The kids and I had an amazing day with Emily’s mom on Sunday. We attended church, grabbed brunch, then enjoyed a matinee performance of The Nutcracker by the Nashville Ballet. Minus a couple moments of tears, it was one of the first days since Emily died where my grief felt manageable. I was able to set aside my heartache and just exist.
As I drove Emily’s mom back to her car, I told her how glad I was that she could spend the day with me and the kids. As we talked, she said, “I know it’s exactly what Emily would have wanted.” I just nodded, because I knew she was right.
Now that I’m sitting in the quiet and reflecting on yesterday, I can’t help but laugh at that thought because, if you were to ask Emily, she’d tell you her mom is always right.
“I’ll Ask My Mom”
I knew well before Emily and started dating that she was fairly close to her parents. I knew she talked to them both fairly often, and she went home to Knoxville anytime she had a few days off from work or school. The more time I spent with Emily, though, the more I got to see the specifics of her relationship with each of her parents.
Here’s what I learned: If Emily was even mildly uncertain about anything in her life, she would talk to her mom.
Over the years I watched Emily text her mom about everything from a random rash on her arm to which Enneagram type a person would be, and random things related to nearly any topic imaginable. Although I sometimes laughed at her for it, I did find it adorable that she had that type of relationship with her mom.
Once we started dating, I learned that if I asked Emily a question, chances were she’d text her mom about it if she didn’t know the answer. I also learned that, no matter how certain I sounded when I answered a question Emily asked me, she was probably going to text her mom as well, just to be sure I was correct.
The Elephant In The Room
As you might imagine based on the previous several paragraphs, Emily would often say, “My mom knows everything.” Yet, for whatever reason, Emily avoided telling either of her parents about our relationship for months. At first, she said, “I just really want to tell them in person.” That held from April until July, when we went to Knoxville for July 4th weekend, when she insisted she’d tell them. (Spoiler Alert: She didn’t tell them, even though her brother told her that he knew we weren’t just friends.)
Then it became, “I need to make sure they won’t disown me.” And that held for several more months. Eventually, it got to a point where everyone knew, but no one was willing to be the one to address the elephant in the room.
I wasn’t present for the coffee conversation that finally occurred at some point during the fall, but I do remember Emily texting me to say, “Mom already knew,” and I just laughed. Again, Mom knows everything — not sure why she thought this situation was going to be any different.
But, I guess in Emily’s mind it wasn’t that part of the variable that made her hesitate, but rather the unknown reaction. (Another Spoiler Alert: Emily really got worked up over nothing, but that was typical Emily.)
I Wasn’t Mom
When it came time for Emily’s transplant annuals this past December, I wasn’t at all surprised when Emily said, “I love you, and I want you to come… but I also want my mom there.” Of course, I told Emily that I would go along with whatever made her feel the most comfortable and safe.
And so, her mom and I both spent the day at Vanderbilt with her. Since they only allowed one person to be in the room with her at a time, her mom went with her before the cath and stayed to talk to the doctors after. Then I got to sit with her while she waited the set amount of time until she was allowed to go home. In other words, her mom handled all the stuff where medical knowledge was helpful, and I got to hold up her cup when she needed a drink and otherwise mostly just listened to her say random things and doze off.
Thanks to that previous experience, I wasn’t at all shocked when Emily started running everything by her mom when the abdominal pain started. Honestly, I was glad she had someone to run things by, especially since my medical knowledge is fairly limited.
During those last couple of weeks, I don’t think any of us anticipated what was to come. It seemed like her primary care doctor was slowly getting to an answer, and until the night we did go to the ER, nothing seemed like it was dire enough for critical care. And even then, it all seemed like it was under control… until it wasn’t.
After that first episode Emily had during the night, I was holding a puke bin for her. She looked at me and said, “Babe, I want my mommy…” and my heart shattered. Not because I felt like she didn’t want me, but because I knew that she was scared to the point that she desperately needed the one person who knows everything by her side.
And even though it was the middle of the night and she was three hours away, I contacted her mom as soon as they stabilized her after the second episode.
As the doctors huddled outside the door, Emily asked what I was doing on my phone. I told her I called her mom and her parents were on the way. She looked at me and only said, “Thank you,” but her eyes told me exactly how much she appreciated it.
Moms Just Know
I know that I’m incredibly lucky in many ways. And because of Emily, I’ve got this incredible family of people loving and supporting me through what has honestly been the most painful and difficult two months of my life (which is saying a lot if you know about the rest of my past). And, honestly, I’m so incredibly grateful for her mom.
As Emily said, her mom knows everything. She knows what my favorite Keurig pods are, and she knows how hard these past two months have been for me.
I hope that, on the other side of all of this, I’ll build a similar relationship with my own daughters as the one Emily had with her mom. And I won’t even be annoyed if they send me ridiculous TikTok videos at the most random times.