"I can't get a pulse."
"Uh, what? Are you sure? Try her wrist."
"What about her femoral artery? Try that."
"I don't get anything."
"Geez, what do we do?"
"Oh, God! Please, please, no, no, no. There has to be something that we can do. Please, do something!"
"I am sorry. She's gone."
This was the last interaction that I had with the aide that helped me with my mother. My mother had just died and I could do nothing but stare at her. I told the aide to get out of the room. I closed the door and with four or five extra pillows that were lying around, I made a place to sit next to my mother's bed and I just stared.
She looked like she was asleep, almost peaceful. I didn't move. I was not even sure if I was blinking or breathing. I just stared. She was gone. It dawned on me at that moment, I wasn't crying. I stopped shaking. The anxiety that riddled me over the last 72 hours and handcuffed me to a bottle of wine and when that was finished, a bottle of my father's scotch was gone. I just spent the last three days crying, pacing and drinking....so out of control and grief-stricken that I had actually crawled into my mother's bed several times just to be next to her. But now, I wasn't tired. I was very wide awake. I wasn't crying. I was stunned. I just witnessed the last life event that my mom would ever be a part of. I actually saw the end of my mother's life. I saw a person die. Wow! Holy shit! I just stared.
I heard wailing. Where was it coming from? It snapped me out of my fog...my stare. I heard a shriek and then very loud crying. The aide had just told my father. And then it dawned on me. My father is single. He does not have a wife. I do not have a mother. They "both" had just died moments ago and I just stared.
There would be no more home cooked meals. No Sunday dinners. There would be no more trips to McDonald's between mother and son for a hot fudge sundae. There would be no more watching movies together or trips to the mountains to visit the cousins. No more Christmas's, Thanksgiving's, Easter's and birthdays.
My father lost the only girlfriend he ever had.
They had made a promise to each other when they first got married. If one of them got so sick and there was no hope then "the other one" would make sure that the "sick one" died at home. Passing away in a facility was not an option. If they could not carry out that pledge then one of the children would need to keep that promise. I kept that promise for my Dad.
He suffered a heart attack five months before due to the stress of watching his only girlfriend and wife decline in a most ugly fashion and was unable to make the preparations for my mother...unable to make her deathbed.
I don't think my mom had the life that she wanted. But, I am not sure. She had four children and loved us all. That was very clear. Maybe we were enough for her. Maybe she didn't have dreams to live in a 10,000 square foot house on beachfront property. Maybe she did. I don't know. I wish I did.
My mother was an angel. She was awesome and a great mother to us all and I never thought about her mortality before she died. I never thought about my own or my father's. I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to its inevitability. I was definitely oblivious to it until I witnessed it firsthand. It is the most shocking and brutal thing that I ever saw. I just stared.
This piece was not to be the typical, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade," type of article. It was meant to say, "you know that moment of loss that was so shocking and brutal that the punched in the gut feeling which you first had experienced when it happened and you know in your heart of hearts will never go away?" Do you know that feeling? Well, you are not alone. You cannot run from it or dismiss it. So what do you do? You do what what my mother did every day of her life.
Love....that is what you do. You love! EVERYONE, ALWAYS AND OFTEN.