March 7, 1991 -The Day My Sky Fell


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My mother died 25 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I thought it was about time I wrote about how losing her has changed the way I see the world, has changed me and what it’s been like trying to get my head around it all.

It’s true what they say, you can never really understand what it’s like until it happens to you. I once described losing my mother as like the sky suddenly falling down. My mother carried me for 9 months, gave birth to me, was the first sight I ever set my eyes upon, fed me when I was hungry, got no sleep for months when I woke her up crying at night, changed my diapers, watched me smile when I recognized her face, started to crawl, took my first steps, said my first word. She was always there for me, every memory I’ve ever had growing up has her in it.

When I was upset she was there to cheer me up. When I needed advice it was her I sought out. And when I stepped out of line it was her who put me back in step. She was a strong, loving mother who I always knew was on my side, would do anything for me and my siblings and gave us the perfect upbringing that made us the people we are today. I’d known her as my mother and as I became an adult I knew her as the woman, Dianne Bechtold, with a devilish sense of humor and a certain innocence about her. She was the most wonderful person I’ve ever known. She had always been a huge part of my life and now that she’s gone I realize that I’d always assumed she would be. You never expect the sky to fall down, the sky is always there and always will be. And that’s exactly how I felt about my mother.

When my brother-in-law, Kevin, called me early one morning to tell me my mother was in the hospital and that they thought she had a heart attack the first words I said to him were “you’re joking”. Obviously he wouldn’t, but my instinct was that it couldn’t be happening. When I arrived at the Wagner Hospital I remember meeting the nurse – Nette -and her telling me mom had died. It just didn’t seem real – I was numb. I arrived home as my family was meeting with the pastor. My dad came over to me and something I didn’t expect then happened. All my life my dad  and mom had been the one to comfort me in times of sadness but this time he was the one holding onto me and I was the one comforting him. It’s times like that you realize when you’ve grown up and become an adult. We were both inconsolable and if you ever find yourself imagining what a situation like that is like, imagine it a million times worse. Even then, I still just couldn’t believe it.

In the months after her death I just couldn’t grasp that she was gone. I’d walk past a book store and my first thought would be to take her there the next time she was in town. I’d see something on TV that I knew she’d be interested in and I’d go to pick up the phone and call her before reality hit me. It was as though my brain just wouldn’t accept that she was gone forever.

Whenever I’d visit my father’s house I’d come down in the morning before anyone else was up and watch TV and lounge like I always did. I’d be sitting there waiting for her to come in and sit next to me, with her cup of coffee, like she always did. I cried far more after she died but on mornings like that I could never hold back the tears, sat there sobbing on my own waiting for someone that was supposed to always be there who I started to realize never would be again.

After some time – I couldn’t tell you how much – my brain dealt with things in a different way. I seemed to accept that she was gone and didn’t find myself about to call her any more. Instead she kept turning up in my dreams. Sometimes the dreams would be set in my childhood and it was only when I woke up that I’d feel sad, knowing I’d seen her again, or feel happy because it felt like I’d spent some more fleeting moments with her. More upsetting were the dreams where I knew she was dead in the real world, and in the dream she did too and I was just talking to her telling her how I missed her. Waking up would just take me away from her. If I were a spiritual person I’d feel comforted that maybe she was reaching out to me from beyond the grave, but unfortunately I know better and it’s my mind coming to terms with her death showing me what it thinks I want to see – or something like that. The dreams started to fade away (although they do come back from time to time) and I found that my mind seemed to understand that she was gone. It was as though in the preceding years (and it took that long) my brain had been drip-feeding me little bits at a time rather than trying to get my head around the concept that my mother was gone all at once.

It’s a good thing I didn’t take it all in at once – because it’s such an utterly terrible thing to have to get used to and live with. I feel so bad for friends who lose parents now – because I know that it actually never gets any easier with time – you have to carry the pain and burden for the rest of your life. The only thing that changes is that you learn to live with it in your own way.

As I said at the start, not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.   That being said, here are some things that always help me remember her:

Pink Fuzzy Slippers – People always wonder why I could run so fast in high school. Just make Mrs. B mad and have her chase you in those. For a small woman she could move. I remember (she thought we were sleeping) when she would sneak off in those slippers and a bathrobe to Pat’s place. Mom had given up smoking (cough ,cough) and her and Pat would drink coffee and I am sure smoke until the early morning hours.

Books – I got my love for reading from my mother. She was always reading a book or two. My first shop project (after the dreaded cutting board) was book shelves for mom to put her library in.

Her Green Thumb – she loved to garden and can food. She loved plants. Obviously, I should have taken more lessons from her (I can’t keep any plant alive).

Crocheting – She loved to crochet  and latch hook – I think my sister, Tonia, has taken up this love from mom.

Avon Ambulance – Avon still has an ambulance thanks to my mom and several other good Samaritans that kept the ambulance service alive, funded, and with trained staff. It was so ironic – she would leave us with a heart issue as she made it her goal to have all the kids in high school trained in CPR.

Grandchildren – Even though mom only got to meet Justin, I know she would be very proud of how her grandchildren have grown.  I still am saddened she did not get to meet them all here on Earth.

Family – Mom inspired a sense of love. She may not have always told you she loved you – but you knew. You could see the smile on her face when you did something she was proud of.

 

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