I have never had a relative die. My mother is living in a nursing home in another state than I do, next to my sister. She has recently been in and out of the hospital gasping for breath then stabilized and then sent back to her nursing home BUT…the last time a decision was made by her doctors and my sister that there would be no more “heroics” and she will not be brought back to the hospital when she is struggling for breath but instead, given morphine and taken care of by hospice. My patients need to know the situation so that they are prepared for me to leave Ct. with very little warning for a funeral or something else involving my mother that is unforeseen today. Many of my patients have asked me how I can stand to keep working under the circumstances. The answer is “I have no idea”. I feel numb to it-I don’t want to think about it…if I work, I am focused on something else.
I have noticed that I am adverse to watching Doctor T.V. shows as well as action movies about killing with cars crashing all over the place and spooky horror themes that I usually don’t mind watching with my teenagers. I am trying to keep my mind protected from disaster and mayhem as well as I can. I am hurting. It is at night that I feel it the strongest, when I am alone and everyone in the house is sleeping. My mind wanders to my mother-but not how she looks now but how I remember her as a beautiful young woman in a pink bathrobe waiting for my father (her X husband) to return my sister and me to our house after a day of ice skating. I remember the way she used to wear a wig (called a “fall” in the 60′s) when she went out on dates and I remember the flowers she left in my room I would discover in the mornings after she had been on a date. Those were the days of new puppies and dancing with her in our blue living room to Beatles music. I miss that woman. I miss being able to call out “Mommmm……where is my favorite shirt? and Mommmm…….when are you going to come home tonight? I remember loving our garden together and the backyard full of mint and flowers she planted for the summer.
My mother was beautiful. She looked like a model. Tall and willowy and as I got older every now and then people who knew us used to tell me “Wow. You look just like your mother”. I was so proud that everyone else’s Mom looked like a pudgy dwarf to me but my mother was unusual and quirky a lot like me. She had 2 master’s degrees from Washington University and a third from St. Louis University. When I touch her bony hand and try to get her to look at me I see a vacant searching stare and we both know there is nothing to be done. Does she see me? Does she miss her life? These are the things that can’t be spoken due to her dementia. I just have to be present and try not to be afraid to answer the phone when it rings…what news will there be?
Many years ago I read a poem and gosh-I know I won’t get this perfectly correct but there was a line that said something like…”now that my mother is gone…there is nothing to protect me anymore from eternity”. I don’t know how it will feel–I’ll let you know. It is all such a mystery and I am alone in this and it is time for me to finally grow up but it hurts and there are no words to explain how I miss her even though she still breathes, today.