Saturday, May 13, 2017


Little Liz Ready to Show Up

            I lost the ability to use my left arm 5 days before mom’s last Christmas.  I was sitting at my desk at work, desperately trying to get through the stacks of files before we were due to head to California for what we all knew would be her final holiday.  She was dying.  And the weight of that knowledge hung on me like one of those lead x-ray jackets they drape over you at the dentist’s office.  One moment my left hand worked, the next it suddenly lacked the dexterity necessary to flip through my mountains of police reports.  I ignored it.  I had too much work to be done in order for me to head to my home town the following day.  I couldn’t be side-tracked by the nuisance of a lazy hand.  I felt foggy.  As if a cloud had descended on my brain and smeared my concentration.  I pretended it wasn’t happening.  I chalked it up to the stress of a recently completed Grand Jury, the pressure of an impending 14 hour drive with three young children, and the need to have all my Christmas preparation finished before we left.  I was just tired I told myself.  I just needed to power through these last files and get home to finish that daunting pile of laundry and the massive packing.  I would be fine.

               Except I wasn’t.  By that evening I couldn’t walk without dragging my left leg behind me Quasimodo-style.  I was dizzy.  And I eventually had to admit something was very wrong.  A phone call to the doctor resulted in a trip to the emergency room where they treated my stroke-like symptoms and admitted me to the neuro-ward for a terrifying stay.  And that was only the beginning.

               The good news is that it was not a stroke.  I was 37 for the love of Pete and in otherwise great health.  The bad news is that what it was instead was the life-long debilitating auto-immune disease of Multiple Sclerosis.  The worst
news was that I was about to ruin Christmas.  As if having a mother being ravaged by cancer wasn’t bad enough. 

               I remember my mom calling me while I lay in my hospital bed.  I held the phone with what would now be referred to as my “good arm”.  We didn’t say much.  We just cried.  We cried because vocalizing our actual fear was impossible.  She was dying and I was a shell of the self I had been just 24 hours earlier.  We couldn’t speak of what might be because the reality of the unknown was just too devastating.  But I remember her asking me to come home anyway.  Telling me. 

And there is MOM’S LIFE LESSON #13.


Most times, that’s the best thing we can do as parents.  As friends.  As people.  Mom was the most reliable attendee at any and every event.  All seven of us could expect her at our boring dance recitals, our soccer games, our church events, our choir concerts.  Her entire weekends were spent supporting us.  Her weeknights were typically devoted to schlepping us around to wherever we needed to be.  We made a lot of plans for people who had no way to get ourselves anywhere.  And so she never had a free minute.

She gladly drove as many kids as could pile into our giant van to Santa Cruz once a week all summer long.  She “decided” she enjoyed camping at the beach despite the sand in her mayonnaise by day two because that’s where her children found joy.   {I opted out of those trips as soon as I was allowed to stay home by myself.  Camping has never been my “happy place”.}  If she was invited to a wedding, an anniversary party, a bar-b-que, a Quinceanera, a briss (ok, I made that last one up) she went.  And she’d bring some brownies, help you set up, and then clean the joint long after all the other guests had called it a night.  She was there.  She didn’t miss a moment.  She was the ultimate shower-upper.  She did this because she understood the value of just being present.  She didn’t need to be the best dressed, decorate the most elaborate cake, or arrive in the coolest SUV.  She was enough.  And she knew it.  I watched her do that my entire life.  I had learned.
So we went.  To California.  I shoved my drooping arm into a sling, dragged my spaghetti leg behind me and we drove.  And that drive was miserable.  My broken body was mostly unwilling to cooperate in any way that could’ve made it comfortable.  I was sad, utterly terrified, and exhausted.  But we made it.  I showed up.  Less than myself.  But present. 

And my weak body continued to show up that holiday at every event mom had planned for our huge crew.  We rode a Christmas train, went to see the Oakland Temple lights, watched the grandkids cooperate in a rather irreverent way to perform a nativity play, and had more family meals than I can count.  I wasn’t the life of the party.  I wasn’t the best dressed (sweats were all I could manage to pull over my failing frame).  I was barely ambulatory.  But I showed up.

Mom was a force.  But even she couldn’t ignore the cancer that was winning a battle within.  By Christmas day we sat next to each other on the couch, content to watch the chaos of 20 grandkids circling around us and in complete recognition of our pathetic pairing.  Her with her deadly disease.  Me with my self-attacking brain.  But for that Christmas, that was going to have to be enough.  We showed up. 

By the following day, I could no longer walk at all. 

              The next couple of months were dominated by me learning to use a wheelchair, struggling through occupational therapy (which is what they tell you to do when they assume you aren’t going to get better) and beginning a regimen of daily injections to “lessen” the effects of my MS.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And the fear didn’t subside until my symptoms started to.  But just as my body’s betrayal began to lessen, my mother’s began to get worse.  As I got stronger, she got weaker.  I was forced to take a significant amount of time off work and though I was not at my best, I was thus able to trade weeks with my sister back home in Livermore to be with mom.  I was upright and walking again.  And so I would be present as she was losing the last battle of her life.

It’s because of my MS that I was present the moment she died.  Together with my brother Jared, I held her hand as she slipped from this life into the next.  It’s because of my MS that I was not at my desk reading police reports or in court prosecuting some bad guy, but instead I was by her side.  It’s because of my MS that I showed up one final time for her.

And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. 
Me, today, showing up at the grocery store with two of my crazies.




  1. Paige, this is beautiful! You always seem to have the perfect timing on your posts for me. Thank you! Your mom was a master teacher at showing up. I have considered bailing on numerous occasions (especially in what could be complicated family situations/events) and then I hear her voice telling me that showing up is what you do.♡

    1. I know that voice so well. Go. Just go. It'll be fun! Thanks for being her friend!

  2. Thanks Paige! I am so glad she showed up in the Hatch family, without her and you and Erin I am not who i am today we are not the family that we are. All tragedy has blessings that come. My mom's death, your MS, and someday Liz's death will have allowed us to "show up" in His glorious kingdom because we endured well, which in my mind is what showing up is. Enjoying the journey by being present! Mom taught us that everyday of her life. :-)

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  4. Paige, wow!! Just what I needed to hear. I want to be a shower-upper just like your mom! I also want to be my authentic self - not pretending or performing. In this current season of life, it's been easier to retreat from some activities/events where couples gather, and where friends who knew me before this chapter come together. I don't have it all together. I needed this lesson. God bless your momma and her lessons. God bless you and your testimony. Thank you. Praise God for the opportunity you had to hold your mommas hand in her last moments. Oh hon, this leaves me in tears, but with new appreciation for just showing up.

    1. It's enough to just be enough. She had lots of amazing lessons through her example!

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