My mother decided this morning that she was done with hospitals and rehab centers and the endless pills she had to take. She was more of a Mustang kind of person. She loved the one she had before I was born.
A hospital bed could no longer contain her.
I picture her speeding off now, at peace, no more pain, no more suffering.
I have said goodbye to my mother each night for nearly a week now. It has been my fear each time, although I had not noticed a whole lot of change until recently, that I might have been saying goodbye for the last time.
It does not get easier each time. I do believe I have finally said everything I need to say. If I haven’t, it’s my own fault. I’ve had a week of days and nights to get it all out. The first night I left, I regretted that I left out talking about certain people or certain memories. I made up for all of that since and then some.
I also told my mother numerous "secrets" (boring ones, of course) and observations that I wouldn’t share with just anyone during this time. I even fessed up to a few things that I’m sure she knew all along. Some were trivial, some were serious. Some I wish I had not put off. Most will remain just between us.
We always think we’ll have more time to say these things or that something else is more important so it can wait.
Of course, what I have said only matters to me unless the assumption of the doctors and nurses, that the hearing is the last to go, is correct. I have no way of knowing for sure and, if I ever find out, I will have no way of letting anyone else know.
Thank goodness for Sunday night. She was calm and comfortable. I played a lot of the music she loved and even poorly sang along with some of it. The Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, Nat King Cole and more all made appearances. We should have done this in November when she seemed to be doing a bit better but that is now neither here nor there.
Last night, the physical changes were more apparent and my belief is that the window of possible one-way communication that may have remained gently shut from the time I left, about 3AM on Monday morning, to the time I returned later last night. So, I spent most of last night listening instead of talking. I listened to her breathing, slowly in and slowly out, and holding her hand as she did mine many years ago as we went to one place or another.
I should have held her hand before this happened.
I cannot remember our last hug.
My mother wanted no service. She will be cremated and that will be that. She had spoken to me many times since the cancer that started us down this road about her wish that my last memory not be of just her body as her last memory was of her mother. I don’t believe she ever got over it and she didn’t want to risk the same thing happening to me.
Her nurse, Denise, told me on the phone this afternoon that we are gettng close. I drove to the hospital this evening and my mother seemed much more peaceful than she did early this morning. The changes are happening faster, it seems.
I stayed only long enough to thank Denise and to say goodbye to my mother one more time. Each breath might be the last, I was told. I needed to hurry. There were tears. There were promises. There were regrets. There was gratefulness.
Now, I wait for the phone to ring. I feel guilty that one of the nurses will have to make the call. I have rehearsed in my mind how I will handle it but I am fine one minute and not fine the next. If the call does not come, I will drive over again tomorrow for just a few minutes, doing my best to honor my mother’s wish while trying to hold on just a bit longer.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately because I have a lot of me to think. This blog started in 2007 during a time when my mother and I were driving back and forth for her pre-cancer surgery appointments.
My second entry in the blog documents the day my mother had her surgery. As I write this, my mother has been in hospice since last Tuesday. The call could come at any moment. I have wondered
if the call would come when I am in the shower. I keep a hand towel next to the phone right outside of the shower just in case. I wondered if it would happen when I was pumping gas or ordering at the drive thru. Or, will it happen when I am there? I am home during the day and there in the evening and late into the night. When I am in the room is the only time I am not afraid for the phone to ring.
The change is so gradual that it is hardly perceptible to me. The professionals, the doctors and nurses, say they see it and although the process is surprisingly slow even in their eyes, it is happening.
I sat there all day and night at first but everything else in life keeps moving forward and responsibilities don’t go away no matter what emergency is happening. I did not sleep for nearly 40 hours at one point and that just wasn’t working, not that the four to six hours I get now each night is a great improvement. The bottom line is that I have to be somewhat awake and ready when it does happen and I’m the only one around to get things done so I had to make up my mind that I can only sit in the hospital room so much.
I talked endlessly the first few nights. This came naturally, being a podcaster and all! Then, when I started to struggle for things to say, I brought her iPad that I bought her for her 75th birthday and I played hours of her favorite music for her.
Last night, I pulled out her purple laptop and played part of "You’ve Got Mail" since that was the movie she watched each time it was on tv. I stopped it before the sad part because I am tired of crying in front of nurses and just crying in general. My face hurts. And I’ve done it in front of a random assortment of folks on the hospital elevator, at Sonic getting lunch and even on the phone with the cable company. I’m not much of a crier so I guess years of holding it in plus these recent events have taken down the walls I put up over the years/decades. It happens.
Now I wait so I decided to do a new template on the blog. It’s something I have been considering for a while. I removed a bunch of gadgets (some are still at the very bottom of the page) and my plan is to just focus on the writing moving forward. No specific topics and no set time or day to write. I’ll write when I feel like it and won’t when I don’t.
I considered using this as an excuse to stop blogging. I was thinking that since I started it with my mother’s illness, I could end the blog with her passing. But, I find I keep thinking of things I want to share and I need to share them, not just for my own mental health but also because a lot of people won’t share stuff like this. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t want to appear fragile or something.
There are a lot of people I know that just don’t know what to say so they say nothing or very little. That is fine. Death is a tough topic and some things are hard to discuss and it’s hard to think about the dying without thinking about how we will be there one day also. I am at peace, right now at this moment. I know it’s the right decision for my mother and even selfishly for myself. The last six months have been devastating for us all and I knew in the back of my mind that things were not getting better although I had tried to convince both her and myself otherwise. I’ve also been thinking about the last nine years and my mother’s gradual decline. I tell people it has been ugly because that’s the best word I can think of to describe it.
And, although I am at peace with it right now, I know that something could trigger my cry reflex at any moment. In normal times, I could hold that back. Now, I don’t try as hard. It is ok to mourn my mother. It is ok to cry about the sadness of the last six months and even the last nine years. It is ok to be sad.
It is also ok that one day, regular me will be back. I won’t have to drive around with a wash rag in my car that is dedicated for teary fits. I won’t have to carry the backpack I call my hospital bag with me wherever I go just in case there is a sudden need for paperwork or the other things that come in handy while sitting in a hospital room for hours - snacks, toothbrush and toothpaste, Tylenol, Tums, etc. I won’t cringe every time the phone rings, looking at the caller ID and bracing myself for the call I know is coming and I know needs to come but I also know means the end.
A counselor from hospice will be calling me once everything is over and I will have someone to talk to about all of this for thirteen months. I realize and readily admit the need for this, the need to be healthy mentally and physically again.
This has taken a toll on me but I will heal through going to counseling and through being with family and through podcasting and writing here.
It will all work out but right at this moment, it’s tough. Very tough.