I sat close to my Mom in her Hospice bed with my laptop where laptops usually sit – on my lap. She was unconscious, still; yet she looked like a passenger comfortably sitting in the seat of the plane, waiting on the tarmac for her plane to take off.
I’m not intuitive enough to make such a leaping prediction. The Hospice nurses who came and went every 20 or so minutes answered my only question with the same answer, ” it could be any time, She’s actively dying.” For all the traveling she did in her life; she packed, unpacked and packed again during our Dad’s military transfers, this was looking like her last trip with a one way ticket.
For the past few years I’ve heard “any time”, but to hear “actively dying” coupled with a Hospice bed now, I knew she was closer to leaving and this time maybe she would.
Thinking back, she told me four years ago after our Dad died that she didn’t want to be here anymore. That’s when she knew me, when she knew she didn’t want to be here, when the horrid phase of Alzheimer’s brings panic and fear. They were terrible days for her and terrible days to witness.
In Emergency rooms where we’d end up due to occasional episodes, she’d scratch imaginary worms off her body until she bled and insist that the flecks in the linoleum were worms. She’d lean down to the floor and try to rub them out with her fingers. I learned to agree with her no matter what she said, heard or saw. I agreed that Frank Sinatra was singing in the walls behind her bed, that there was commotion upstairs. There was no upstairs. Correcting her upset her even more.
I learned to agree with her that her mom, brothers and sisters were still in Philly. Reminding her that they had died years ago only lasted for a few minutes in her puzzled panicky mind anyway and she’d just ask the same question again within minutes. And worse, it upset and confused her.
I rarely said “good-bye” at the end of a visit without her begging me to drop her off at the bus stop to catch the trolley to the city so she could go home. That was over two years ago. She forgot who I was last year. Some days I was her childhood best friend. On other days I was her neighbor or a co-worker from the late 40’s. Recently, I’d been just a nice stranger who dropped by, smiled a lot and smoothed her hair away from her face. She forgot she hated having her hair close to her eyes. I didn’t.
I agreed to be whoever she thought I was.
I sat in her Hospice room and in-between holding her hand, I worked on a childhood story I wrote; a story that included her. Given the circumstances, the story changed from the story it was to a story that is now in bits and pieces. I decided to file it away for another day.
I took my eyes off of the keyboard to gaze at her still face and her quiet hands. I thought about her life, I thought about my life with her. Every memory of her came alive, every line on her face told a story but her hands held the strongest of memories. Now so soft from lack of use, so limp, so thin skinned and yet if love could be seen with the eye, I saw love in her hands. I saw decades of her hands hard at work; homemaking, mothering, packing, unpacking, creating, grand mothering, nurturing, hugging.
I decided to be who I am, her daughter. I whispered truths into her ear. No more make believe stories to prevent angst and worry. She didn’t look anxious and worried anymore. I whispered every possible thing I could think of that might leave me full of regret if I didn’t.
I told her how much I loved her, how grateful I was for her constant devotion as a mother. I thanked her for instilling in me the true meaning of faith. I told her that her mom, her brothers, her sister, my dad were waiting for her. I told her the trolley was finally here.
Note to reader~ That night my mom flew but on the wings of angels.