. She drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes recognizing her children, sometimes not. I don’t remember the next few days very well. I don’t recall which days and nights I spent at her condo and which days and nights I spent at home waiting for the call. It all kind of blends together in my mind. Sitting on the couch at her place, sitting on the couch at home; reading deposition transcripts and briefs, struggling to work, to find something distract my mind from the inevitable. It’s all kind of a blur.
I do remember that I elected to stay home Monday night. That was November 29. A few of my siblings were staying at the condo, but she was essentially unresponsive and I’d spent an awful lot of time there in the weeks leading up to the end. I told myself I needed some sleep, but that was a lie. I was just burnt out.
You always remember the phone ringing in these awful situations. I wonder what it will be like in the future when landlines are no longer in use. There’s nothing like the ring of a landline phone in the middle of the night; it’s always the worst possible news.
So the call came around 3:00 a.m. – maybe 3:30 a.m. – on Tuesday, Nov. 30. It’s not that I didn’t know it was coming, and I wasn’t really sleeping anyway, but it’s really not any easier when you know it’s coming.
Anyone who’s lucky enough to be living in America has a lot to be thankful for. Trust me, I appreciate that. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Thanksgiving itself, as a holiday and a family celebration, will never be quite the same.