My mother passed away peacefully Friday morning about 5 minutes after I arrived to be with her. I had just told her that my sister was coming late that night. I had some time with her and crawled beside her and held her and thanked her for everything she had done for me. I sobbed, tears soaking her pillow beside her bed. At the moment, I feel somewhat untethered. Like a cord had been cut inside of me. But being with my husband and my son helps a lot. I am at peace with her passing and she is no longer suffering a poor quality of life. I am grateful for the great memories we’ve had during the 12 years I’ve had with her here.
My younger sister arrived late that night and booked a hotel downtown (!) to “help me out” (but of course now that our mother is gone it’s completely inconvenient as I live 10 km away across a bridge and does not help me out at all……) but not before my eldest sister called (and she never calls me) to demand to know what I was doing with the “arrangements” and that by dividing my mother’s ashes her spirit would never rest. Which would make sense if she or my mother were Catholic, but they are not.
I did not see that coming. She didn’t even ask me how I was doing.
I guess if she had stayed beyond the 2 days when my mother had sepsis 2 years ago to discuss the funeral arrangements that me and my younger sister made (when we were told by doctors that she was dying), I’d give a rat’s ass what she thought.
It’s been 24 hours. What’s been wonderful is that I have had a flood of emails and texts from my Buddhist friends pledging daimoku to support me and my family. It’s like a blanket of protection that gives me such comfort and happiness. And I thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers and I have sincere appreciation for your words of comfort during this time.
I guess I should be sleeping, but I’m not ready to yet. I suppose I’ve broken the standard rules by talking about mum while she’s in the room, on the phone, with the staff, with my husband. I think I did it on purpose. I think I’m angry. At her. Angry that she didn’t just go suddenly, quickly. That it’s not like it is on TV where the heartbeat monitor flatlines and that’s that. I’m angry that approaching death smells and it’s noisy and I want company so I can be distracted from my vigil. I want to go on vacation. I’m angry my husband can’t take a day off of work cause he’s self employed and I’ve got work coming up and a conference complete with boozy dinners and this is going to fuck that all up. I’m angry that I’ve had to deal with texts and phone calls and goodbyes over my cell phone and hospitals and doctors. Again. That my life is on hold. Again. That I’m left trying to figure out what I should tell my sisters, whether they should come right away, like I did last time. Ooops, sorry, but that’s what the doctor’s said. Of course, then she rebounded. Now, it’s obvious to me that that’s not happening. That this dying business is for real this time. There will be no surprise comeback this time around. I’m angry having to be the one yet again to deal with all this “business”. Why do I always get to be the strong one?! Why do my sisters have to say they were in “shock”?! What the fuck are they in shock of? They were here 2 years ago. That was their rehearsal. She’s old and sick! Old people die every fucking day, never mind ones with late stage dementia. She had a massive stroke, why are they asking me all the questions. Should they come, omigod, it’s so expensive, what should I do? Why are you even asking? You either are or you aren’t. My younger sister says she wants to be there for me. To do what precisely? Ask me more stupid questions I don’t have the answer to but in person? I’d have to take care of her, drive her back and forth, worry about her, if she’s eating, if she’s resting. She won’t be cooking, cleaning, walking my dog, grocery shopping or tucking my kid into bed. That’s what I need someone to do without me asking you to do it. So, no, I’m not asking you to come for my sake cause it wouldn’t be for my sake. I’m angry that my husband is angry I’m in this without my sisters and have been for 12 years and pretending not to be cause I told him it bothers me but he can’t hide that shit from me so I see it and it pissed me off.
I’m angry that my mother hasn’t had water in 3 days and her tongue is swelling up in her mouth and I can smell her breath from 6 ft away and I did it to her because she has nothing to come back to. No quality of life. I’m angry that her mouth has to be wiped out and another drug has to be given to ease her throat and one minute she’s making sleeping sounds then choking and coughing and then sleeping again. I’m angry that nobody bothered to give me the pamphlet about this and I had to look it up on my own to know this is how it goes. I’m angry that I gotta sleep with the phone next to me. I’m angry at myself for the very un-Buddhist thoughts that have flown through my head.
I’m angry that I didn’t just get a phonecall saying she had just quietly passed away while I slept. That truly pisses me off and makes me angry at my own mother that her very strength that I’ve always admired is making this BRUTAL. I don’t get to use the word “shocked” cause really, for the last 2 years, I’ve truly wanted this daily dropping off in bits to be done and over with. Even a massive stroke can’t take her out in one fell swoop, she’s gotta drag this out with every last bit of drama in her.
I would like to gnash my teeth and sob and take to my bed for a week but I cannot. I do not have that option. Cause apparently a woman my age is too busy taking care of business at the moment.
So I’m back at a place where I was a couple of years ago. Sitting by my mother’s bedside waiting for her to die. I got a call at 4am Tuesday morning telling me my mother had a TIA (trans ischemic attack ie. mini stroke), she was on oxygen and was resting comfortably. I realized that my instinct had been right, she had had a TIA around Thanksgiving and it was a precursor of what would happen. I had to be up super early that day to go to work so needless to say I did not sleep a wink. Hubby also had an early start, so his mother had come over from the island to take care of Boo. I only had to work a couple of hours so I went to the care home as soon as I could. The doctor there told me she thought she had had a stroke and we both thought we would just let nature take its course. The other option was to go to the hospital to confirm what had happened but the end result was going to be the same. No medical measures were to be taken. I called my sister but I knew already what she would say and I was right. So we called an ambulance and Mum had a CAT scan pretty soon after she arrived. The emergency room doctor told me she had had a major bleed and she would not recover. They admitted her to a private room eventually and she spent the night. I went home, snuggled beside my son who woke up to hug and kiss me. “I’ll make some room, mum” and I feel his dry curls against my face. I needed to be with him like I needed a cool glass of water on a hot day. In the morning, I had her transferred back to the care home. She is unconscious, sleeping in a way. No IV, no tubes. Her chest rises and falls, stops for a bit, then starts up. She sputters and snores occasionally, but she is silent.
I’ve left out a couple really good stories, dozens of texts pledging their daimoku for me and my family, frustrating phone calls with my sisters and the familiar feel of my armour sliding in place as I stand watch over my mum. And so I wait.
I recently received an email from a woman who had survived mesothelioma cancer and wanted to spread the awareness of this type of cancer. I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I finally got around to checking out her site and reading about her journey. It was incredible. Her name is Heather Von St. James and her story is profound, heartbreaking and inspirational. Mesothelioma is an entirely preventable disease that is caused by asbestos exposure. For Heather, she was exposed to asbestos by wearing her father’s work jacket that carried the toxic fibers. She did not know as a little girl that would be the cause of her illness many years down the road. As a result of her diagnosis, in addition to chemotherapy and radiation, Heather had to have an extremely risky surgery to remove her left lung. This is one of the many reasons she celebrates Healthy Lung Month, and she is approaching her 10 year cancer free anniversary this February after being told that she would not live 15 months past her diagnosis. I urge you to spend some time to read her posts, another one is promised late October.
I missed last week’s Microblog Mondays (which in my case, usually is a macroblog) due to Thanksgiving weekend. The Canadian Thanksgiving is not the usual sentimental, drive a million miles to get to kind of holiday but it is a long weekend and if you’re of a certain age, then you have family over and have a big meal. My husband’s brother is back from England (after a long and weary tale of alcoholic relapse, divorce and unemployment) and living with his parents while he rebuilds his life. His recently acquired job let him take some time off for Thanksgiving so he was able to come over and join us. That was really nice to see after all the prayers and concern over him. I missed my side of the family who didn’t even think to call me, thanks a lot, even though I called them. I’m getting more sentimental by the second, aren’t I? Boo said he was thankful for his family which warmed my heart and of course my thoughts flew to his birthmother. Boo was born on the American thanksgiving weekend. I have learned over the years not to go too crazy with from scratch recipes with DH’s family as they are English and frankly like the same old boring holiday meals with very little variation. A few years ago I did a brined turkey for Christmas and that about made my MIL’s head spin for days. We had ham, one of those ridiculously expensive turkey roasts (all meat, no wasted leftovers), vegetables, boxed stuffing, potatoes (Buddha forbid we don’t have potatoes), green beans and carrots (boiled of course, but you know I had to pan fry them with butter and garlic) and cause I can’t stand the same old stuff, I made a butternut squash au gratin and a pumpkin cheesecake. I had thoughts about making an apple pie from scratch but bought one for $3.99 instead. I also drank a lot of Apothic Red. I know what you’re thinking – it’s cheap, but I live in Canada where the tax the heck out of booze, so it’s over twice the American price, so it still makes me bourgie.
I had a week full of transcribing and auditions. I did book a small gig. One liner. It does get to me sometimes to go for all these great auditions and interesting parts and the only thing I book is a one liner. Sigh. I can’t say I was thrilled about it because it wasn’t even the part I had the callback for, but I had my bitch session and I’m over it. It’s a cheque and we need it. I will smile and have fun and not complain about my shitty trailer.
Now for the good stuff, my colonoscopy. I always love a good adventure. The prep was dreadful, dreadful, dreadful!!! No food, only clear liquids allowed. I broke down and bought a package of Jello cause I was desperate to consume something approaching texture. I hate jello. I was in bed most of the fasting day, cause really the last thing I wanted to do was go for a brisk walk in the woods with the dog and work up an appetite for more jello. In the evening, I drank 1 litre of stuff that tastes sort of like metamucil-thick, clear, sprite tasting gatorade. 1 cup every 10 minutes. Waited another hour and proceeded with the next litre. I did make it through the whole day without wanting to kill anyone. The next morning I had to finish off the last 2 litres in 1 hour. 4 litres people! That’s like one of those big vinegar jugs. That made me want to kill someone. But I was too busy trying not to soil myself before making the 5ft to the bathroom. Two words. Niagara Falls. Hubby dropped me off at this hospital I didn’t even know existed and they whisked me up to a quad room and gave me a typical gown to put on and a plastic bag to stuff my clothes in. I chatted with a lady there who had already done her procedure and she assured me it was a breeze. If there’s one thing Canadian women do well is bond over medical tests. I also let her use my phone to text her son who was late picking her up. There was a man there waiting for his wife to pick him up and I heard him tell the nurse that he was holding his gas in even though he was supposed to be letting it out. That was kinda funny. I read a little and then was whisked away to get it done. They gave me something to relax me and I assumed I’d drift off. Instead I chatted all the way through my colonoscopy. I think I was done in about 10 minutes. I could see my clean as a whistle colon on a flat screen TV in front of me. Cool. And happy to report, no ominous tumours or polyps! And according to the post procedure report, no hemorrhoids which is a little confusing because I’m sure the doctor said I had a couple of little ones (which I thought would explain my leaky bum). The inlaws had picked the kid up from school but I was home not long after feeling just fine and dandy. I’m not sure why they made someone pick you up, I could have driven myself but that’s standard when they use sedatives/pain killers.
No, I did not lose any weight. And my bum is still itchy. Damn!
Well, that was quite the week! 4 fun evenings out in one week – surely this is a record! And I turned one evening down cause I was too tired! 3 evenings were film festival parties and one was a mum’s night out at a local eatery. I have to say I can’t remember having so much fun in such a long time. I got dressed up, saw a couple of great movies, talked shop with colleagues,danced and had a couple of drinks. Woohoo! And I’m friggin tired. But it was worth it!