August 5, 2013
Mom arrives in Colorado for what would be her last trip to the place she loved dearly. Our time together entails adventures at the casino, the buffet, the dog park; drives through the mountains with affectionate hand-holding and back-rubbing; story-telling; chilly mornings in robes with cigarettes on the porch; visits from wildlife; long naps together in our bed.
Upon reflection, Mom slept a lot. There were questions that now haunt me. “Mom, why are you holding your stomach?” “Mom, why can’t you eat more?” “Do you feel bad Mom?”
August 27, 2013
Sitting outside of Dave’s work, I take a call from Joan. “Dork, I’m taking Mom to the hospital. She has flu-like symptoms. She called me and asked for helped, so you know it’s bad.”
Bad news. At school, I break down in my boss’s office. I come home, crumble to my knees, and call Dave’s Mom for prayers. I weep on the floor, holding Spooner, grasping for strength. I make arrangements to go home to my Mom.
At the hospital, I am bedside with my Mom, where I should be. She is in good spirits, despite the fatal news. Dave, Joan, and I sit around her, positioned in a triangle-sentinel of care. We are recording her telling stories. We are imprinting her on our eternal soul. We are laughing, we are crying, we are living a good-bye that will come much faster than we could ever imagine.
August 31, 2013
Mom is released from the hospital and is glad to be home. Nova and I search several stores for access to her costly prescriptions. Overwhelmed by the amount of medicine and the fact she won’t be able to drive, something shifts in Mom; something shifts in Heaven.
We spend most of the evening on the porch, while Mom relives her past with vivid stories. She is surrounded by the love and listening ears of the Davenports, Nova, Chris, Dave and I. We eat Stir Crazy and Portillo’s, a feast of craving-conquerors.
That night, in the quiet dark, it is just my Mom and I, on the back porch, huddled beneath the soft glow of the wicker lamp. This night is our secret time; we are weaving invisible threads of gold between our souls. We spend hours in tearful conversation, planning for her passing, saying our good-byes, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. I am so very tired, how much more Mom. But something deep within me whispers to treasure this night, this time. “Mom, you know how much I love you, right?” “Yes, Mary, yes…” A glint of gold catches the light.
We leave for our drive back to Colorado, to work, to real life, to a cold chasm between our dying Mother and us. It is the hardest good-bye of our lives…until tomorrow.
September 2, 2013–PM
In the car, in the middle of Nebraska, I have a panic attack. I am not right. Something is not right. I contemplate going to the nearest ER. Dave contemplates punching me to snap me out of it. Deep within me, unknowingly, I feel her weakened heartbeat from across the miles.
In the car, near the Colorado-side of Nebraska, the phone rings. It is the curdling-sound of death. “Mom is bad. We’re taking her back to the hospital.” “How bad?” “…The doctors say you should get here as soon as possible.”
We drive forward. We turn around. We pull over. We look for flights from the nearest towns. We turn around again. We brainstorm how I can get home the quickest, to say good-bye, to hold her and tell her I love her one last time. It is my Dad all over again, rushing against the clock to be there. We don’t know what to do. We turn around again. Endless circles, powerless, just like our stomachs, our hearts’ endless terrified grief.
“Mom, I love you. We’re coming home. We’ll be there soon.” Weak, distant: “Ok, Mary.”
Endless miles. Endless tears. Endless fears.
September 3, 2013–AM
We pull up to the hospital, looming like an ivory grim reaper. Beating the clock, we are with her. She is heavily drugged, heavily pained, weak in cognition, weak in breath. The mottle march of bruises creeps up her legs like a ticking time bomb.
September 3, 20113–PM
Mom’s breath changes. She rolls over to her left side, tucks her hands into her chest, curled like a baby. This is how she always slept, and so she will now. We gather around her, laying our hands on her, channeling our gratitude and love through us to her–to each other. We chant over and over, “We are here for you Mom,” “We love you,” “Go be with Dad,” “We love you,” sanctifying her departure with our blessings as she has sanctified our lives with her strength and laughter and stories. She opens her eyes. She looks into the distance. Something changes in her eyes, in her face, in the room. Her breath becomes shallow, still; her chest softens. She smiles, a deep gesture, with a purity and innocence that is other-worldly.
No more of her breath finds its way to life. It is now, only, our breaths, the breaths of her beloveds, living the life she gave us.