My mom is dying.
Though I’ve said that quite a few times and it’s been said to me by various medical professionals in the last few days, this is the first time I’ve seen the words in print.
My mom is dying.
The nurses say that the stage she’s in now is “actively dying.” Her blood pressure is too low to sustain life, but her heart rate is a steady 68-70 bpm. She’s not ready to let go yet. She will when it’s time.
That’s between her and God.
Mom is quiet and peaceful, which she rarely was in life. I spend most of my time alone with her being quiet myself. Sometimes I read the psalms to her, especially her favorites: 23, 91, and 121. Sometimes I just talk to her. Someone suggested I sing to her, but I can’t. I’m not sure why. I just can’t.
I cry. I talk to friends. I answer texts and emails and reply back to the hundreds of expressions of love and support I’ve received. Mostly I’m silent.
I’ve worn a heavy coat of pain, fear, anger, and grief about my mother since she first went into the hospital in June. Ours was always a difficult relationship, and that’s a very diplomatic way of saying it. We never really understood each other and I never felt she liked or respected me. Honestly, I’m still not sure she ever loved me. I tried like hell to be perfect so I could feel some sort of acceptance and praise from both my parents. After a while, I stopped trying and just reveled in all the ways my life choices confounded them. I pulled as far away as I needed to in order to have the freedom to be myself. Still, I was never completely free. The pain haunted me and manifested in tremendous doubt and self-loathing.
None of that matters now.
I’m here now. I’m with her in a way we’ve never been together before. I am sitting vigil, waiting to bear witness to the end of a life and the end of an earthly relationship. Even after her transition to the next step on this journey, she will be my mother and she will be with me somehow. At that point, it’s up to me alone to determine how I deal with that. The healing will need to be solitary and the words she might have said will go unspoken.
I have left nothing unspoken or undone.
All that I can do for her has been done. All that’s left for me to do is wait. The waiting, as Tom Petty so eloquently says, is the hardest part.
I want this to be over for her and for me. I want her to be at peace, not hanging on to life by a slender thread. I want to go back home. I want things to at least seem normal again.
But somehow I really don’t want this to be over because I know what that means.
I will never hear her voice again. That bothers me even though she could sometimes make me hate the sound of my own name. I won’t see her smile or hear her laugh again. There won’t be another birthday or Thanksgiving or Christmas. After this vigil ends, there is no more.
I say “I love you” often, as if each time could be the last.
I wonder if I said it enough when I was younger. I wonder if she really meant it when she said it. I wonder how she could tell she loved me and then do the things she did. There are many unanswered questions.
None of that is important.
What is important is that I am here. I am present. This is the last gift I can give my mother and I give it freely. One of the last things she said to me was simple, yet profound: “let me go.”
So, I’m letting her go.
She’s surrounded by love, respect, dignity, and compassion. So am I and that is a tremendous comfort to me. The support system I have in place is generous and beautiful of spirit. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
But, the end result is heartbreaking.
One of these breaths will be her last. One of these heartbeats will be final. The clock is ticking and time is running out. All I can do now is wait.
And wait. And be grateful for my mom’s life. And accept the blessing witnessing her passing will be. And say I love you as though it’s the last thing she’ll hear me say — it may very well be.
My watch continues.
Note: within hours of this writing, my mom passed away quietly and peacefully as I held her hand. I have no regrets.