With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.
[The next three day’s postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother’s death four years ago. This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]
December 10, 2006: I don’t remember what we did today. Probably not too much but talk – and laugh. Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there. I only remember us. Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping. I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times. I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone. But you didn’t. It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time. Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control. We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees. In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.
You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day. Not much, but you’d never needed it before. I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession. You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself. It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain. I remember your pain. It was in your bones. When you would move sometimes – or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable. You would hold your breath until it passed. I hated to see you in pain. I encouraged you to take the morphine. After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain? But you wanted to spend it being present. I admire that.
You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you. Water. Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls. It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does. You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside. Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature. But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured. The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.
People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so. You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend. You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone. I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself. But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.
Everyone brought food. You weren’t eating. I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep. I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me. It wasn’t comforting. It was a random necessity. That had been going on for a week, my eating like that. Ever since you really stopped eating. For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.
I don’t remember doctors coming. I don’t remember even talking to the doctors. But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?
In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it. I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you. When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest. You said yes, and looked at me strangely. I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand. Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter. Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me. I felt a chill that I did not show.
I had been so wrapped up in caring for you. For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you. Your death became my life. We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth. We had talked every day. After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day. In the mornings, to be sure you were okay. If you were lonely. If I was bored. If you went to the doctor. In the evening before bed. If I was scared. If you had some piece of news. We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.
And you were so happy to have the three of us there. You loved us so. That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night. You said goodbye to me. You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her. You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen. Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.
But it was not your last night.