My mom's little sister Kris died in 1985, when she was only 26 years old. I was 5 1/2 at the time and don't really remember much about her death. In fact, the only memory that stands out from that time was at the viewing for Kris. I remember running around the casket chasing and being chased by my cousin Jake, who was Kris' oldest son. I remember us laughing and playing and my uncle Rob standing there by the casket telling us to settle down.
I don't know why, but for some reason I've never really talked to my mom much about Kris' death. I know that it was a very hard for my mom to lose her little sister so unexpectedly, and maybe I just knew it was a sensitive subject. I'd been told she died due to "complications to pneumonia" as child, but I had never been given any more details.
My parents took me, Vince, and Meagan to dinner the other night and we were discussing Vince and Meagan's emergency stop for the night in Beaver due to the bad roads. We made the joke that "who knew there were even motels in Beaver" when mom said "I spent a year there one night." We started asking questions and found out that mom had gone up to visit her sister Kris, who was in the hospital dying. She was driving back from Logan to St. George, pregnant, and with my 2 year old sister Annie it tow. It was January and mom's battery on her car was almost dead. Her lights on her car got very dim because of this and the only thing that allowed her to keep going was the car in front of her that chose to drive very, very slowly so that my mom was able to follow them. She made it to Beaver and once she stopped the car died for good. She and my little sister were starving and she walked over to a convenience store to find that they only had two things to eat (licorice and something else, I can't remember what now). They spent a long, hungry, miserable night in the motel. The next morning while waiting for someone to come help her with her car Mom was able to get it to start. She loaded Annie up and took off for home, stopping in Cedar City for food. Annie inhaled the food that they bought and then promptly threw it all right back up. Mom said it was just horrible. I started asking more questions about Kris' death and found out that she got sick on Christmas Day, and by New Year's was sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. I imagined as a child that Kris got sick, went to the hospital, and died. What I didn't realize was that Kris was sick for almost a month before she finally died. Mom said that Kris and Rob's stake in Logan had just been split so they had both stakes fasting for her. For a short time, she got better. Mom was able to go up and talk to her just hours before she lost consciousness for the last time. Mom called up to the hospital on January 8th, Kris' birthday, only to be told that her condition had worsened and she'd been flown to Salt Lake. On January 19 Kris was gone.
The reason that I tell this story is because of the overwhelming realization I had that night at dinner. I realized that my mom must have been going through so much with Kris in the hospital, knowing that her little sister was dying, and knowing that there was nothing that she could do. She had three small children at home to take care of, and on top of it all, was pregnant again. She had that horrible experience driving home from the hospital and ending up in Beaver for the night. But I remember nothing of that time. I was old enough to have remembered something from that ugly time, and yet I didn't. Through all of that, my mom never gave up, or broke down. She never let on just how bad things were. She never allowed it to become a bad memory for me.
The past year has been very, very hard for me. Sometimes I get so frustrated with my girls and want them to know what I am going through. I want them to understand that things really suck for mommy and they just need to be good for me. I lose my temper, I yell at them, and I break down and cry. I just want to lay it all out for them so that they will try their hardest not to make things for difficult. But Mom taught me that night that they need to be kids. They need to be sheltered from some things and not given that stress. They need to retain their innocence as long as they can, and it is my job to make that happen. I am here to take care of them, not the other way around. I must allow them to be children. Thank you Mom, for inspiring me to be a better mom. I love you.