Time Lost and The Last Hug I’ll Never Get
Tuesday, February 12th, 2019. It was early in the morning and I’d risen and prepared to shine as only I could. My husband (then fiance) had already left for work. At that time, I was between jobs, recovering from surgery, and had the house and the day to myself. There was lots of cleaning to do. I’d even made a spreadsheet to break down, room by room, how I was going to tackle the task. Bur first? Food. I popped a veggie burrito into the microwave, waited impatiently for it to “ding”, and then carefully chowed down on my mostly warm breakfast. I thought about everything I had to get done that day and decided the best course of action would be to hop back into bed and catch a couple more “Z”s first. You know, to really power myself up. Dressed in a Princess Leia nighty, I curled up under the blankets and prepared to drift off again and then awake ready to start my day, just a little later than I’d anticipated. Fate, unfortunately, had something else in store.
As I was just getting comfortable, my phone rang. It was probably my Mom. It was usually my Mom. But, this time, her boyfriend, Alan’s, name flashed across the screen. Being the anxious, neurotic, Jewish girl that I am (that is, my Mother’s daughter) I held my breath and wondered why he was calling me instead of her. Had something happened? Was she in the hospital? What was going on? I answered the phone.
“Something happened to your Mom,” he said, “She died.”
It was from that point on that my life of twenty-eight years would be forever altered.
Panicking, I tried to numb myself to the news that had just been thrust upon me. He told me I had to get over to his house right now. I leapt out of bed, haphazardly pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and, crying my eyes out, called for a Lyft to pick me up. I wandered outside into the dark, cold early morning void, tears streaming down my face. I screamed and fell to my knees on the pavement, sobbing uncontrollably. The worst had happened and I was terrified.
My Mom’s house was less than a half-hour away, but the Lyft ride felt like an eternity. On the way, I told the driver what had happened as if to explain why I was getting into a car at six in the morning, utterly hysterical, and inconsolable.
I remember seeing the cop cars in the driveway and that’s when I knew it was real. She’d had an apparent heart attack in her sleep and that was it. I couldn’t go look at her. I was so traumatized by the news already that I feared what it would be like to see my Mother lying dead in her bed. I just couldn’t take it and I knew from that point on, that was the first grownup decision of the countless grownup decisions I would have to make by myself for the rest of my life.
It wasn’t until later that day, though, that the most gut-wrenching realization hit me.
I thought about the last time I saw her. Not the last time we spoke — that had been the evening prior via text. No, the last time I saw her I remembered clear as day. The vivid vision of my leaving her house after having dinner, rushing to get into the car with my fiance.
She said, “You’re always running,” and I never even hugged her goodbye. As usual, and forever, she was right and she always will be.
My lack of patience could place me as a gold medalist were it an Olympic sport. I never had time for her. I never stopped running around. The Yiddish phrase “zitsn af shpilkes” is one that I heard a lot growing up and it describes me to a “T”. It means sitting on pins and needles. That is, the kind of nervous energy that always has someone on the edge of their seat.
To this day, all I have left are my memories. And to this day, I still ruminate on the notion of time lost. I sit and think about all the missed opportunities I had to just sit and listen. To spend time with my Mother without feeling a need to flee and go on to whatever my next adventure would be. The words will forever echo in my mind until the day I die: “You’re always running,” and nothing will ever silence them.
I was close with my Mother all her life. We often bickered and got on each others’ nerves but I knew I could tell her anything and she always had a way of reassuring me that everything would be alright. The realization that I never said a proper goodbye to her has left a void in me that will always be empty. The hollow, horrid feeling that I was a bad daughter. That I was always running. I often wonder what she thought about that night I left without hugging her goodbye. I wonder what she thought when she crossed over into the great beyond, knowing that she was leaving this earthly realm behind.
I hope she died knowing that I loved her with all of my heart and every fiber of my being. I hope that wherever she is now, that she is looking down on me and knows how much I love and miss her.
When I was writing her eulogy, I recalled the night before she died and the last thing I ever said to her. I had been out all day at a fitting for a role with Central Casting. I was to be a background extra for an episode of a popular TV show and had spent the whole day in Downtown LA getting dressed up and measured and photographed and all. I had taken a Lyft there and then, before catching another Lyft home, I stopped by an eatery that I liked but didn’t often frequent as I live, as they say, “over the hill” in the San Fernando Valley. I remember texting my Mom a photo of the sausages and beer in which I’d indulged. I kept thinking about calling her but got sidetracked with texting friends and then wrapped up in conversation with my Lyft driver on the way back home. As I walked into the house, I pulled out my phone to text my Mom and let her know I’d arrived home and was ok. I simply texted the word, “Home” and she responded with, “Ok”. That was the last conversation we ever had.
No hug goodbye. No “I love you”. No last look at the woman who brought me into this world, raised me, made me who I am today, and loved me fiercely and unconditionally. All I had was “Home” and “Ok”. And that was it.
In her eulogy, I wrote:
Because, if you know Jewish mothers — especially my Jewish mother — one of the most important things was to let her know when I’d arrived safely anywhere, especially when I’d get home.
And it’s true. She only ever just wanted to make sure that I was ok.
I still agonize about the night I ran off and the fact that I never said “I love you” to her one last time. Thoughts fill my mind about being a bad daughter, inadequate, unappreciative, and selfish. In my darkest moments, I’ve sobbed uncontrollably, wishing I could take back my actions, hoping for a “do-over” that will never happen, cursing myself for what was, admittedly, a simple and human mistake.
The one thing I take solace in is knowing that the last thing I ever said to her was a reassurance that I was ok. Albeit a simple gesture, a Jewish mother worries, and taking the time to assuage those concerns is really just another way of saying, “I love you”.
The final line of my eulogy was as follows:
[And] I just want you to know that I’ve made it home safely and I believe you have too.