Sunday, September 13, 2009

So Much to Lose, Part 2

I flew home from Colorado and my roommate picked me up at the airport. We got to the turn off between my house and the hospital. Did I want to go see my mom tonight? she asked. It was late. Visiting hours were over. I didn’t feel like navigating the parking garage and other perceived hassles, so I declined.

“But if she dies tomorrow, don’t blame me,” I joked. Oh yes I did. That’s how far from my reality even the concept of a dead mom was. For 1/10 of a second I had that oogy feeling that comes right before a stranger yanks your purse from under your arm, or your car slams into a dump truck, but as quickly is as it came, it flitted away again.

The next day I called my mom as soon as I woke. She sounded great. “You must be tired from your big trip. Why don’t you go back to sleep?” she said. So I did.

Later, I gathered up some art books for her to look at, a camera to take pictures of us together, and headed out. I stopped at the McDonald’s across from the hospital. I did not rush. We had time.

As I walked down the hallway to her room, I could see a glassed-in smoking lounge straight ahead. Patients could still smoke inside in those days. I thought it was funny to see people clutching their IV poles in one hand, cigarettes dangling from the other. I heard one woman say, “She’s been doing that for a while; they’ll probably move her roommate out because she's so loud.” The others nodded in agreement, a silent Greek chorus.

I entered Mom’s room to loud moaning. Her head was in intense pain. Her eyes were closed. I reached out for her small, warm hand. To this day, even though her voice is lost to me, I remember the feel of her hands, the smoothest I’ve ever felt.

Without opening her eyes, she said, “Oh, Anna, you’re here. I’m sorry I’m being such a chicken liver. It just hurts so much.” I assured her that she wasn’t chicken, but I was glad her eyes were shut, because mine were full of tears.

Her roommate was moved out of the room. Someone tried to find her doctor, but he was not reachable. Anywhere. Did doctors golf on Tuesdays? Would he ever come? Now it was only the two of us.

I didn’t have much faith in the Doogie Howser interns who came to check her every once in a while. Was there a real doctor in the house? Did these people even give a shit?

My father appeared, having been called at work by someone. Was it me? My mother opened her eyes and said to him, “You have been so good through all of this.” These words--her last-- were, I believe, her gift to him. A comfort he could pull out of his pocket and remember later, when he most needed to. She’s so damn classy, I remember thinking, to reach out to someone else when she was in such pain.

Something changed. She grew quiet. A good sign? Another person, still not her doctor, checked her eyes.

Brain bleed.
No recovery.

My dad and I walked to a waiting room to discuss life support. Everything was happening so quickly. Of course she would not want to be, as people said so callously in those days, “a vegetable.” I smiled at my dad through my tears, wanting to comfort him, wanting him to know he didn’t have to worry about me.

Inside, my mind raced. Didn’t people come out of comas, like 10 years later, finding their children grown and their clothes out of date, but none the worse for the wear? Was there hope? Should we DO something?

I wanted to fight for her, but I didn’t really know what that meant, and I felt small and tired. I mean, if I hadn’t wanted to deal with a stupid parking garage, how could I be strong enough to defy a doctor’s recommendation and demand she be put on life support?

I hugged my dad. I said nothing.

We returned to her room, joined by one of our ministers, maybe two. We prayed around her bed as her breathing became loud and labored. I wanted to shout: “Walk AWAY from the light! Stay with me!” But that seemed weird, and embarrassing, and vulnerable, so I joined hands with the others and silently prayed for peace.

And we stood for a very long time, saying nothing, as her breathing got slower and slower…and stopped.

I gathered the unopened art books, the camera, and went home.

I truly believe a mom wants what's best for her kids, whether they are 4, 18, or 40. So in sharing what happened on that sad, strange, horrible day, I have regrets, but I am not paralyzed by them. Why? Well, what mom would want that for her kid? Not mine.

You were right, Mom. I did have a life and I did have things to do. But Mom, you also were my life, and I’m pretty sure you know that too.


I can't find my blog said...

Oh Anna. Your mom would be proud of your words. She'd be happy that you have lived a full and happy life and have beautiful children.


This must have been difficult to write, but beautiful.

Stimey said...

Oh, this is so heartbreaking. Huge hugs to you.

Lynn Kellan said...

Anna, how horrible this must have been for you and your father. It's awful to lose a mom, a wife...especially when you must see them suffering in terrible pain before they go.

I'm so sorry. No doubt, she didn't want to leave you.

Christen said...

There are no words for how painful this must have been. Your mother indeed sounded like one "classy" woman.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Your mother never leaves you. How you have raised your own children is based on what you learnt from your own mother. My mum has been dead now for 12 years and I still remember some small thing about her everyday. My children remember her for her Nana birthday husband for her love of books and I can still feel the touch of her skin when I did her makeup for her when she was going out. It's the little memories that are most precious...we just have to remember we were licky to have them for the short time that we did.


Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant mum would have had a good laugh about her being so licky ha ha

Lisa G said...

You already know I think your mom was the greatest! She touched so many lives in the best possible way. I'm glad that you got a chance to see her before she passed and I admire your bravery during that time. I don't think you could have done a better job carrying out her legacy and her wishes for you to be happy and live a great life.

Christy said...

I don't really know what to say Anna, except I'm so sorry you had to go through this. It's heartbreakingly hard for me to read and I can imagine it was even harder to write. Your mom sounds like she was an incredible woman; just like you are today. I hope I get to meet you one day soon when I visit Kate or something. Take care.

L said...

Thanks for warning me not to read this at work. I did anyway. I love you. Thanks for writing it. This is the fullest telling I have heard and I do appreciate hearing it. I am so, so thankful that she knew you were there.

Courtney Groves said...

Anna - I've been "lurking" for a long time, but felt the need to comment for the first time today. This story is so beautiful, and so special. I can't imagine losing a mom at such a young age, but it's clear that she and your father loved you very much - you've turned out to be an amazing woman. I'm going to go home and hug my own mother extra tight this weekend.

PaperCourt said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm in tears after reading it. Hugs!!

Gretchen said...

Anna, I know this sounds crazy, but it is such a blessing that you have such vivid memories of your mother. I have a terrible memory and I fear the day that I lose my mom because I know her memory will fade from my head all too fast.

What made you share this story with us? Is it an anniversary of her death or her birthday? Or did you just want to get it off your chest?

Kelee Katillac said...

Hi Anna!

I appreciate your honesty in the retelling.
It is so easy to sponge-it-up --not so easy to
leave our not-so-tidy inner lives as historical document.

It is when we have the courage--as you have--
to face ourselves in our humanness that we grow and realize that beauty and richness isn't always tidy. Mostly it is disorderly and poignant and mysterious.

I just went through this with my grandmother.
I understand the complexity of it. Thank-you for
sharing yours....

Great job.

love, kelee

Glennon said...

I think the most beautiful thing on Earth is when a woman offers grace to herself. It helps us all free ourselves up some. You are beautiful, Anna, and it is clear that your mother was too.

I just heard from your sister.
How would we make it through without sisters? How do people do it?

Thank you, Anna.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This was just awful. Terrible and terribly sad. But so beautiful and hopeful. Just like you (the second part I mean). I know my mom would (will - hopefully later as opposed to sooner) feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anna. I had only heard hints of this story. And, of course, thought that just maybe I would feel better about the whole thing if I knew the details. But my heart still aches for you.

It is faith that gives this story a happy ending. I am so thankful that you have that!!

K A B L O O E Y said...

Oh, my goodness. This was heartbreakingly sad and lovely. Cyberhugs to you from this reader, who has to go find a tissue now.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful and moving, Anna. Thank you for sharing your sad story. My heart goes out to you.


Heidi said...

This is beautiful and bittersweet. Thank you for sharing this.

Madge said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm so glad you were there at the end. I think that is a very special thing. Such a beautiful post.

prashant said...

There are no words for how painful this must have been. Web hosting india

Tracy said...

So I am a new reader to your blog. I found it through Young House Love and from the first time I started reading I knew there was just something about you that I liked. Nothing in particular, but I just felt like we were somehow on the same page. It wasn't until today that I realized that you too had lost your mom. I lost mine when I was 22. My senior year of college. You have so beautifully put into words the things I feel. My mom was the lady in the town that everyone knew and she had something special to say to each one of them. But I too have letters that I wrote to her that said horrible things and I cringe when I see them but then realize she loved me despite them.
It's oddly comforting to know that there are other people like me. And it's wonderful to be reminded of my mom even if its to be reminded that sometimes I was a punk and she had every reason to have disliked me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Mandy said...

I started following your blog shortly after your son died. My heart was broken for you, but I had not experienced a loss of someone close to me at that point. Two months ago, my dad died very unexpectedly. He was only 56 and I am only 29. He had a stroke and then a brain bleed. He was my world. I have been reading your posts about losing your mom and now I can relate to you. Although it is completely different from losing a child. That is something I hope to never experience. Your posts are so beautiful and honest. I'm sure your mom is so proud of you. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your story. They offer comfort to people dealing with similar situations.