Friday, December 19, 2008

Two hours

We are here. Wrapped in this cocoon of my mom's Last Day. The best way I know to process is through words. I get that from her. And I think she would understand my urgency to get the pen to paper and write down everything so I remember it. That by writing I can cement it.

I have so much gratitude right now. I imagine as things become more real, chunks of gratitude might be replaced by larger chunks of sadness. I'm going to miss who she is. What moments we might have had up ahead of us. And yet, it seems like a trade-off of my own sadness for her peacefulness.

I arrived last night around 6. I showered before going to the hospital, thinking that I didn't want the memory of wondering if I smelled like road trip in the last time I talked to my mom. I still remember giving my Grandma Nell the last hug I ever gave her, and having just eaten peanuts. And I still wonder off and on if I had peanut breath when I hugged her. It's those strange details that seem to cement most strongly.

The goofy mind wanderings of the grieving process.

It was so good to see her. This long journey to get to her. We kept wondering about the drive vs. the flying, and I think I now know why we drove. There are so many parallels I find from the start of life and the end. It's like our drive here was the labor that led to the "birth" of seeing her for the last time. I could cry and sort and greive and remember...and then arrive, ready to really absorb her.

Perhaps because I'm so embroiled in the beginning stages - the freshness of humanity - that I can see this mirrored in the freshness of the final moments too. The preciousness of the little details. The way Simone's little face looked the first time I saw her. The lines of her hair. The lines of my mother's hair in the last moments that I might ever touch her head. The innocence and purity of being completely dependent on other human beings. She couldn't talk last night. She has the respirator, so she could just smile and nod. I was asking her yes and no questions and trying to discern through the communication just like I do with my children. How much love can be transmitted even without words. How important touch is.

I curled up next to her and stroked her hair and told her that I loved her so much. That being her daughter made me really proud. She turned her head towards me and looked right into my eyes. She knew. I wonder if she was frustrated by not being able to talk back. I asked her if I was scaring her by my crying, and she shook her head 'no' and squeezed my hand.

And the smiles! I told her it looked like Simone might have reddish hair too. And how whenever I looked at my three red-haired children, I would think of her. She smiled. I showed her Jack's letters he wrote, that said: "I love you and going" was supposed to end with "to your house," but he hit the edge of the paper so he stopped. She smiled at that. I showed her the shadowbox. I told her she was quite a stinker to go into a coma in the middle of winter in Minnesota -forcing me out of the warmth of Virginia. All smiles.

We had about 2 hours of lucidity. Two hours! I used to pass that amount of time with her without blinking. Just sitting on the couch watching TV or reading books in separate chairs. I never valued it as the most precious stretch of time imaginable. But those two hours did more to expedite my grieving process than I could have hoped for. Now I can just be sad for the person I lost. Not what surrounded her death when I lost her.

They'd eased off the sedatives so I could have lucid time with her, but once we chatted I had an almost frenzied, primal need to medicate her out of the fidgeting, the discomfort. She knew I was there. We had our time. Now let's get her comfortable.

It was hard to watch the discomfort. How do families deal with that for weeks and months on end? Watching their loved one look like that? What gaping wounds some persons must walk around having. When you see someone in line ahead of you at the grocery store, might they have those feelings of an imperfect death and dying of a close family member? I know how lucky I am. And I'm so grateful that my mom's passing is going to be a custom-ordered death of comfort, love, and lots of friends and family.

She's been medicated all day today, but still on the respirator. She's sleeping so peacefully and looks so at rest. We called around and some of her closest friends came by to see her today. I wanted to bring her back to lucidity, joke with her about how popular she is! She always feared she'd throw a party and no one would show up. I think there was some childhood trauma. If she knew how many people stopped their lives today to see her one last time...that's a lucky life to have so much love.

I'm not sure what emotions lie ahead of me. I wonder about that first time I find the perfect gift for her and can't buy it for anyone. What type of mourning will there be? Right now, the only sadness is the selfish one for what I'm losing. I'm so happy for her that she'll die a really peaceful death being held by Dad and having me holding her hand. She deserves this.

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