My mother is dying. In reality, she has been dying for many years. The strokes in her late 60's took much of her short term memory and some of her mobility. That she is still alive is a miracle - mostly a medical one in that the doctors who have watched over her have fought the good fight to keep her various illnesses in check.
Now at 82, the illnesses are winning the war. Every action causes a unwelcome reaction. Each trip to the hospital saps her her strength and her mental acuity resulting in a subsequent trip to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Each time she comes back but not as strong as before she got sick.
This time, it appears that there will be no nursing home visit. Now it is time for Hospice to step in and work to keep her calm and comfortable. The dementia has taken over. When she is not sleeping, she picks at her blankets and gown. She tries to pull off the pieces of medical equipment keeping track of her vitals, her wrist tags and her oxygen mask.
Today when she was fussing and crying out, I made out some of the words and I can only surmise that she was back in her twenties, reliving the loss of my stillborn brother. I am so angry about that. Why, at this time is her mind doing this to her? Why is she only remembering things that bring her sorrow and pain? Why can't her last memories be the happy ones? Why does life and death have to be so cruel?
I am angry about a lot of things. I am angry that she is leaving me. I am angry that she is suffering. I am so damned angry that I can't do anything to make it better. The only thing left for me is to be there, hoping my presence brings her some comfort and some calm. I refuse to feel guilty for hoping her death comes quickly and quietly. I can't stand to see her suffer and this is not the way she wanted her life to end. It is as if her body is at war with itself. Part of it trying to die while part of it fights to stay alive.
The last few years have been a race. She has been wanting to go and do and not stop. She had her beloved Salon appointments where they treated her like a queen. Giving her hand and head massages. commenting on her jewelry and outfits. We would go shopping and eat out. We started the restaurant Bucket List - trying new and different places around the valley. Some becoming favorite haunts because the food was so good and it was easy for her to eat. We spend afternoons at the art museum, Desert Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Friendship Garden. She loved to go shopping at Biltmore Fashion Park because it was dog friendly mall and she could pet people's dogs. Then there was Macy's jewelry counter and all the glittering gems that she liked to look at. The older sales ladies so happy to show her the baubles and let her try them on. She made them happy too - when we would buy one on sale.
My father died when she was in her forties and it has been her and me together all these years. We had our ups and downs, but we had so many good times. I remember taking her to Disneyland and getting her on the rides. She loved it. She loved to travel and see new places. I miss her so much. Her body is still alive and there might be a miracle yet, though I don't hold out any hope for it. I miss her wit and the fun we used to have. Even the last years, when her questions would be repetitive and would drag at my patience, she was still herself in many ways.
We all want to just go to sleep one night and not wake up - that is the perfect death in our minds. Some would say that this long, slow slide gives us a chance to tell someone that we love them, to build good memories and make the most of the time left. While that is true, watching your loved ones slip away mentally is heart rending. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Update: My mother lost her battle on Black Friday.