December 11, 2006:
You had slept. I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row. I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant. You would moan every so often. When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me. “Am I still here?” you asked. “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.” “Damn,” you said.
We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here. You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today. Which told me how much you were hurting. We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine. I would have done anything for you. But I could not commit to killing you. I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.” I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.
The quality of the day changed after that talk. It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were. We were down to just the orange sherbet now. I would slip a little between your dry lips (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile. We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way. How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.) How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry. We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child. That seemed to ease you greatly.
You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often. More people came and went. We talked about your excitement about whatever came next. And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.
More people came and went. I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born. It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.
We talked and talked. You were getting…frisky? Cocky? Rambunctious? You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass. I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.
You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come. You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew. And you let it go.
[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]
The hospice chaplain came. I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry. I didn’t cry much the last few days. Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t. But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow. I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go. After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace. I never knew what was spoken between them. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that she had released that last burden.
Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly. Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit. It made her so happy. “It’s my angel,” she said. She always thought that way about Jackie. Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time. “Have you noticed that smell? It’s the smell of death,” she said. “I know that smell.” Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman. She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry. She hugged me.
As the afternoon faded, she started to fade. She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much. She was hurting more. I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often. I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands. It was getting late. We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other. She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine. I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.
The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light. We did. We sat and talked quietly. We sat in silence. We sat through the night. E-Bro went to rest of a while. It was calm. I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free. Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed. Maybe it was her breathing. Something. My uncle went to get my brother from the couch. We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go. I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart. It slowed. Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.
Until they stopped all together.