I remember spending time with my mom the night before she died. At about six o'clock, I walked into her bedroom where she and my dad were laying side by side. My mom said, "I just knew you were going to come see me tonight. I was hoping you would and you did." She was making a blanket for me. Really, she had a huge, soft piece of fleece that she was fringing by cutting slits around the edges and then tying each piece of fringe between the slits into knots. I asked, "Is that my blanket?" She answered, "Yes, I'm almost finished!" She wasn't. She had half of only one side fringed and knotted.
Her eyes were almost completely closed. She told me she couldn't open them and assumed it was another side effect of one of her medications. At the time, it sounded plausible. Later, I learned it was her body shutting down.
I stayed for a long time, lying next to my mom on the bed. I didn't feel sad, just anxious, which was my mind keeping sadness and truth at bay. When it was late enough or when the anxiety began to make me feel like I was going to explode, I kissed her, said goodnight and told her I'd see her the next day. I climbed into my car, shaking and feeling a terrible feeling that I didn't understand. I drove up the hill to my best friend's parents' house, where my friend was having dinner. I walked through the door and crumbled into a chair and sobbed. I couldn't articulate anything except for how sick my mom was. I had a glass of wine or two and then drove home, wanting to disappear or sleep away the feelings that left me completely gutted.
I fell into bed when I got to my apartment. Sleep came quickly and was a relief until my cell phone rang at 4 a.m. I answered it after one ring because somehow I knew. It was my little sister. She just told me that I needed to come quickly. I drove as fast as I could back to my parents' house. When I got there, an ambulance and fire truck were parked outside. I ran into my parents' room where all of my siblings, father and some medics were gathered around my mom, who was laying on the bed. She was sort of convulsing and making tortured sounds. Tears were streaming down her face and she was leaning up and back down again as if in protest. Her mouth and her eyes were wide open. She seemed terrified and angry. Some uniformed guy was trying to calm her down and I remember pushing him away and telling him to leave her alone. He was scaring and agitating her and I wanted to at least take that away for her. I hugged her and stroked her hair and told her it was okay. She seemed to calm a little before the uniforms told me that I had to let them take her to the hospital. My dad said I should go with her.
I cannot remember that ambulance ride to the hospital. The next thing I recall is someone injecting her with what was possibly morphine and her suddenly becoming lucid again. She immediately asked why she was at the hospital and then told my sister to go get her some cottage cheese. She said, "I'll be good. I'll eat something. Then we can go home." She was dying of stomach cancer and was constantly being told that she needed to eat when she could barely eat anymore.
Shortly after that, some short, round woman asked if she could talk to my family members while one of us stayed with my mom. I don't remember who stayed, but I went. The woman, a hospice nurse, told us my mother was dying and had maybe two days left. I told her she was wrong. My sister told me she wasn't. I was paralyzed.
My dad told the doctor that he didn't want my mother to have anymore medication and he wanted her home. My family traveled back to my parents' house in their cars and I rode with my mom in a hospice van. During the ride, my mom slipped away again. She couldn't speak or move really. Her eyes were wide open and darting all around as if in fear. She would moan every so often as tears fell from her eyes. I kept talking about roses and Jacaranda trees and the weather in an effort to calm her. I was describing what was out the window and how beautiful it was.
When we got home, we carried her back to her bedroom. My sisters and I lay on the bed with her for maybe six hours. We told her stories and played her favorite music (Josh Groban, who I hate). My dad came in and out and would kiss her or whisper something in her ear. She remained in that strange, almost vegetative state the entire time. Sometime in the late afternoon, tears just started streaming down her face again. My older sister told her it was okay for her to go and how much we loved her and would always be with her. She died just after that.
I lay beside her body for the longest time, not wanting to leave her. I remember that her limbs and her face grew cold and stiff and I was sick at the idea that she'd left her body and I couldn't access her. Not ever again.
That night, my two sisters and I individually made our way into my parents' bedroom, where my dad slept. We slept on the floor or in the bed, I with my unfinished fleece blanket, which I still sleep with.
It took me years and plenty of money and therapy to process her death and somehow I still can't completely process it. Losing her felt like losing my feet. I've simply learned to hobble around without them, but I'm not the same.
Today, on the day that my mom died, I'm taking Sabine to my sister's house. I'm watching my two nieces and my nephew (and Sabine) while my sister starts her new job. I can't think of a better way to spend such a sad day--surrounded by my mom's grandchildren, her legacy, who, if she'd met them, would've made her beam brighter than anything else.