I expected to be here in Dade City, Florida for 5, 6, maybe even 7 days tops. Turns out, I’m going to be here for two weeks on the dot. I leave tomorrow (Friday the 28th) around 2:30 in the afternoon. Not that I should be surprised in the least, but after the doctors told my family and I that my mom wouldn’t make it past the (first) weekend, she’s lasted two weeks longer. Over the past two weeks, she’s had plenty of ups and downs, but it’s obvious that she’s not going to last much longer.
I feel overwhelmingly guilty about leaving her side and heading back home, but I don’t really have much of an option. I have to get back to work and get back to my life. Not only that, but I found out that my mom didn’t want anyone “hanging around while she was dying”. Like always, she was both proud and protective. It’s always been like her to not want to show any sign of weakness.
That, coupled with the stories that I’ve heard from nurses here at hospice (about how protective people are known to “wait” until loved ones aren’t around to pass away) have led me to believe that it’s better that I head home and “wait for the call” instead of sticking around, waiting for it to happen.
One thing that’s going to stick out to me thinking about my last night here is when my mom, completely confused and out of her mind, asking me for a wet rag. I wasn’t sure if she wanted it warm or cold, so I asked… and she answered “cold!” as if it was the stupidest question ever asked… hah. Some people would take offense to that, but I kinda liked it. That moment is going to be one of the last ones I’m going to have with her and her strong personality, regardless of whether she knows what she’s saying or not at this point.
If I had to pick one word to describe this whole experience, it would be “confusing”. It sounds odd, but I’ve had to deal with a whole slew of emotions that I’ve never encountered before… especially with me leaving before “the inevitable” occurs. I feel guilty that I’m leaving my mother and that I’m not going to be here to say goodbye when the time comes, but would I really feel any better about being here when she dies? But do I only ask the latter because I’m being selfish and I don’t want to be here when she passes? But if she doesn’t want me here, anyway, is it being selfish to think that way? Should I just be thankful that hospice is doing the best that they can to take care of her and make this experience as peaceful and painless as possible and be glad that I don’t have to see the end result?
Such a strange mix of emotions. Everyone I’ve spoken to here says that it’s normal to feel this way, and that my being here for two weeks is more than she could ask for… but I still can’t help but feel guilty. Everything comes back to me leaving before my mom dies. My mom is dying and I’m not going to be here. It’s that plain and simple. It’s my mom.
Another weird emotional thing is that I can tell that I have my guard up, but I’m really trying not to. It doesn’t even make sense trying to put it into words, and I don’t know how to explain it. I feel like I’m ready to say goodbye… or, more like I’ve already said my goodbye… but at the same time, when I hold my mom’s hand or when I brush her hair to help her fall back asleep, I can barely hold it together. All this time I’ve kept telling myself that I’ve been ready to say goodbye to her, but I don’t think I’m ready at all. I can’t picture a life without her. My mom was, is and will continue to be my “safe place”. Any time I couldn’t deal with a situation, she was there for me. Any time I needed someone to talk to, she was there. It didn’t matter what it was… work, financial issues, relationship issues, problems with friends… she was there to listen. It’s not even that she gave the best advice (she discouraged me from ever leaving corporate america, regardless of how miserable I was), but it was the fact that she gave advice that she thought was best… and that she listened. In this day and age, just finding someone who will give you their undivided attention is a rarity. She always did just that.
There are a few ladies in the hospice room next to my mom’s. The first lady that I spoke to was the wife of the dying man in the room. As odd as it sounds, or as selfish as it sounds, it was comforting to hear that she was just as conflicted as me. I feel like that’s a horrible thing to say, but it made me feel slightly less alone. The second woman that I spoke to asked me if I was religious (and we all know what my answer to that question was). She said that it must be such a relief to be religious in this type of situation, and I told her that I’ve been thinking the same exact thing. It must be so comforting to think that, after all this pain and suffering, you move onto a better place where all the people you love who “passed on” before you were waiting for you. That thought and that prospect of hope and comfort is so appealing. I have to admit that even me, Mr. Atheist Supreme, pondered the possibility for a moment… but just for a moment.
The third woman was pretty awesome and asked for my email address since I “live in her old stomping grounds” and told me a story about how she got kicked out of church as a kid for asking too many questions. Amazing.
In any case, the angel they put on the doors of those expected to live 24 hours or less has been on my mom’s door for two weeks. If I can boil all these words down to just one thought… it would be that my mom has always been, and continues to be, the biggest fucking badass I know. Goddamn the woman is strong. If I live my life with half of that fight, I’ll be happy.
Just like my last post, I’m not sure there’s a point for me typing all of this, but I just needed to get this all out. I’m sure this isn’t going to get any easier for quite some time, but at least I have an outlet to get these bizarre emotions out. Good night.