Saturday, April 02, 2011

In honor of Mom's birthday, an old post from hospice

I'm leaving Antigua in a couple of hours for a 10-day silent retreat at Lake Atitlan, so I'll be out of touch. It's a Tibetan-flavored retreat, which I don't know much about, but what I do know kind of puts me off. I'm expecting it to be a little harder than I'm used to. That's probably a good reason to go.

It was my Mom's birthday two days ago, and I thought I'd post something I'd written on her blog while she was in hospice. For those who don't know, Mom was sick with pancreatic cancer, and after six months, we took her to a beautiful hospice where all the doctors expected her to only live for a day or two. 

I hope you'll take the time to read this, even though the subject can be painful. It's impossible for me to read without crying, and it brings back a flood of painful and beautiful memories.

Love to you!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mom is still with us

Once again, Mom is surprising everyone by not only being alive late Sunday, but being perhaps more communicative today than she's been any day since she was admitted to the hospital, a week ago today. (That was a week ago? If we weren't wearing our watches, we could barely tell what month it is.) Continuing the trend that we were sure would end days ago, Mom is getting more talkative, even as she's starting to hallucinate. She's said so many funny comments that we can't keep track of them. She looks at the ceiling periodically and focuses, and you can tell she's seeing something. Once she said, "Scoot! Scoot!" which is what she says to the cats that come in her yard. When we asked, she said, "I don't know, I think they were turtles or something." We're all on the lookout for roof turtles now. She carried on an animated one-sided conversation tonight, saying, "Oh, really!" ... long pause... "Well I had no idea."

The doctor joked about all the family we have from Utah, saying "It looks like everyone in Salt Lake City is coming to see you." Mom said, "Works for me!"

She intersperses hallucinations with confusion and clarity, and it's hard to know when she's totally clear. Maybe the most surprising thing I saw today was when her friend Charlotte was there and Mom asked if she could talk to her alone, without all the people around. I asked if she wanted us to leave, and Mom said she did. She then reached for Charlotte to pull her close and spoke just to her. I've recorded a bunch of the today's conversations, which I can only imagine we'll really appreciate having in years to come.

If you felt the earth shift off its axis for a second today, it was because Mike called our Dad to give him an update. It was a tearful call, which is shocking enough in its own right, but the stunner came when Dad said to tell Mom that he loved her. I happened to be on CNN at the time, and they were reporting a giant blizzard in Hell. It's probably a coincidence.

Hilarity aside, I see it as another gift of this process, of which there have been many. Hearts open, and people get to places they can't normally access. We dread the thought of death, and most of us refuse to think about it, or worse, unconsciously think that it won't happen to us. But we have a choice - don't wait until it's too late to contemplate the changing nature of life, including your own death. Today's a good day to begin, while you have the luxury of ability and time.

OK, I got sidetracked - back to gifts. Mom's illness took this sudden turn so quickly that we didn't think anyone in her family could make it in time to see her. We discouraged my aunt Charlene and her oldest daughter Julie from coming, and thank God they didn't listen. The next day three more of their kids drove all night from Salt Lake City, and that evening two more of their siblings flew in. So we now have 11 people in the hospice for Mom, plus other visitors dropping by. Fortunately there's room for all the love, since it doesn't take much space - but the luggage and sprawling bodies on the sofas are pushing the capacity of the house. And tomorrow - more family is coming. We hope for their sake that Mom is still here when they arrive. For Mom's sake - I'm not sure what I hope. I'm pretty sure I don't get a vote... OK, I just thought about it, and here's what I hope: I hope that everyone is happy, and peaceful, and safe, and is filled with the love of this magical experience, in whatever way that physically comes about. (That was easy - why complicate it with details?)

Lastly, I want to add that when I declared that my "suffering has ended" the other day, I was premature. Because Mom is still so with it, she can communicate when she's in pain or restless or wants to get up, and it pushes all my I-don't-want-Mom-to-suffer buttons. I mean, it REALLY pushes those buttons. Mike and I spent a long time today talking with Mom, and at one point, she said, "I feel really good." We talked about our favorite meals she used to make us growing up, and how caring she was, always worried about us. It was so far beyond anything we could have dreamed about a few days ago that we were both feeling so blessed. Towards the end, though, Mom started getting fidgety and anxious, and then complaining clearly about intense pain in her back, and I just about lost it. It's the one thing that I've always for my mother - that she be happy and not suffer. I've been so motivated by that these last six months, but that's really just been the obvious expression of a lifelong desire for her. Between the supreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation, I was totally overwhelmed and cried, but not like a baby - I cried like an adult who really loves his mother, and is starting to understand that love in a whole new way. That, too, is a gift. A huge, painful, beautiful, mysterious, love-filled gift.

More than ever, I love you Mom.


Mom's blog:

(The End)