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Staring Down Cancer

Saying goodbye

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I am in Cleveland, clearing out cupboards, closets, drawers etc., with the hope of getting my parents' home ready to sell after 45 years.  My parents are moving to assisted-living, which will make life easier for them.  My mom’s arthritis is so bad that she can barely get up a flight of stairs to the bedroom.

Once again, we find the sexes to be emotional opposites.  Working with my mom is slow.  She sits while I pull things out of cupboards, and then it’s either thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  Her entire life is in this house and letting go is very difficult.  All the papers and cards my 8 siblings and I made in grade school…the arts and crafts, the report cards…the christening gown we all wore, the First Communion dresses.  I can see a little piece of her heart fall away each time she says no.  But as we whittle-away, I can see that elimination process is going to have to be re-done at least 3 more times before that move into their 1,000 square foot apartment.

When I'm working with my dad, cleaning out his drawers and closet it's very simple.  He's a yes/no guy.  Even when I found cards and letters from the kids he was able to detach and forward these items to the garbage bag.  It was so much easier for him to let go.  I really believe he could grab 2 suits, 3 sweaters, his workout outfit, tennis shoes, a few books and a few framed pictures, and walk out the door.

Yesterday my mom said, "What am I going to do when you leave?"  It made me feel so awful.  I explained that I would be back as often as I could, "I promise, Mom."  The next thing she said was so interesting, but so deep, sad and real.  She said:  "I wish my mom was here."

No matter how old we are, the comfort of our mother is something we yearn for.  She protected us, guided us and made us feel we could accomplish anything.

Loss.  Losing your home after 45 years, losing your independence, losing your health.  They are all tough.  Every one feels and deals with these issues differently.  For me, the loss of my health was catastrophic.  But, as I work to whittle-away the beautiful life my mom and dad created for us 9 kids, I fear their death more than anything. How will I be able to deal with such grief?  It’s going to be painful, but no one lives forever.

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.