05/11/2014 09:27 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2014

Mom and Me

Michelle Madison

Since I've lost my mom I have been overwhelmingly aware of how many times I hear a daughter say I have the best mom in the world, and I'm sure it's true for them. For me, my mom was the woman I strived to be. She not only was my best friend but the person I idolized and wanted to do everything with. She was that person who made my world beautiful and exciting. She added all the sparkle to our family and to everyone and everything she touched. I would often pray to God and tell him that I know there are a lot of wonderful mothers out there, but I thanked him for giving me the perfect one for me! We really were two peas in a pod.

I could never imagine my life without her, and I worried constantly of the day something would happen and how could I survive once it did. I've been a constant worrier throughout my life which has caused me anxiety and depression. My mom was the complete opposite of me and would say, "I'll worry about it when it happens." I loved her wonderful attitude of life, and I so much wanted to be like her. She worked with me constantly to try to help me with my anxieties and worries. It didn't matter what time of day or night; if I needed her she was there. That's how she was for our whole family; she was a constant and someone we all turned to for everything. She was our matriarch and the glue that held us together. She taught me the values of life and what matters are relationships and not the material stuff. She was there for all my ups and downs and all the growing pains that accompany us through life.

Eventually I got married and got to plan my dream wedding. My mom was extremely creative and all her creative juices trickled down to me, so between the both of us my wedding was designed from the love and passion we shared of decorating. I will forever be grateful that I got to have that time with her because I am fully aware of daughters who don't have their moms to help pick out their wedding dress or dads to walk them down the aisle, and I can say that I was fortunate to have had both. My parents were married 40 years and lived through their vows they spoke at their wedding, "through good times and bad and in sickness and health." My mom had severe spinal problems which resulted in six different neck and back surgeries throughout a 16-year timespan. There were days when she couldn't move and would be stuck on the floor in agony, yet she never complained. She was a pillar of strength and never wanted to be a burden to anyone which eventually led her to decide to do her final spinal surgery.

I grew up with the constant awareness that my mom's back and neck were very fragile and that one wrong move could be serious or life-threatening. I worried constantly about her and if she would have to endure another painful surgery. I always went to all her surgeries and would sit quietly praying for my mom to make it through and to feel better. I hated to have to see my mom in pain and not get to be that strong independent woman she was every day. Thankfully she would eventually recover and would do way more than she was suppose to, not letting anything hold her back or keep her down. Until in 2011 when that familiar pain and fear came knocking at her door again. Over the years she had every vertebrate in her neck and spine operated on and they said this time she needed a decompression and laminectomy to release the pressure on her spine that was causing her immobility in her arms and loss of feeling in her extremities. "Oh, no," I thought! I didn't want her to have another surgery at age 72. She had been through enough and how much could one spine take? My mom being the brave Mother that she was said she would rather have mobility of her arms and be able to do things like button a blouse and cut her meat than be a burden to any of her family.

The surgery date was set for June 28th, 2011, and my mind weighed heavy with the stress of losing her on the operating table. She would spend more time comforting me than herself including the moment they wheeled her back to surgery. She would reassure me and say "I'm not planning on going anywhere and I would jokingly reply if you see the light turn away!" The surgery came and went and she made it through! Happiness and relief rushed through my mind and body like a flood. We have made it through another one I thought, and now we can get back to living without that constant worry and stress hanging over us, but something wasn't quite right. I knew immediately that this surgery didn't seem to be as "easy and painless" as the doctor described. My mom was in horrible pain and was not recovering like they expected. She had developed some unusual swelling in her face and they had to keep her in the hospital a few more days than she wanted. It was an early sign of infection we later realized. You see I was more worried about her making it through the surgery, and she was more worried about acquiring a hospital acquired disease so my mom wanted out of the hospital as soon as possible.

She finally got to come home and I got to spend quality time with her, laugh with her, cook for her and be in her presence one more time. God allowed each one of her four children and many grandchildren to spend one last special day alone with her not realizing this would be their last. Three weeks after her surgery she was rushed back to the hospital where she had developed Sepsis, a blood infection from the surgery, in which the doctors never caught in time. There was no time to say goodbye or I love you one last time. Within 24 hours her whole body had shut down, and she went into cardiac arrest. We had just left the hospital to grab a few hours of sleep when they called and told us that the doctors were trying to revive my mom. The news brought such panic over me that I was taken by ambulance to the ER with severe muscle cramping due to lack of oxygen from hyperventilating. I just kept thinking how could I be here when my mom needed me there and I wanted so desperately to get there and see her. Finally they let me go and I rushed to the hospital where my mom was and they had been able to revive her but she was in a coma state. I knew she had waited for me to get there so that I could at least hold her hand one more time and let her know I was there by her side. A few hours later she went back into cardiac arrest, and they were not able to revive her.

Our family was beyond grief-stricken and shocked. How could this have happened? Why didn't the doctors catch this? Why did she have the surgery? Questions flooded our minds while pain flooded our hearts. It was a complicated death one where you know the doctors could have saved her life if they would have caught the infection in time and put her on antibiotics.

Something so simple could have saved my mom's life, and she would be here today to share our lives with. I am often plagued with the question is it better to know your loved one is going to die so that you can make arrangements and say your goodbyes or have them go suddenly without the chance to say I love you or goodbye? I choose the latter. After seeing my mom suffer for those miserable 24 hours I couldn't watch her suffer for months or years with a horrible disease. The image of her being in pain has been burned in my mind forever that I desperately wish I could erase. My mom didn't want us to see her suffer, she wanted us to remember her as the strong, independent, loving, giving, sparkly person that I grew up knowing. I mean after all that is why she insisted on having the surgery, she wasn't going to lose her zest for life without giving it all she had and that she did.

It's been two, long years since my mother's passing, and the time has been very difficult but life-altering. It has taken me some time to realize that life keeps moving, her favorite shows still air, holidays are still celebrated, hard times still come and laughter is still meant to be present in my life. Life continues on and so must I, this is the circle of life. I have become very close to my dad since my mom's loss, and we have gone on some father-daughter bonding trips that would never have happened otherwise. We have bonded and grown tighter in our relationship and have made memories together that I will cherish forever. I have been there for him during his surgery and stayed by his bed in the hospital when he had his own heart problems following my mom's passing. I have learned that you ask questions to doctors when you feel they aren't doing enough or you want more answers, never to be afraid of being heard when it comes to your loved ones health. You have the right to demand patient care and doctors time, things I wish I would have done when the doctors skipped over my mom's infection. My father and I have helped each other heal from our devastating loss. I have gotten closer to my dad more in the last two years than in my 33 years prior to that. Death brings you closer to those you love, and you realize that time on Earth is more precious than anything. They say to always look for the silver lining, but you "think what silver lining can death leave?" It gives you the opportunity to open up and become vulnerable to people you might not otherwise of opened up to.

My husband of nine years has now seen me at my best and worst and I have opened up to him in ways I would of never have if my mom was still here. She was always my confidant and when she passed I had to learn to trust in others like I did with her. I have become less independent in our marriage and realized that I need to lean on my husband more and trust him to know me in all the ways my mom knew me and know that he would still love me. I have learned that life's struggles are meant to be shared and not carried alone. I have learned that you don't wait to say "I love you" until the person is sick or dying; you say it every day. You make sure the people in your life know how important they are to you and it may sound cliché but you leave a legacy that you would want others to remember you by. I remember my mom with all the beauty and love and compassion that a person can possess. I want to pass on the lessons that she taught me while growing up and share that special bond we had with a child of my own one day. Unfortunately I have not been blessed yet with that opportunity but I know that when it does happen, there will be a piece of my mom in my newborns smile!

I want to honor my mother's and I relationship with this story and hope that it can bring peace to someone who is missing their mother! A mother and daughters bond is the strongest there is, she is our first home, our first love and our first friend! I love you Mom with all the pieces of my heart.