All summer long I thought about the upcoming fall hunting season. Did I remember where I had put all my hunting clothes from the previous season? Are my broadheads in the garage or in the back of the pick-up? Is my bow’s serving string in tip-top shape for the first hunt? Where did I put those topo maps that’ll I need this fall? My mind was kept active with thoughts of my days on stand. I often looked at my calendar to see just how many days were left before hunting would commence. It was Countdown Time!
Sept 18th was the archery opener in my home state and for the first time since I can remember, I wasn’t out in the deer woods. What on earth could keep a hunter so passionate about hunting, away from the deer?? Matters of the heart.
When the most important woman in my life, my mom, was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer less than a month before the archery deer season, my priorities quickly shifted. Hunting would be put on-hold to be with the woman I owe my life to and love more than any other.
Mom was scheduled for surgery Sept. 10th. The ultimate would have been to remove all cancerous tissue and then do a round of chemo. The ultimate didn’t happen, as upon opening her up, it was discovered that the cancer had rapidly spread.
"Sorry. There’s nothing that we can do", were the words from the surgeon that cut like a knife.
"When she gets stronger, we can try chemo, but it won’t do anything for the cancer that is already there. It’ll only prevent new cancer cells from growing."
When the surgeon was asked how much time she had left, the reply was "If she doesn’t respond well to chemo, she has about a month. If she does respond well with chemo, than she has maybe six months, and that would be on the high end."
That response was a real sobering slap in the face. My mind began to race with all the things I needed to tell her before I could tell her them no more.
Mom never did get strong enough to even attempt chemo, but rather spent ten days in the hospital in the hospice ward. Her ninth day there was the hunting opener. It came and went and the world kept revolving. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t able to sneak away for a sit in the woods. I knew that time would come soon enough. Now was a time that would be more special than any deer kill could ever be.
On the eleventh day of her journey towards another world, we were able to honor her wish of bringing her back home. The next ten days my sister Jody and I became instant nurses. I spent many nights at their house, sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the den, checking on mom every 20 minutes or so, as she was in eyes view.
I was at my house only long enough to take the kids to school and bring them home in the afternoon. I would head back to moms every evening also, often with the family along. My kids were very aware of what was happening to grandmama and would sit next to her bed and hold her hand, rub her back, or just give her hugs whenever they could.
"I love you grandmama", they’d say, as my mom would give them her best smile and ever so softly say, "I love you too."
No P&Y buck could ever replace the tender words and feelings that were shared those last days. After losing my dad suddenly to lung cancer nine years previously, I was determined to spend every moment I could with my mom.
When the deer season was two days shy of being two weeks along, it was the tenth day my mom was at home. It was also her freedom day.
"She’s free", was all I could say. "She’s finally free."
I am comforted in knowing that her last words to me were, "I’m so proud of you" and after telling her that I loved her, "I love you too".
At that point I could have thrown away all my hunting tags for the season and it wouldn’t have mattered much. What mattered most was the time I was privileged to spend caring for my mom, realizing that things have come full circle. She cared for me in every way when I was a wee baby, and now, I had to care for her in all the same ways.
After her death, it was time to make arrangements for her service and take care of all kinds of things one wouldn’t normally think of when one is still alive. There was also a house to clean and get in order, (along with my own house!) which took more time out of a hunting season that was just getting shorter.
As I write this, almost a month of hunting season has past, with me no where near the deer woods or fields. I know my time is coming, but if I don’t ever make it out this fall, there’s always next season. Anticipation can be a very good driving force.
I am beginning to think about hunting once again, as I read through incoming hunting magazines and view photos of other hunters’ recent harvests.
I’m going over my mental hunting "to do" list, even though it hasn’t become physical yet. Soon.
I just hope that never again any time soon, will I have to put my hunting on hold for the reasons that I did this season. But when a loved ones life is cut short, even an addicted hunter as I, know that my heart will still keep beating, the sun will rise again and the circle of life will continue.
Treasure every moment with friends and family that you have as though it may be your last. The hunting can always be put on hold.
Happy hunting to all, when ever that season may be.
October © 2004