I’ll start with my mom’s death, because if I can get that out of the way, then maybe I can start thinking about her life again. For the past six years, what I think about when I remember her is: illness, dying, death. It’s very hard to remember what came before...but there must be a story before that, because she was 54 when she died.
Her illness and death go EXACTLY like this: Constipation, stomach ache, bloating...maybe it’s just a big poop...but laxatives don’t work. Finally go to the doctor instead of the mall, then go to the hospital from his office, get a CAT scan. Oh God, please don’t let it be an obstructed bowel!! Lots of prayers for no bowel obstruction. Prayers are answered....it’s ovarian cancer, and it’s everywhere. Surgery two days later and the dr says: we couldn’t get out nearly the amount considered optimal. Spleen is fused to lung because of cancer involvement, bowels are covered, can’t even remove all of uterus...it’s fused to abdominal cavity. Sutures from pubic area to breast bone, and fluid building up threatening to burst the sutures open. No time to think, do chemo. Do it now, in the ICU. Don’t stop. EVER. Even tho it never works month after month, keep trying. Do five different ones, six, seven, eight....get sicker and sicker from chemo (not cancer) but never stop trying....surely the next one will work. Thank God for answered prayers.
Finally, she went septic from an e coli invasion, took a chemo break, went to Hospice and died a tragically undignified death complete with "terminal agitation", because she never got the chance to be .......still.......to blessedly BREATHE, and accept what was happening to her.
She never got the chance to make peace with her body. The Hospice nurses said no one lets go until they’ve made peace, and presumably she was no different, but it would have been nice to see her at peace. The nurse didn’t even move her back into a more natural position for us to see her dead body for the first time. She was contorted to help what used to be her breathing.
And there I was. A baby boy growing in my belly, desperate for her to see my second child born to this world. There I was...standing in a hallway, then sitting on her bed, then lying in her lap, apologizing for what had happened to her and how unfair it all was...how her body had completely betrayed her.
Most people like to say that a loved one’s death taught them grace and dignity...about how to LIVE. I’d love to say that, and I did say that in her written eulogy; written because I was rendered utterly speechless after her death. But what I actually learned is this: there’s no guarantee.
I have no control, and a doctor can never be trusted to do anything other than that which will bring him or her the bigger insurance reimbursement. He will never tell you to stop killing yourself because he gets paid only when he gives you poison. I learned that things go terribly wrong without warning and that, about the really big things? The really terrifying things? We’re powerless.
Since that day in September when my prayers were “answered” I have not been the same person...and since that day in May, when her twisted body was lifeless and she was truly honestly GONE, I haven't been anyone I even recognize anymore. The person I remember being is rarely in control of my thoughts, feelings, or reactions.
I’m held together with wisps of spider threads so delicate I can’t even see them for myself.
I guess it’s true that a mother and child are inextricably twined together, because this is supposed to be her story but now it’s mine, and yet it’s still hers. My whole life is seen through this prism of my mother’s death, and I can’t see what happened before those awful twenty months. It’s like a wall went up and I know there is a scene on the other side, but I can’t get to it.
I can’t climb over and, so far, I can’t make a hole to even look through. I think it would be nice to see and remember what happened before my fervent prayer was answered...before the diagnosis clouded my memory of the years before it.
The memory I do have of the time before serves only to show me just how long she’d been sick and leaves me wondering what the future may have been had we known six months earlier...had we pressed her to see a doctor sooner.
I should be at the part now where I can look over the wall and see the past. I've told the bad part of the story, I've purged that memory.
But I get here, and I still see nothing.