When she told me her doctor was putting her in palliative care at Notre-Dame, I knew it was over. She acted like it was a temporary thing, just to get some strenght back. I never asked her if she really believed that. I could hardly deal with it myself. All it meant, all I heard was “I’m going to the 5th floor, to die”. Because that’s all it meant really. I had been looking at the cancer killing her for six years. Looking at death making it’s way, drying her skin, rotting her teeth, pulling her hair, eating her flesh, taking away her life so slowly I almost wanted to help her go sometimes. For some years she did good, but the last 9 months were a complete waste of life. For everyone. I mean, how many times can you say goodbye, how many times can you prepare for death, how many times can you go over the paperwork to make sure everything is in order? Six years is a long time. Nine months is an eternity.

Before she was sent to the fifth floor, she was at the long term care unit, with the crazies, homeless, kinless, lifeless. People strapped to their chairs, sitting in their shit all day. People screaming all night, not able to get sleep. We couldn’t have her at home, not with two small children. For us, but mostly for her. I could see she was going. She needed medical care everyday. So that day, when I came to see her, and she told me she was moving up, she seemed almost happy, relieved.

She sat in a wheelchair and a nurse brought us to the fifth floor. Exit the shit smell and the screams. The elevator door opens to carpeted floors and classical music coming out of nowhere, paintings hanging on the walls. A volunteer greeted us and took us to her room. Private, huge, filled with sunlight. He asked her if she wanted anything, she asked for a glass of juice. He brought it in a wine glass on a platter. And yet everything spelled death. I couldn’t even talk, it was surrounding me, hitting me, killing me. I helped her settle in her room, we visited the music room next door, the smoking room across the hall, the kitchen where she could keep her energy drinks and stuff. Then I left. The following day I came back and put some christmas decorations up in her room, it was the 9th of December. On the 10th I brought her home with me to have a small dinner and put up the christmas tree with the kids, we sang some carols and I took her back to the hospital. She threw up in the elevator, even though she barely ate at home. She was really weak. The following morning, the 11th, my birthday, the hospital called me at work.

“Your mother had an embolism last night. She’s a DNR, so we could only help her breath. Unfortunatelly she lost consciousness, and probably has only a few hours left.” I have no brothers or sisters, nor did she. No immediate family either. For the next 24 hours it was me and her in that room. Me and a body I could not touch at first. A face trapped in pain, invisible, silent. The nurses would give her morphine when we thought she was in pain. Slowly, I started to stroke her face, wash her mouth, massage her hands, I sang to her I think, told her secrets, stories. Told her I was there for her, that I loved her.

Around 2 o’clock on the 12th, I saw she was getting agitated. I was sitting next to the bed, a volunteer from the cancer support group standing next to me. In the music room next door a pianist was playing Suzanne, and I held her hand and told her it was ok, let go Mom, it’s ok, I’m here, I love you, but you have to let go now ok? it’s all right, her pain was pulsing, trying to rip through her, but I think that she was trying to talk, and I like to think that in her last few breaths I heard her say I love you. One last tiny breath, and she just stopped fighting.

And I held her hand for a while longer, talking nonsense to her stomach where I had lain my head, hearing the soft melody coming from the piano and then the slience. Only my breath against the blanket, my blood in my ears. And then nothing at all.

15 thoughts on “Released”

  1. kono says:

    i’m sorry.

    i don’t know if you got a chance to read a recent post of mine, ‘angie’.

    it’s about my grandmother (my mother in every sense of the word). she died of cancer almost 2 years ago and i’ve been struggling ever since.

    does she ever visit you in your dreams? i hope so.

    mine has, once or twice.

  2. JELIEL³ says:

    Damn. That was beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss. Be strong, be well.

  3. Veronica says:

    I think its hardest sometimes to write what we know best and feel deepest. Yet, as you’ve just demonstrated, those are the things that have every tendency to turn out to be our best work.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  4. swan_pr says:

    kono: thank you. I did, left you a comment. I think that she did visit me once, the day of the funeral, after it was all over, at night in bed, I felt… her, a deep feeling of love, it was hot in the room. very strange. but I’m sure, a visit.

    jeliel: thank you. working on it 🙂

    veronica: thank you for reading. thank you. it has been hovering for too long. I’m glad I’ve done it.

  5. Carmo says:

    my god Swan, I’m so sorry. It’s at times like these that people take solace in other people’s sadness and realize that maybe their life is not as bad as it seems. I hope you are holding up but grieving at the same time. Be strong, there are people here and at home who will be there for you. The agony is over, the relief in grief will wash over you and put your anxiety and fears to rest. Time to put it all away once your time to expel the emotoins has ended.

    I am off to the land of ice and snow tomorrow. I came to say goodbye but instead find myself feeling your pain. I lost someone close to me a couple of yeas ago…sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. I’ll shout out across the frozen sea to you and wish you well….

  6. swan_pr says:

    carmo: it has been a while, but to write it down did bring do me good. thank you so much for your words, they mean a lot. I will be lending an ear 🙂

    moonwart: thank you very much.

  7. riskybiz says:

    Sorry to hear, my thoughts are with you!

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