Death is change, not an end.

     Every moment we are faced with a new reality, constantly shifting and changing. How we deal with that reality is up to us as human beings. We have this big ‘ole intelligent brain that helps us make decisions, but also helps us avoid them. A little over two years ago now I made a decision to change. I decided to move across the country from Rhode Island to Oregon. This was the most difficult decision I have ever made, why? My mom was in the late stages of ALS (Here is more info about ALS).

     I was there for 5 years while she had the disease, watching how it slowly debilitated her. Seeing it all happen from the beginning was truly disheartening.  It stole her ability to walk and eventually her ability to breath proper. But, she had an amazing Husband, my Step-Father. He did more for her than I can ever imagine. I talked to her often about how I wanted to move and she was nothing but encouraging. I learned a lot about her over that 5 year period, how strong, compassionate and beautiful of a person she was. We spent a lot of time together, watching old tv shows like The Waltons.  If you’ve never heard of that show I highly recommend it, it’s one of the best family orientated shows I’ve seen. Basically, we became best friends, I saw a side of her I’d never really seen before. She was a rebel, joker and prankster, there was a clear representation of where I got my personality from.  Hell, we would even curse and yell together (jokingly haha). Needless to say we were able to spend a lot of quality time together. That being said it was also a very trying time for everyone.

     A week or two before I was going to make trek to Oregon my Mom, being the devout catholic she was, had a local Priest give her the Anointing of the Sick. It was as if she knew something was going to happen. Eventually the day to leave finally came. I hugged and kissed my Mom and told her I loved her. She wanted to make it short and sweet so she wouldn’t get emotional or cry. I felt some off though, but still, I pressed on. I was on my way to a new life a new adventure. On my way only a few states from home I called and my Step-Dad said my Mom was resting and couldn’t talk. I thought nothing of it and kept on my way. I called a second time when I reached Pennsylvania but no one answered, so I pressed on. It was about three-quarters the way through Pennsylvania when my brother called me, I answered and he told me to pull over. At first I was confused and thought that he saw me on the road, he traveled for his job, but there was no reason for him to be out this far. In my head that was the first thing to come to mind. I told him I would call him back once I pulled over. There weren’t any rest stops near by so I had to pull over in the break-down lane. I called him back and that’s when he told me my Mom had died, she had a heart attack. She died the same day I left, only a few states away.

     In that moment I felt instant grief, like I had just been hit by a giant wave spinning me under it’s watery tow. I just started gushing in tears, screaming in the break down lane with cars passing by, “I knew this would happen! I knew! I shouldn’t have left!” I was a fucking mess. I had to tell my brother I couldn’t talk and hung up the phone. I sat there for a while, letting my emotions take over every ounce of my body. Eventually I was able to compose myself and get back on the road, I called my brother back and started to drive home. I got back to RI in the middle of night maybe only stopping a couple times, one of them to eat a fat filled fast food meal. I’m sure any bystanders that saw me would realize what I terrible mess I was. I just wanted to be home as soon as possible. I walked into the house and into my Moms room, my Step-Dad was standing there and I just stared at her empty bed. I felt my body just go numb, the one place she spent all her days was now empty of her presence. I didn’t even know how to react at that point. I went up to my bed and cried myself to sleep.

     I was fortunate to have nice compassionate network of friends during this time. I mourned for a month and made the decision to still move. I had a job waiting for me, albeit a part-time job. But it was enough to make the change. Because ultimately I still needed it and I knew she would want it as hard as it was for her to say so. The drive across the country was absolutely magical. Each day was a new experience, a new sight to see, a new day to heal and move forward. I wasn’t looking back, I didn’t think of my old home at all. But I did think of my mother a lot, and I look up to the clouds and thank her for this life.

    After 2 years of being in Portland, OR I realize how important and amazing change can be. It’s so easy to get lost in the comfort of everyday life, but to escape that comfort is very difficult. I believe that making that change, and making things more difficult truly challenges us as humans and makes us grow and learn. If I never moved out here I may always think of what it would of been like. It hasn’t been an easy 2 years, It’s been an emotional and financial roller-coaster, but I’ll save that for another day.

Written by: Tom Chavez    © 2017