I cried all night, the day I published my last post.
It was September first, and one year prior, to that very day, was the day I lost my Mom to cancer. It happened at Elizabeth Bruyere, the palliative care building located in a beautiful area of downtown and my husband, myself and my son, were the only family left to visit that day.
Somewhere, deep inside my gut, I knew she was going to die that day. I knew, in the same way, I knew it would rain. How you taste that cool breeze in the air, and even though the sky is bright blue and the sun is beaming down on the flesh of your shoulder, that coolness running over your bare skin, tells you the truth. I knew it in the same way as this, and I tried to put it away, but could not. And when my Grandpa left that afternoon, shuffling away, with those sad, heavy shoulders of his, I knew I would be the one to call later, and have to tell them him truth. That she had died. And I was right.
She had been in a morphine sleep haze for two days now. The little machine laying at her side, the tubes pumping a never-ending supply into her veins. The tumors in her cervix had grown so large, that she was now unable to relieve herself, and go to the washroom. They had spent hours trying to insert a catheter two days before, but the tumor was just to big. There was nothing more they could do, and we had nothing to offer her, but the small comfort of our presence.
The doctor informed us that because they could not successfully help her relieve herself, that this would cause the urine to back up into her kidneys, and that she would eventually pass of kidney failure. It was a peaceful way to die, they said.
“We recommend you say your goodbye’s and do your best to make your peace with this.” The nurses were kind and understanding.
There was so much to say, I didn’t have the words. I still had so many questions, so much anger within. And the contrast between my love for her, and my hate, was almost too much to bear. You see, during the Spring that had just passed, I had come to learn a dark truth. One that, stole away all the seeming innocence of our relationship and the morsels of trust that had been left. Not that there were many.
She had known what they had done to me, the abuse I suffered. And she had not only turned her back, no, she had not only turned her face away. She had once..
It’s been almost an hour since I typed those last three words. Every time, I begin to finish that sentence my mind goes blank and I find myself staring at the screen. Repeating it over and over again in my head. She had once….participated. She had once….participated. She had once…participated. I’m stuck here, and it hurts. A lot. I can hardly remember what I began this post with, because just having this thought run through me, is enough to bring me to my knees in tears. I love my mother. And, I hate my mother. It has made my grieving process a terrible and confusing thing, and every single day, my heart wails in pain at how much I wish things could be different. That I could say goodbye to my mom in peace, without the constant tug of war between these two opposing feelings. How my heart contradicts itself equally on both sides, is disconcerting, even though I understand it.
She had not only turned her face away, she had once…participated. That memory resurfacing itself just four months before I got the phone call. And so as I sat there at her bedside, with the sound of the beeping machine, of it pushing the drug into her veins, I knew this. The crayons in my son’s hand dragging over the white paper on his lap and the soft weight of my husbands strong hand tracing the lines of my back, I knew. The smell of food wafting through the halls, the elevator opening and closing again. And as I listened to the sound of my mothers breath, so strained and forceful, I knew what she had done. Cringing internally at the phlegm rising up and down her throat from all those years of smoking and rattling within. That terrible sound. My internal chaos and pain, for the now, and the then, mixed with the soundtrack of this all too painful reality, that my mother was dying.
When my Grandmother was in her final days, the nurses had taught us how to remove the extra phlegm that had spilled into her mouth,
(gross, I know, but I wouldn’t tell you unless I had too)
…with large kind of que-tips, teaching us to remove the stuff not only because it was needed, but because a person could choke this way. The thought of my grandmother choking to death scared the shit out of me, but they reassured me how normal this was, and that it happened to almost everyone in those final days. Normal or not, it still scared the shit out of me.
So when my mom began to choke, I knew this was why. It was such a terrible sound. My heart falling to the pit of my stomach, and I ran out into the hallway for a nurse. The attending nurse grabbed this kind of large glass jug, with measuring cup units in red print up along the side of it and followed me into the room. She began to lift my mother’s head in her hands, at the same time asking me,
“Do you want to stay for this?” Breaking me out of my own haze of disbelief and plugging me back into life. I look down at my son, only five years old.
“No, no I won’t stay.” And she gets to work as the three of us head towards the hallway, and into the elevator. It felt like I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in those fifteen minutes. My hands shaking, my heart screaming, the sound of my mother choking like that. The walk back to the elevator was entirely surreal, the bell ringing as the doors opened on my mother’s floor. The slow walk down the hallway, turning the corner with the thudding of my own heart, and Landon’s little five-year old hand in mine. My husbands strong, warm hand in my other, and I see her. I see the nurse standing in the hallway, and she’s crying. She’s shaking, and she’s crying and she looks up to see me there.
“It was horrible,” she wails, “It was so horrible.”
And all I can do is look at her, because I don’t know what she’s saying to me. And she’s still crying, as she lifts her hand to her mouth, and this look of shock comes over her face. And she says to me,
“Oh my goodness, you’re her daughter! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry. Your mother has just passed away, I couldn’t clear her airway, and she asphyxiated. She could not breathe. I’m so sorry.” And that was it. As I turned my head towards her room, the tears rimming my eyes with heat, she was in there. Still and lifeless, and gone. I held her hand and played with her hair until her skin started to get cold, and with that, I kissed her forehead and said my last goodbye.
I love you Mom.
“Someday, you’re going to look back on this moment of your life, as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…” ~Elizabeth Gilbert