cancer · family · grief · loss · love · parents

Waiting To Die.

Mom has been in a semi-comatose state ever since Wednesday evening. She’s at home, in bed, (mostly) peacefully resting. Mostly unconscious and unresponsive.

Dying, in other words.

It’s something we all knew was coming. Especially during this last month, when her decline suddenly surged from a slow and steady deterioration to noticeable changes with every visit. The last time I saw her awake and alert, I had taken her to see the primary care doctor. During the trip, she needed to stop for breaks every several steps in order to breathe. She also had a difficult time riding up the elevator. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look in her eyes- face wet with tears, chest heaving up and down- when we got to the second floor and I had to guide her another 12 or so steps before she could sit down and collect herself.  She was scared and embarrassed and weary. Mom said many times during that appointment and many times over the past month that she was ready for this all to be over. I thought I was, too.

The house has been a zoo the past few days, full of family members, mom’s friends from all areas of her life (some I’ve never even met), and a variety of nurses and caretakers of varying levels of competency. Most folks have been sweet and helpful; some even bringing food and supplies. Others overstay their welcome and overstep their place- one even decided to give my mom’s caretaker a speech on how to do her job. Which is fine, I guess. People express their grief in different ways. And it gives Lindsay and me a place to direct our unfocused rage in comedic ways.

The waiting is hard. And cyclical. I’ve made my peace with mom and have told her to let go at least a dozen times. Other moments, I’m angry at her for even dying in the most Jackie-White-I-do-it-on-my-own-terms-and-own-timing way possible. Other times, I’m mad at myself for not working harder to make certain she knew I loved her in life, in spite of our many differences. But the majority of the time, I’m just waiting- along with my sister and aunt and uncles- in the bone-tired, helpless, hopeless way you have to wait when death is the best option for everyone involved.

Her breathing is rattly and wet, a sign that her lungs are filling with fluid and other secretions. Her body temperature is completely out of whack; sometimes her chest and face feel as if she’s already gone. Her hands remain fireballs, though they’re turning more purple with each passing hour. Her eyes are glossed over and even on the rare occasions she opens them, they look elsewhere, somewhere beyond the room her loved ones are in. She is physically deteriorating right before our eyes. It’s hard. And if it were up to my sister and I, we would give her some sort of pill or injection to speed up the process. Instead it feels like we’re just waiting for her to choke to death. I hate it.

Anyway, I’m too tired to write much more right now but I wanted some of you to know what was going on. I also felt I should get in one more blog post on my “Mom Is Dying” blog while it was still present tense. I’m sure I’ll have lots to say after she passes. For now, I’m going to go hold her hand again. And maybe cry a little more, if my body feels like letting me.

On a lighter note, one of the last coherent things she said to me was, “Where is my box of chocolates?” In spite of our differences, in many ways I know I am her daughter.

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