In Simple Terms: An End of Life Story

mother saw spring bunnies while dying
Persistent allergies turn out to be symptoms of stage four cancer! A board of specialists decided that mom’s heart was too diseased and she could not withstand an operation to remove the cancer.
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"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned
the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what is going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity." Gilda Radner

September 13, 2008

Life is good. Even the August heat is bearable on the gracious front porch of my new home. I am safe, content, and finally able to breath after an exhausting divorce.

September 14, 2008 

Darkness and quandary supplant ease and predictability. A robust windstorm disrupts the “good life”. It looks as if it has or will cripple every tenacious tree and power line around.

September 15, 2008
The storm is over. All air is still. My mother claimed the air was sweet today but the “wind must have kicked up some allergies!”

September 30, 2008
Persistent allergies turn out to be symptoms of stage four cancer! A board of specialists decided that mom’s heart was too diseased and she could not withstand an operation to remove the cancer.
October 12, 2008
Mom is so ill. She cannot eat or drink. She sighed at me and asked for a sip of warm coffee. It is her comfort. I could hear shallow coughs from the kitchen where I was pouring her coffee and preparing her meds.

October 13, 2008
It is my birthday. It doesn’t feel like it. Mom has sat quiet and subdued in her recliner all day. She has had no interest in food, not even birthday cake. Oh, how she savors sweets. I continue to reject the doctor’s recommendation of chemotherapy only. Actually, I not only dismiss his lack of creativity, I am humiliated by it. I watch the news, I have acquaintances in the medical field, and my mother has health insurance! And this is all he could propose? Things were just starting to get buoyantly predictable. I was ardently recuperating mentally and financially from a divorce. Cancer NOW to distort the plan!

October 14, 2008

My mother’s zeal for the “latest,” happenings with family and or on the street customarily began at first light with a full pot of pungent Folgers coffee and by lunchtime there could be tears, followed by tumultuous roars of laughter. Today, Mom stated firmly that she desires no aggressive treatments. Nothing! This included the doctor’s mediocre suggestion of chemo. She asked for my understanding. We held each other as I called hospice. 

March 23, 2009
Mulling over the day of “The Windstorm” and how it left us in the dark for nearly two weeks. We lit candles, showered at friends’ houses, and ate from a charcoal grill and finally made use of our Coleman camp stove. It was inconvenient to say the least, but we established routines within the chaos and adapted fairly easy to our new way of life. Hindsight, going without electricity turned out to be a mere respite from technology’s hold and will never compare to the roller coaster of worry and anxiety that cancer has manifested. Something has to give!

March 24, 2009
It’s heartbreaking to see Mom this way now. Striving to complete her daily routine. “Mom, you are still doing it.” It’s as easy as cinnamon toast with little butter, letting the dog out, and starting laundry. These little rituals are difficult for Mom to surrender even though her body has grown weak. I am sadly aware of this as my mother reels from a physical dwelling to an ethereal home.
I asked Mom on one of her “good days” about a “bucket list.” She remarked that she, “never heard of such a thing!” So I explained. She countered, “I have no list.” “What, Mom? Most of us have some thing they wish they would have done or must do before their physical journey is done.” She replied, “No, Bevie. I wanted to get married, have a child, and be a grandmother, that’s always been enough for me.” I said no more. Nothing enticed her. I quickly realized the disappointment I was feeling was mine and not hers at all. No “bucket list!” Perhaps it was because she has lived life in the present, in simple terms, and always kept relationships current, especially with me. There have been things I have shared with Mom that I probably never should have revealed. I could never hold back. Her eyes have been my truth serum; her long bony finger has always been my guide.
Keeping vigil in her room, three feet away from her, she reminds me to get items at the grocery, feed the children, even the ones I cannot see. She insists on being hospitable to her visitors daily. She makes no requests for herself. She grins, enjoying the sporadic social calls of Spring’s bunnies. She watches with wonder what I am not privy to see. She describes the polished young girls and charming little boys that sit upon her bed in a most cordial and aberrant manner. She inquires about the new babes and orders an older child to “stop rough-housing” on the bed.
I know this sounds like one of those syrupy “Chicken Soup” stories. I cannot explain it. I have tried. It’s the lack of oxygen, drop in blood pressure, and/or medication that conjures up these delusional episodes, but observing first hand for the past five months has renewed my faith in God. And children, her cherubs come as no revelation to me. Her capacity to love and care for all little ones has always been boundless.
March 25, 2009
After a grueling night of terminal restlessness Mom released her final breath slowly at 10:20 a.m. She gave a half smile and in a soft even voice said, “Mom, Mommy, there you are!” Mom could not talk for several hours before she died. When she attempted to speak the words would be jumbled and incoherent. It appeared when Mom relieved herself of her duty and stopped trying to anticipate the “next,” she found eternal peace.

March 24, 2011
It will be two years tomorrow my mother has been gone. I use to be able to smell her at times when I would put on my coat and walk out the door for work. I often would have a lurid dream that my mother was encased in a bubble. She would be overcome with pain and I was always powerless, unable to save her. I am better now. It does get better. And the moments when I am not, I think of our “coffee talk,” the elongated finger that served as my beacon of “right,” and lastly I envision her beaming when her angel children and forest friends called upon her.

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