When Your Life Shatters

In 2012, the twelfth of December was a Wednesday. I was five months pregnant and lying down was just beginning to become uncomfortable enough that once I actually managed to fall asleep, every moment of it was cherished. My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.. Snooze. 5:39 a.m.. Snooze. I knew that was the last snooze I was allowed, one more and I’d be late for work. Just as I began to drift back into sleep, my phone sounded again. This time it wasn’t the alarm. Still foggy, I fumbled to answer the incoming call, and by the time I managed, I had missed it. It was from my mom’s cell phone. She had been in the hospital that week for complications from an illness she had been battling for the past few years. My whole body shook as I dialed her number. Good news does not travel via telephone at 5:40 a.m..

Her phone rang.

Someone picked up, but rather than a voice on the other end, I heard a series of long guttural moans. The line went dead.

Very few times in my life have I been so scared that my knees completely lost their strength. This was one of them. Kneeling on the floor, tears streaming down my face, body completely convulsing, I dialed again.

I didn’t recognize the voice. “Is this Jenna? You need to get to the hospital.”

“What happened?” I sobbed, the moaning still droning on in the background. A sound that will never leave my memory.

“Just get here.”

I knew.

I knew the moment my ringtone played in my ear when it should have been my alarm.

Silence filled the space between my husband and me on the drive to the hospital. Neither of us could bring ourselves to say anything, because there was nothing yet to say.

My aunt stood between the doorway to the ICU and my mom’s room. Face red and streaked with tears, she looked in my eyes and shook her head. I let out a whimper, hugged her long and hard, soaking her shoulder with my tears. I stepped back and touched my belly, feeling the flutters of my daughter who would never know her grandmother.

I learned two things in that moment. One, the awful moans were those of my stepfather, and though I have many things I can say about that man, in that moment I knew what heartbreak truly looked like; and two, nothing ever prepares you to see your mother’s lifeless body. I wanted to scream at her. “You can’t leave me now! I need you! How am I supposed to become a mother without my own here for guidance?” I was selfish. Angry at her, at the hospital, at the doctor who didn’t treat her two years prior. I held my words and my grandmother’s hand, and cried. Cried so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath.

I have no idea how long we sat there, knowing that this goodbye would be our last. Finally, they came and took her away and we left the hospital, lost and wondering what to do next.

I tell this story because it isn’t often that someone can pinpoint the exact moment in which they descend into depression and begin to turn to food for comfort. I can. In the hours after my mother’s death, on a cold morning in December, my husband brought me an Earl Gray latte and a snowman cookie from Starbucks. In all of my sorrow, it was a tiny moment of bliss. I kept searching for those little moments of happiness over the next two years, and in doing so I gained 100 pounds.

Every day I thank God that I was able to pull myself out of depression and make the decision to change. Who knows where I’d be today if I hadn’t. 400 pounds? It’s possible. Likely, even.

But I did. And I hope that whatever is dragging you down, whatever your turn-around moment was, you’re able to overcome, too.

Today I’m dedicating my health to my mother, whom I know is proud of how much I’ve accomplished; to myself, who has found the strength to keep at it for 409 days; and to you, wherever you are in your journey… just keep going.

My beautiful mom: 1957-2012



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