Our Last Conversation
This time last year, it was almost Mother’s day. I went and bought a card and flowers, but it was not needed. I wrote what a great mom she had been. How much I loved her silly things that said so much about her character. When we got to the 8th of May, we knew the next day was my brother’s birthday. He was killed in 2004. She wasn’t completely coherent due to the of the lack of oxygen her body lived off of and the medicines I gave her. It was a tricky road because I wanted her to stay awake as much as possible, but when she started to show signs of pain, I would medicate.
She spoke of my brother as if he were still living. She asked if he had made it up yet. It took me completely by surprise. “Almost, Mom. Just rest.” I felt terrible lying, but if her reality was that he was still living, I was going to let her have it. I put a wet rag on her head, rolled her to the side, and slathered lavender lotion all over her back. She gave sounds of contentment, and along with the pain meds, I was able to make her comfortable for short periods of time until she would drift off to I-don’t-know-where. I would then walk outside and cry as if my insides had been churned, causing me to bleed to death.
The last night before she passed, she told me that she knew I had been there for Bonnie on the night she took her life. It felt like I had been punched in the chest. Air escaped my lungs and I felt I was going to faint. My mouth dry, I didn’t know what to say. “Help me, Tootie. I can’t do this anymore!”, she cried. A mixture of tears and the frustration of a body so strong, giving way inch by inch.
“I know. Don’t let me suffer anymore. Please Honey.” In a nanosecond, I was a six year old again. Not understanding why my mom was so sick. Why her attempts in the past at ending her life haven’t taken her away from me. Back then, it was always a forever. I never questioned if she would really come back. But this time, I knew when she went away, it was eternity.
“Mom, I can’t do that.” We both had tears when she inquired to my hesitation. She didn’t wait for an answer, she drifted to sleep. I sat like a statue at her side watching her breathe. The death rattle a constant companion.
In that time, I didn’t see a woman at the end of her life. I saw a woman in her 40’s that had fear of nothing! I remembered the way that she could embarrass me and it gave her joy. I admit, that one I seemed to have picked up with my boys. I saw her working in her yard for so many hours at a time. She was in the delivery room with me when I had my first child. She was so happy I asked her to be there. That is one regret I do not have. It was like a film clip of our lives together. Disease was not in the future, not yet anyway.
She had asked me to help her die. In one way, I felt honored that she felt like I would. On the other hand, did she think I helped Bonnie kill herself? She knew I was there that night. What did she really think? I lost my way, spinning from past to future. It was confusing and painful. I spent the rest of the night laying beside her on the couch, holding her cold hands. They were so soft and pale. They were like velvet. It was everything good I had of her, winding down to a close. A chapter finished, no miracles, no reprieve. Certain death stood in the room and I felt it.
Right before the sun came up, I was about to drift off. But then I felt her looking at me. I looked up and her eyes were filled with tears but she didn’t seem to be in pain. “You will take care of Freddy? (Her disabled brother) And don’t get crazy when your Dad marries again. If you want him to stick around, don’t give him sh** about it.”
I rushed over to make her instant coffee, but when I returned she was sleeping again. I drank it. It didn’t matter that it tasted like mud, it was hers, so it was perfect. This was, in essence, our last real conversation. I rolled her socks down to cover her toes only. That was how she wore them. I don’t think it meant anything to her right then, but I wanted to see it. If I closed my eyes real tight, it looked like the healthy her.
I was about to go home and make sure my house still was standing. Make a quick head count to make sure everybody was still accounted for. “Toot? Toot? Are you still here?”
“Yes.” Taking her hand, I went back to where I had just spent the last several hours. I didn’t know if I could ever stand straight anymore. “I love you, Babe!” Her voice was soft and half gone. She seemed to be leaving me in phases. Then her bent, arthritic finger pointed at my left shoulder. “Remember, I will be right here, so be good!” I added an exclamation point, but it was emphasized in a whisper.
“Promise?”, she asked. The first time I didn’t add, that she could get through this. She had not the will or the health to do anything but die. I acknowledged this with my silence. Nothingness has never felt so heavy in my entire life.
“Promise,” I replied. She then drifted back to the slumber where she found some reprieve from the act of dying. I couldn’t look anyone. I just slowly walked to the door and left. Closing the door quietly not to awaken her. “Promise.” I whispered through my broken heart.
Last night, I would feel that left shoulder, and wonder if she sat there. Angels don’t lie, right? I love you Mom. So much, you have no idea. I have kept my promise with Dad. Please don’t take him for awhile. Yet, I have no trust in that. I have so little trust in anything right now.
We’re almost to the anniversary of your passing. What will I do? I want to heal, it is fatiguing to grieve non-stop. “I miss you and I love you. There is a tattoo of a cat on my shoulder, Mom. That is how you will find me. But how will I find you?” For heaven is not a sure thing for me anymore. Not today. Not ever. Off to the cemetery.