This post took a lot of convincing before I started writing it. There is a chance that a lot of people I don’t know could end up reading it, so I had a hard time convincing myself to write it. When I decided to start blogging, I said I wanted to write about real life, so here it is. This is real life. This is as real as it gets…
Today would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a mama’s boy, and I’m proud of it. My mom was a really amazing person who touched so many lives. She taught pre-school for 20 years, and was loved by everyone who knew her. She lost her nearly 19 month battle with colon cancer in January 2008, but, as is always the case, life happened, because life happened. That may sound confusing, but stick with me.
I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason. It just does. Everything that happens in life leads you to whatever is next for you. The things that happen in life aren’t always what you want, but it’s all part of the journey through life. You can cry, yell, scream, swear, throw things, break things, have a complete breakdown, and try anything you want to numb the pain, but nothing will change the fact that you have to eventually face reality and deal with life.
Losing my mom was the worst thing that could have happened in my life. We were very close. I am the person I am today because of my mom. She taught me how to treat people and how to view the world. I am a very open-minded person who loves meeting new people. I don’t judge people. I am very understanding. I am probably the most patient person you could ever possibly meet in your entire life. I try my best to be kind and polite to everyone I meet in every situation. I love life and have a very positive view of the world. I always look at the bright side of things. I smile all the time. I believe in helping others. I believe in trying to find a way to brighten other people’s day, just because I can. I believe I am incredibly fortunate to be in the situation I’m in at all times, because I know there is always someone in a worse situation. I believe this world is an amazing place, and I feel that there are really great people everywhere in this world. I trust this journey we call life to all work out for the best in the end. I am the person I am and believe the things I believe because of my mom.
Later in my mom’s life, she and I traveled to several concerts. I grew up loving music, specifically country music, because of my mom. That shared love of music started when I was very young.
When I was 3 years old, my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “I want to be Randy Travis.” A couple of years later, she asked me again what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, “I want to be Garth Brooks.” The only thing that stopped me from following through with those dreams was lack of actual musical talent. I hear having musical talent helps when you want to grow up to be a musician. Crazy thought, I know. haha She never laughed, she never teased me, and she never told me to be realistic. She believed I could do anything I wanted to do in the future. I was surrounded by people who told me to “be realistic” when I was growing up. I was told all the time that I would never be able to do certain things. If my mom agreed with them, she never told me. She always encouraged me to do my best and keep moving forward.
Growing up, my mom never once missed one of my baseball or basketball games. She enjoyed sports, and she was there for every game I ever played.
As I got older, I never gave up on my crazy dream of getting into the music industry, even though I had no real talent. My mom and I attended every concert we possibly could within a reasonable distance from home. I honestly couldn’t even begin to guess how many concerts we watched together.
In August of 2006, my mom and I saw our favorite local band, 32 Below, play a show in downtown Fargo. The whole night, she kept saying how tired she felt and that her back was sore. Neither of us thought much of it. She had been working a lot of extra hours for the previous couple of weeks. She wasn’t the kind of person who complained about things, which is something I learned from her, also.
Over the next couple of weeks, she was in so much pain that she couldn’t stand it anymore. She went to the ER multiple times and was given different reasons for the pain. She was given medication and was sent home. None of it ever helped for more than a few hours.
At the end of that month, I was involved in a bad car accident, and my vehicle was totaled. It was the first day of school in my third year of college. I was one block from campus when the accident happened. I sprained my wrist and was in pain for a few weeks, but it was nothing major. Things could have been much worse, even though my car was totaled.
The weekend after my accident, my mom was, once again, in more pain than she could stand, and ended up in the ER again. This time, more tests were done, and she ended up having emergency surgery. She was diagnosed with colon cancer that night. The next several months brought a lot of ups and downs, but she was eventually declared cancer-free in the spring of 2007.
The middle part of 2007 seemed to be pretty great. Mom was doing well, and life seemed to be getting back to normal. That summer, 32 Below headlined a show at the fair in our hometown of West Fargo, ND. I had become friends with the band by that time, and was invited to hang out with them backstage that night.
During the show, the guys brought me up onstage with a video camera to record the crowd. It was a huge crowd and a great moment. I very clearly remember being front and center on the stage with the spotlight shining in my face, and I looked out at the grandstand. It’s hard to see very far with a spotlight shining in your face, but I saw my mom when I looked out at the grandstand. I saw the smile on her face. I wasn’t singing or playing any instruments with the band, but I was onstage with our favorite band. She knew it was a “dream come true” moment for me, and I think it was for her, too. I think I hid it pretty well, but I started crying on stage in front of 10,000 people. That is a moment I will never forget as long as I live.
Later that year, mom’s cancer came back and spread quickly. For me, knowing how well she had been doing for so long, it was hard to comprehend. I didn’t understand how things could change so suddenly.
In late 2007, the youngest of my three older brothers called me and told me to keep a night open that week so we could hang out. He’s a busy person, so that was a bit strange. We spent the evening together at a bar drinking, and, on the way to the bar, he explained to me that my mom was not doing well at all. I don’t know if I was just in denial or what the deal was, but I didn’t realize exactly what was happening before that night. We stayed at the bar drinking pitchers of beer and playing darts until closing time. When the bar closed, my brother went home, but I was still trying to process everything we had talked about that night. I still lived with my parents, and didn’t want to go home, knowing my mom would still be awake. I went to my best friend’s apartment, and ended up staying there. I wasn’t in a position to really deal with reality at that point, and tried my best to not remember that night. My mom called me at 3:30 AM and asked where I was, since I never came home. I just told her I was staying at my best friend’s apartment that night. I conveniently didn’t mention that I was in the process of making a liter of Jim Beam disappear, after closing down the bar with my brother. Let’s just say I had a pretty rough couple of days after that night. As common as it is to drink to forget about things when life gets tough, there wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to make me forget about what was about to happen.
I spent as much time with my mom as possible over the next couple of months. She was in too much pain to sleep in bed, so she slept in the recliner in the living room every night. Every night, I would sit on the couch and talk to her and watch TV with her until she fell asleep. After she fell asleep, I would sit there for hours and watch her until I finally fell asleep, too.
In the days, weeks, and months after my mom passed away, my family spent a lot of time together. In my opinion, it was a lot of time spent together, but not really dealing with the loss we had suffered. We were together physically, but we never really talked about what had just happened. Maybe that was fine for everybody else, but it wasn’t fine for me. I need to talk about things in order to deal with them. My family has never been the kind of family that has shared our emotions. Growing up, we rarely hugged or kissed each other. Crying was something that would result in me getting laughed at by one of my brothers when I was little, so I learned to not cry as much growing up.
I went through some tough times in high school where I pretty much hit rock bottom and was completely depressed. Hardly anyone knew, and I wanted it to stay that way. I learned at that time that I couldn’t bottle things up inside of me. I needed to get everything out. I needed to talk to people. In college, I started writing when I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
After my mom passed away, I think my family thought I was trying to ignore what had happened and that I was hiding from it, but I started spending a lot of time away from home with friends. I felt more comfortable at that time with my friends. I talked. I let everything out, and they listened, whether they wanted to listen or not. Eventually, I started traveling more often to 32 Below concerts. I started traveling longer distances for their shows. That time spent alone in my car allowed my mind to wander. Even though I was by myself, I could feel like I was talking to someone. I just let out all of my thoughts. It was like therapy for me. I could get out any emotions I needed to get out, and then I could go to a concert when I got to my destination. The more I traveled, the better I got to know the band. I started offering to help with certain things after the shows so I could stay at the venues longer. I didn’t want to go home. I eventually ended up traveling across the country with the band for six years selling their merchandise. It was an amazing experience. I still consider those years to be the best years of my life. The thing that never changed in all of that time was the difficulty of dealing with the anniversary of the day I lost my mom and her birthday every year when those dates fell on days that I was on the road.
It’s funny how things work out in life when you stop and take time to look back later. You may find yourself in situations that seem like the end of the world. You may think you’ll never get through the hard times that life makes you deal with at times, but you just have to keep living and know that things will eventually turn around. Losing my mom was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve never gotten over it. I never will get over it. It hurts. It hurts bad. It hurts every single day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, 9 1/2 years after she passed away. I also never would have felt the need to get away from home and start traveling if I hadn’t lost my mom. I never would have spent the best years of my life on the road if I hadn’t had to learn to deal with that loss. I wouldn’t have quit college if I hadn’t lost my mom. I wouldn’t have ended up eventually going back to school and moving to Florida if things hadn’t happened the way they did.
As horrible as things can be sometimes, you have to remember that everything happens for a reason. Everything that happens in your life, whether it’s good or bad, leads you to what is next. Life is a journey. It’s a series of events over many years that eventually lead you to your destination. I would give anything to have my mom back again. 53 years is just not long enough to do everything that we all want to do on this planet. I always find a way to look at things in a positive way though. As horrible as losing my mom was, and as much as I wish it had never happened, I know that it was just part of the journey. It has led me to where I am today. It has helped me to realize how important the things she taught me were. It has made me realize that my mom isn’t really gone. The older I get, the more like her I become. She lives on in me. She lives on in my brothers. She lives on in our whole family. She lives on in the hearts of everyone she knew.
Looking back at how life has changed since January of 2008, I wish my mom could have seen the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been. My life has not gone even close to the way she would have wanted, but I know deep down that she would be happy and would be proud of me. I really can’t ask for more than that. I wish she could have been around to see this journey I’ve been on, but life happened. And because life happened… life happened.
Happy Birthday, mom!! I love you!!