Friday, March 29, 2013

Waiting, on Easter Weekend

It feels so odd, alienating, to be here, at home, on the island, while my mother only occasionally achieves consciousness, breathing through her mouth in a deep sleep in a hospice bed across the Strait. I check, compulsively, half-hourly, the calendar my siblings enter their notes in, an online calendar my brother-in-law set up weeks ago to ensure round-the-clock care and company for "Granny." I know what news I'm waiting for, even while I absorb all the details of visits and hands held and fleeting smiles, sponge baths, and breakthrough medication, and music played. A full, strange, waitfulness, all my siblings and their spouses and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren all bound in a Limbo whose release will surely bring grief of a different flavour along with, admittedly, relief.

On Wednesday afternoon, I went back for one more bedside visit, even though I knew Mom was no longer drinking, had not eaten for days, had only come to consciousness a few times and then only into confusion. Still, I gathered my daughter and wee Harriet with her four-month brilliance in the smiling department. As soon as we got in the room, I knew I'd made a mistake. Yellow from liver failure, lying on her back with her mouth slightly open, I realized her Granny might pose an alarming sight for our baby girl. And it seemed beyond obvious that Mom would not benefit from this visit: we couldn't wake her to let her know we were there; she simply would not be roused.

But before I gave up and herded us back to the car for a sombre ride home, I took my little granddaughter and hovered her over Granny's sleeping form, lowered her face close to her great-grandmother's. Nothing, I thought at first, but I kept telling Mom who was here to see her, and I moved Harriet's little hands to stroke her Granny's. Mom's eyes flickered just a bit. Then the muscles around her mouth moved her lips into a searching, nuzzling position, and she shifted with her neck, almost imperceptibly. I reached Harriet closer and Mom clearly kissed, then smiled before sinking back down into sleep.

Next, in what must have been a heroic effort, she brought herself all the way back up, opening her eyes to signal that she wanted more baby. She was clearly disappointed that I'd shifted my baby bundle away.  This time I handed Harriet to my daughter, her mom, and let Megan do the honours. Astonishingly, Mom managed her clearest words (her only words?) of the day. They may, in fact, be the last clearly articulated words of my mother's life: "A beautiful baby." And she looked directly and deeply at Megan, and repeated, "You have a beautiful baby."

As my husband has always said, my mom is wonderful with little ones.

I'm consoling myself with that precious memory today, in the sunshine, far from the room my sister sits in now, holding Mom's hand. Our oldest daughter arrives soon with 4-year-old Nola, and we have Easter candies to strew about the garden for a hunt Sunday morning. I'm not denying or ignoring the impending loss, but rather, I suppose, I'm beginning to imagine how I'll cope with it, how I'll move into my mother's legacy. All the beautiful babies. All of us. . . Life, from death. Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Waiting. . .

34 comments:

  1. Oh the tears are falling here...
    you've struck a chord.
    What a poignant memory, I don't know how you managed to drive the car back home. I cam barely type these words.
    Huge Hugs to you mater.
    Leslie
    XO

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    1. thanks for the hugs, Leslie. xo to you as well. . .

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  2. I simply don't know what to say. What a precious memory.

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    1. It's a story I know my daughter will tell Harriet someday. . .

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  3. Poignant. My heart and eyes are full. Hugs and prayers, Mater.

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  4. Courage et condoléances Mater, mes pensées sont avec vous ainsi que votre famille durant ces derniers jours difficiles.



    Orane

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  5. Oh my god. I'm crying.

    Before the tears came I thought, "So much the obverse of waiting to give birth."

    I hope this memory carries and soothes you.

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    1. Yes, I've been so aware, these past couple of weeks, of the relationships between birth and death, the comings and the goings, the impatiences of waiting and the reluctance to let time lapse. .

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  6. What can I write in words here? Thinking of you and your family.

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  7. You will treasure that moment with your mother and Harriet forever because it is the family circle of life. I am thinking of your family during this Easter time.

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    1. I love the idea that you will think my family into Easter in Paris . . . thank you!

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  8. This is very moving. You did the perfect thing by your mother and your grand-daughter - and yourself, I'm sure. Deepest sympathy.

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    1. Yours is a good example of why I'm reluctant to disallow Anonymous comments. Thanks for taking the time to offer your kind sympathy and supportive comment.

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  9. What a beautiful piece of writing and what a lovely experience to have had with your mum. It's such a difficult time for everyone. Brought back memories of my father's final days in hospice care. Thinking of you and your family. Your writing resonates with many

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    1. The memories of your father's time in hospice might mean that you know that this time, as difficult as it is, has its own rich beauty -- it really puts life into a powerful relief.

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  10. The others have said it all.
    I am touched by your generosity in sharing this sacred time.

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    1. What a lovely thing to say -- thank you!

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  11. Okay, I'm crying now. I usually just hate to cry, and will do nearly anything to avoid it, but in this case, I don't mind. I do hope, fervently, that when my own time comes, I have the sort of family near me that your mother has. And I thank you, deeply, for sharing this solemn, joyous story.

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    1. I do wish we could all be surrounded by caring folk when we get to our end -- I'm so pleased that my mother is.

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  12. You are in my thoughts Mater. Take care of yourself.

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  13. ditto - you are in my thoughts.
    what a beautiful moment to share, thank you

    and yes, i'm crying too.

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    1. Feeling bad for making everyone cry, but there's something about sharing moments that mix life's dark moments with its bright. All seem heightened, intense, rewarding. . . .

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  14. A profound moment. Though we miss our parents deeply, they are present in us and each succeeding generation. This is a comfort to me; I just lost a friend suddenly, and, I hope, to you as well.

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    1. Oh K, I'm so sorry for your loss. And yes, I do find comfort as you do, in the recycling, the moving forward, the long view. The losses are still painful, but there are consolations. . .

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  15. Dear Mater, Your writing is powerful and elegiac, I am glad that you bring such complex and heartfelt topics onto the Web, they enrich and inspire your readers, as amply testified by the comments above. What a blessing your mum passed down to your daughter and her daughter, and I suspect blessing was passed up the chain too, there is a special Grace about the newly born.
    I am so glad glad that your dear mother seems to be experiencing a 'good death', that sounds rather blunt, but truly, it is I think more rare and precious than we tend to realise: pain managed, never alone, as physically comfortable as possible, personal dignity fully respected. It is surely a comfort to her and those around her and all credit to your family for taking the communal decision to mover her to hospice and to the hospice itself for all their, often unsung, great work. Before I had children I was trained as a volunteer who sat with those in hospice who had no one to be with them at the end and it was always a privilege, the close of our mortal journey is just as important as the beginning of it, hence it so very much deserves to be written about and thought about openly.
    Hope you and yours are experiencing a peaceful Easter of joys as well as sadness,
    Hester

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    1. It was, truly, a good death. Both my father's, earlier, and my mother's deaths have made me think I would someday like to take on the hospice volunteer training program -- it's a privilege to be so close to that experience and given our society's seeming reliance on blinkers against the sad, many miss out on its richness. I hope you and your little ones enjoyed all of Easter's wonders today. Thank you again for your thoughtful comments.

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  16. You write so beautifully about the hard stuff. That feeling of surreality, I remember it well and it's so disorienting. Your wonderful family must be such a comfort, not only to your Mom, but to you as well. I hope your Mom's transition is a peaceful one, and that you all find peace and joy in your memories of her.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. She's passed on peacefully now . . .

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  17. What a lovely story.
    Thanks for sharing such an intimate moment with us.

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