My mother died yesterday. Or more factually, this morning. That was when her body was taken off life support.
Yesterday morning, she complained of extreme pain from a severe headache. My wife drove out to assist her on the family farm. My brother and dad were called in from work. Paramedics were summoned. A helicopter, instead of an ambulance, was sent from the hospital 35 miles away. Meanwhile, the paramedics arrived, along with a local sheriff’s unit and a local fire engine. The fire engine watered down the area behind the barn. The ‘copter landed and the paramedics loaded my mother into it.
Upon takeoff, the helicopter threw up a cloud of dust from it’s rotor wash. I don’t know why the medivac ‘copter couldn’t have landed in the dry and dust-free field beside the house, but it didn’t.
My brother went over to hospital. A few hours later, when I went out to check up on my dad, I received a call from one of my elder sisters telling me that my mom was fading fast and I should get over there with my dad. I was informed that there wasn’t any cerebral activity, that she was gone and the hospital had her body on life support until everyone arrived and said goodbye.
My niece flew in from New York City. My youngest sister, traveling to a business meeting in Florida, received word in Denver and changed her plans so she could fly home. My next youngest sister flew down from Alaska.
Two hours later–my dad and I both had to clean up, and while I was showering the weight of the situation hit me–when we reached the hospital, dad and I were informed that there was activity that wasn’t there before: muscle movement in her hands and legs, some pain-filled groans, and eye movement. My brother and all my sisters present (both of my elder sisters) had hope that she would pull through. I didn’t. I was certain she was gone and that we only looked at the shell of what mom once was.
A few long hours later, a neurosurgeon confirmed my suspicions. He explained that all the physical activity, including the groaning (which was just air flowing from her mouth past the breathing tube) was generated by spinal nerves. She was brain-dead.
My siblings and nieces and nephews remained behind to watch and wait for her body’s death. Meanwhile, I drove my dad home. He had held my mom’s hand briefly and said goodbye and “I’ll see you soon.” Some of my siblings thought he was in denial and disconnected from the reality before us.
On the long, dark, quiet drive home, I asked him what he had meant by “I’ll see you soon.” He replied, “I’m almost a hundred years old. I’ll be seeing her sometime soon.”
I miss my mom terribly. We fought a lot, but we always forgave each other. Two months ago, I lost a brother-in-law that was one of my closest friends. Now another close friend, my mother, is gone.
Last night, briefly, I sobbed in my bed. My wife, asleep beside me, heard my sobs and rolled over and held me until I was done.
Like the death of my brother-in-law, when I think about my mom, I curse. I’m not cursing God, not at all. I’m cursing the fact that no matter how much you prepare for it, you’re never really ready to see a loved one die.
As writers, we tell everyone to write about everything you experience, and that is a TRUTH. However, you cannot write about everything. You’ll hurt some people you care about if your write personal or damning things about them. And the people who have hurt you and you want to punish, if you write about them, they can sue you for slander and libel. You can loose everything you value and even go to jail. It’s not worth it.
Punishing someone else for the pain they have inflicted upon you–whether real or fancied–is a lose-lose proposition. Someone who cares about them, whether family, friends, or themselves, will seek to punish you for what you’ve done to them. It’s a never-ending cycle and as an example all you have to do is look at the thousand-years long blood feuds in the Middle East; the revenge and punishment and suffering never ceases.
Lots of writers, like myself, write about their pain. It’s cathartic. However, sometimes it takes what seems like forever for the pain to go away.
So, I’m not looking for sympathy. At the moment, I’m strong. However, even when you think you’ve let go, you haven’t. It’s a long, long process of healing, but healing can and usually does happen. It’s not time that heals you. It’s you. And your faith. Faith in friends and family. Faith in God. Faith in life. Faith that you can heal.
So, as obscene as it sounds at this moment, have faith!