I thought it was appropriate to write this blog solely on my mother, as those of you who watched this episode see that I got the news of her passing while I was filming. I didn't want to go to bunco this evening, as I had worked all day and wasn't in the mood to roll dice. Hindsight, I should have stayed home as I would have received the news of my mom dying while I was alone. I guess that's the chance you take filming a reality show, you never really know when "life happens" like it did with me and while cameras were rolling. I want to thank Evolution Media for being so sensitive and supportive to me and my family during this difficult time. They have truly been amazing and I want to thank them also for the beautiful tribute they did at the end on my beautiful mother, Joanne Closset Steinmetz.
My mother died on February 4, 2015 for unknown causes. We elected not to do an autopsy, and the coroner said it was either a massive heart attack or an aneurysm. She was found by my brother around 8PM at night, laying on top of her covers on her bed. If it's "your time to go", I can only say what a beautiful way to die. She was at peace with her golden retriever dog Maggie lying next to her. Billy said it looked like she was sleeping when he found her. We are all still in shock and we miss her so much. She was the rock of our family – she was an amazing mother to all five children, and an amazing grandmother to five grandchildren, and to two beautiful great grandchildren, Owen and Troy.
You know, life is interesting sometimes. Sometimes you get an intuition in your gut that you just can't explain. My mother turned 83 on December 5th and I had decided to surprise her by coming "home" to Chicago and organizing a family dinner at one of her favorite restaurants. I had her brother there, my cousins, my sisters Kathy, Lisa, my brother Billy, and myself. My other sister Kim wasn't feeling well, and Mike and Briana couldn't make it either. I'm glad I went home and got that intuition to see her.
My mom was totally surprised that I was in town and even more surprised when she saw her children and extended family for her 83rd birthday. She kept asking me why I threw this party for her. She asked me several times "is this my last birthday?" I said no, it was just that I wanted to see her and thought celebrating her birthday was a great way to do that. My mom was very healthy, very active in her community, and spent most of her free time shopping at T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. She loved to play bridge and had a zest for life. She was one of the smartest people I have ever met.
Little did I know when I said goodbye to her a few days later, that would be the last time I saw her until the wake and funeral. It is a surreal place to be and I know some of you have already experienced losing your parent or parents. It's an empty feeling, a lonely feeling, and one that I almost can't even put to words.
When I yelled out after I heard the news, "who is going to take care of me, who is going to worry about me"...I meant it. My mom was always worrying about me, telling me that I was too busy travelling and too busy working and filming. She worried that something was going to happen to me...I always told her I needed to die first because I couldn't imagine not having her in my life.
When I watched the show, it was like I was reliving a nightmare. So much of that evening is like a big blur. When I watched Heather call Terry, telling him that my mom died and seeing her cry made me realize how sensitive Heather is and how fortunate I am to have her in my life. I will never forget one thing she told me sitting on Shannon's circular chair in the hallway, "You are who you are because of the amazing mother you had. Not everyone is blessed to have the fond memories and the closeness you had with your mother and you must carry this on through your life and know that although she isn't here anymore, she will always be with you." Words that I will never forget, so thank you Heather.
Having Tamra and Shannon be there for me, to hold me and cry with me, made me comforted in the fact I had friends that really cared for me and were feeling my pain with me. I was glad I wasn't alone now that I look back on it, as I don't think I could have handled it by myself.
Brooks had gotten a call from my brother Billy and knew that I was at bunco at Shannon's. He knew that I was going to be a mess, so one of his friends drove him to Shannon's so he could ride home with me. Having Brooks there for me within a half hour of getting this horrible news was so nice. It's times like this you really know who you can count on and I am thankful he was there for me.
When I took a red eye home the next day to Chicago, my friend Jeannie picked me up from the airport and took me to my family. Michael, Briana, Ryan, Owen, and Troy took separate flights and we all met up at my mom's. Briana and Mike were so close to my mom too and they are also feeling a tremendous loss in their lives. When my sister Lisa and I got to my mom's house, we tried to make sense of everything that just happened to our family. We found a blue envelope in my mother's file drawer that said "My Last Wishes". She wrote it out in August 2014 and gave explicit instructions on how she wanted her funeral services, the type of casket she wanted to be laid to rest in, the outfit she wanted to wear, the songs she wanted played and the Mausoleum drawer that she had purchased overlooking my father's grave. We were all in shock, because like I said my mother was very healthy and of sound mind and to see that she wrote this out what unbelievable to us. She was always so organized and a great planner, so I guess it shouldn't be too shocking to find this letter, but it was. It made the planning easier because we followed out what she wanted. It taught me how important it is to write out your last wishes and to be sure you have your estate in order because you never know what can happen or when it will happen.
At the funeral home, surrounding my mother's rose colored casket were beautiful floral arrangements from Heather, Tamra, Lizzie, Shannon, Meghan, Katie Hamilton, Evolution Media, Bravo, and Andy Cohen. I felt so fortunate and blessed to have my friends back in California have a presence at my mom's funeral. Thank you ladies for being there for me. I've really needed your support and love. At the funeral, there were so many of my high school friends that I hadn't seen in years. It was nice hearing some of their stories of my mom, and how she always made our home a place for my friends to be welcomed in. I had a flawless childhood and one that I am grateful and thankful for.
It's been 5 months since my mom died and there isn't a day that goes by where I don't want to pick up the phone to ask her a question or tell her I love her. I miss her so much, but know one day I will be with her in Heaven and at peace.
I want to stress the importance of not putting off talking to or spending time with the ones you love. You never know when they will be taken from you. Thank you everyone who has reached out to me, it means more to me than you will ever know.
Someone sent this to me the other day and I wanted to share it with you. For anyone that has ever lost a loved one...you will understand the pain that my family and I feel. Peace be with you...
"The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but, you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to."
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Below are a few pictures of my family at my mother's surprise birthday party I held for her one month before she died.
My sisters, Kathy, Lisa, Mom, and me.