An unthinkable way to lose your mom and why it's important we talk about it now.

Instead of talking about me, my pre-existing conditions, my frustration and fear of what millions of Americans stand to lose because of the American Health Care Act, let’s talk about you.

More specifically, let’s talk about your mother.

You know those stomachaches she’s been getting on and off for the last six months or so? Maybe it hasn’t been six months. Maybe they started over the holidays: She was complaining about it at Thanksgiving while you were standing next to her mashing potatoes, but you weren’t really paying attention. At Christmas, she seemed a little more run down than usual, but, you know, she’s getting old. Aren’t we all, right?! She said something about menopause, and you noped the fuck out of that conversation. You don’t need to hear about how she and your father haven’t had sex in two months because she’s in pain or how sometime around Easter she started losing weight really fast because she’s so nauseated she can’t eat anything.


She did go to her doctor, but he told her it was probably stress.

She might start an antidepressant. She has the prescription, they gave her one, but she hasn’t filled it yet because deep down she doesn’t think she’s depressed. She just feels sick, except it’s kind of vague. She doesn’t really want to tell anyone lest she worry them unnecessarily. It's a mother's trait. It’s probably nothing.

Six months from now, she finds out too late that it’s ovarian cancer.

She should have known — that’s what her aunt had, but of course no one talked about it "back then." Apparently they don’t really talk about it enough now either.

She tells you the news when you breeze into town the night before Thanksgiving  —  too late to really help her with dinner preparations, but she lets you pour yourself a glass of the good wine. You start crying almost immediately, yet she seems eerily calm about it.

See, she had a bunch of other stuff in her medical record  —  high cholesterol, for one. She had ovarian cysts as a younger woman, not that she ever told you. She thought they'd gotten better after she had kids. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe she should have paid more attention.

In any case, she can’t seem to get her insurance company to pay attention.

She doesn’t want to have more tests or even see her doctor because for a while there, the co-pays were getting "a little out of hand," she'd thought.

Then it seemed like her insurance company was just denying everything her doctor wanted her to have. She tries to explain that to them, tries to say it wasn’t that she didn’t want to have the biopsy or the CT scan, she was just worried about the bill. Her doctor tells her she is being "noncompliant," but she would be wiling to comply if she thought she and your father could afford it.

She’s supposed to be on these medications, but they aren’t covered. Her doctor doesn’t seem to understand the disconnect between the pharmacy and the insurance provider. He suggests that she just call the pharmaceutical company directly and ask about getting it through charity care or something.

Your father says they’ll remortgage the house if they have to, but your mother says, "Oh, no, no, no. We’ll figure something out."

They haven’t yet. She knows they need to be thinking about it, but she’s feeling very tired.

She’s going to have to stop working soon  —  she’s been taking too many sick days.

Maybe she could get short-term disability, but this whole situation doesn’t exactly feel short-term. She would ask more questions, but she’s just so tired. She hurts. She’s not sleeping well, and she doesn’t have much of an appetite. When the timer on the oven goes off and she turns to tend to it, you see how thin she’s gotten, but you don’t say anything.

Later that night, when you’re in your childhood bedroom trying to fall asleep, you hear your dad’s weird, honking crying from the hall bathroom.

She dies by Christmas. At her funeral, you realize she was so much more than just your mother.

First, she was a daughter. It turns out your grandmother also dies just after the New Year, and everyone whispers that it was a broken heart that did it.

She was the love of your father’s life. Even though it always made you feel awkward to consider it, now that she’s gone and he’s the broken half that’s left, you understand completely what it means that he loved her longer than you did.

She was the "beloved" older sister, the "cool" cousin, the "fun" aunt.

You find out three different women considered her their best friend, and more people than you’d ever met or known about at least considered her a good friend or a shoulder to cry on.

You realize midway through the service that several generations of her students are there, and the ones that are now in college revert back into runny-nosed first-graders when they see you. She was the "favorite teacher," "the best teacher," "the only teacher who ever." Her colleagues tell you, with their tired, red-rimmed eyes, she had been nominated for Teacher of the Year for the fifth time, that they’re going to put a bench with her name on it in the courtyard, that her picture is hanging in the office.

You leave rather abruptly, excusing yourself as you twist away from the conversation. You look for your dad and find him out back of the funeral home, by where they park the hearses.

"She would rather have died than make us lose the house or dip into the money we set aside for you," he says, and his voice isn't unkind and there's no blame placed on her or you.

"Why the hell was she even thinking about money if she was so sick?" you sputter.

"If she was going to die, she didn’t want to bankrupt us. It was hard enough if she wasn’t able to work, but, you know — medical bills on top of that. It was a lot, kiddo. She was trying to protect us."

"She didn’t want to think that you’d ever be in that position, where you couldn’t afford to be sick. Where a funeral was cheaper than another round of treatment, or a hospital stay," he continues.

"She didn’t want be a burden on you or me or anyone. She didn’t want to be the reason we lost the house or used up the money we had set aside for you. She didn’t want to have to go on the Facebook and ask people to donate money to us."

"People would have. If they’d known," you begin to say.

"She didn’t want it to be like that," he says simply. "She worked hard all her life. She paid her dues. She just thought — I mean I guess we all thought that was enough, you know? To have rights. To have access to health care without losing your shirt."

"She was my mother," you squeak, and you’re crying now, "I loved her. I love her. I would have done anything. I didn’t know  —  she didn’t  —  I didn’t even know ..."

Your father, who has never been all that good at hugs, wraps an arm around your shoulder. He smells like American Spirits and shoe polish and that perpetual new carpet smell of a funeral parlor.

"She loved you more than anything. Like any parent, she just wanted to make sure you’d have a better life than she did," he says, and it’s so quiet, you hardly hear his words. But the weight of them you feel.

This story first appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

More

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture