It was a Tuesday, just like this year.
It was a Tuesday because that’s when flights were cheapest.
They were waiting for me to fly home from Orlando before they took her off life support.
So I could be there.
I left the happiest place on earth and got on a plane for the first time since I was three months old.
I prayed that no one would talk to me.
The woman sitting next to me began telling her other neighbor that she was flying home to take her daughter off of life support.
The irony didn’t make me want to talk more or cry less.
They picked me up from the airport, all of them together. We make a big group.
We didn’t rush. There was no reason to rush.
I hadn’t seen her since February, when she was still awake. She already couldn’t talk then.
I hadn’t heard her speak since Thanksgiving. I hadn’t understood what she said for far longer than that. By this point, I was already having trouble remembering what her voice sounded like.
I remember coming home from college for Thanksgiving and nearly sobbing the moment I saw her. I had been home in early October for my brother’s wedding. In less than two months, she had become a walking skeleton. It was terrifying.
I remember her coming home on Christmas Eve after her first hospital-worthy scare. She was so upset that she hadn’t gotten to wrap all the presents for us. I found the ones still hidden and tried to understand from her who they were for so that I could wrap them. She was in too much pain to focus for long.
I remember watching my little sister, not yet sixteen, feeding our mother through a feeding tube. I had tried to protect her from reality for so long, but I had left for college, and here she was: an adult way too early.
I remember sitting on the bed in my apartment in Orlando when I got the call from my father. It was Sunday. It was Mother’s Day. I needed to come home.
I had never bought a plane ticket. Someone had once said that they were cheaper on Tuesdays.
Wednesday was my little sister’s sixteenth birthday.
I was trying to save money for my next semester of school. I told them I would buy an early flight on Tuesday.
There was no allowance for bereavement leave at my job. I told one of my managers why I had to go, and she said she would take me off the schedule for a week.
I Googled taxi companies and called one to pick me up at six in the morning on Tuesday. I had never taken a taxi. I was more scared than I wanted to admit.
I had always thought the first time I flew would be exciting. I guess it still was. The excitement just got covered up.
I was the only one who hadn’t been around at all in the last few months. When we arrived at the hospital, they said I didn’t have to see her. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t not want to, so I did. That last look still haunts me.
There wasn’t a waiting room, so we sat on the floor in a hallway, waiting. Only my dad and oldest siblings stayed by her side. There were just too many of us to all stay.
A woman came by with her young son, on her way to visit a relative also in the ICU. She asked us if we would watch the boy until she came back. We didn’t mind. Eventually, she returned, and they left.
After what seemed like hours, we decided to go home. No one knew how long it would take, and we were sort of clogging up their hallway. Three stayed, the rest drove quietly away.
We sat on the couches at home and turned on the TV. You can’t just sit there staring at the walls. You’ll go crazy.
It was an episode of Psych, I believe. We watched it blankly. Around 7:00, we got the call. We turned off the TV. And cried.
May 15, 2012.
The day we lost our mother.
It was a Tuesday.
Just like today.