One of my favorite things is for someone to tell me how I feel. I am fascinated that a seemingly casual acquaintance can express with absolute certainty what I am feeling because we have had similar experiences. Rather than a window into my soul, it invariably provides a window into theirs.

Seeing as it is “Heart Disease Month” there has been an explosion of posters and information about the signs of heart attacks in women where I work out. This morning I foolishly added to an ongoing conversation on the topic saying that women don’t necessarily experience the classic chest and arm pain. I say foolish because one comment means I am no longer entitled to my silent, focused workout and must now respond to questions.

I told them I had watched my mother have three heart attacks and never have any arm pain. She thought it was heartburn that made her sweat and look ashen. I told them how she refused an ambulance, or even a visit to the emergency room, and insisted on going to her doctors office to get checked out

It went on this way for a while with everyone sharing all the details of all the heart attacks that have affected them. As I was leaving a women approached me and asked if my mother had “learned her lesson and started to exercise and eat right”. I said, No, in fact she’s dead.

She pushed on about people feeling better once they change their habits and I said I am sure she is feeling much better now that she is dead.

And she pushed again, how did she die, was it the heart attack. Finally I told her, and the others eavesdropping, that it was not a wake up call for her.
My mother had three heart attacks and continued to smoke.
She had breast cancer and continued to smoke.
She had a stroke and continued to smoke.
Then she had another heart attack that put her in the hospital and finally killed her.

After this somewhat brutal recitation, the woman, who I have now dubbed The Root Canal in tribute to her raw nerve, proceeds to tell me how much I miss my mother, how it feels like it was yesterday, how I have never gotten over her death. I was flabbergasted.

Somewhere in this crazy was the narrative of what happened between her and her mother and I suddenly felt sorry for her. I told her she was right, you never stop missing your mother. I was certain of it.