I was totally sure my brother would be gone by the time I came back. As mad as I had been with him, I still cared about him. I’ve made this analogy before, but seeing someone you love in a relationship with a narcissist, is like losing a family member to drugs. All you can do is sit back and watch them make horrible decision after horrible decision, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I know my brother, or rather, I “knew” my brother and what kind of person he was. If it was any other girlfriend, I don’t think my brother would’ve left the hospital at all that night. He was gone for four hours. He was well aware of what was going on with my mom and where she was headed. If I were in his shoes, seeing that he had missed the majority of the last three years with her, I would’ve wanted to stay there and soak up every minute of time with her. That goes to show how much control a narcissist has over their victims and how afraid their victims are to go against them. My brother had a choice that night. He could’ve told his wife to entertain her friends on her own and he could’ve chosen to stay at the hospital. I know my brother and I know that one day he is going to be very sorry about the choices he made during this time. I wonder if he spoke to my mom during that time. If he told her he was sorry or told her he loved her. It makes me sad for him that one day he may see things clearly, but ultimately they are his choices and he is the one who will have to live with them and live with his regrets,….not me.
My brother left only minutes after I got there and once again, I was alone with my mom during this scary time. There was one saving grace though and that was my nurse friend, Kathy. My mom had been up in that same unit for an entire month now and that whole time Kathy was never actually assigned to be her nurse. Out of the kindness of her heart she checked up on her for me whenever she was working her shift. It just so ended up though that, that night, Kathy wasn’t even supposed to be there. She was covering for another nurse and she ended up miraculously being assigned to my mom’s room. If there was one thing to be happy about, that was it. I knew Kathy would take extra care of my mom and make sure she was ok and as comfortable as she could be.
I was in the room trying to set up the chair I was going to “sleep” in that night. Kathy came in to check up on us. We sat there for a few minutes both just stared at my mom. We started to discuss how peaceful she looked. Kathy tried to arouse my mom by saying her name but my mom kind of grunted and went back to snoring. The other nurse came in and she and Kathy discussed cleaning my mom up and putting a clean night gown on her. She had been in the same one for several days at this point in time and there was stains and blood on it. Normally I would stay in the room when they cleaned her up but Kathy told me, it was probably best if I left this time. When people are in the condition my mom was in, it wasn’t a pleasant experience and could be quite distressing to the family. I was fine with that and so I took a walk down stairs to get some fresh air.
When I got outside it had started to rain. I stood there close to the building and suddenly the rain started to really come down and the winds picked up. I saw a wheelchair flying across the street and it crashed into the curb. I remember thinking to myself, this is it. The storm was coming. It just seemed like something out of a Greek mythology tale. Like the sky’s we’re opening up to let my mom come in. The gods were coming to get her. Like the earth was angry for losing such a special person. I started thinking about the advice my cousin Nikki had told me and I knew that tonight was going to be the last chance I had and, so I k ew that this was the night for me to tell her all the things that we forget to say to one another on a day to day basis to the people we love.. Oddly enough though, kind of nervous and also I was scared. Scared that I would get too upset. Scared it was too late and she wouldn’t even hear me. Sacred I would freeze up and not know what to say.
I went back upstairs and the nurses were finished up and just tidying up the room I could tell at this point that she was awake. Her eyes were slightly opened. They left the room and it was just her and I, alone. I closed the door and sat down. I sat there and stared at her for a few minutes. I looked at her arms and the bruises she had from being stuck with so many needles for blood tests and for dialysis. Those were the arms that held me as a baby. Those were the arms that hugged me and comforted me so many times. I wished I could freeze time. I wished I could keep her here forever. I wished she didn’t have to go through all the things she went through. I scanned her over and looked at her hands. I didn’t get many of my mom’s physical features. We could never share shoes because my feet are much larger than hers. We could never share clothes either,but the one thing we’d always swap was rings. Our fingers were the exact same sizes, every one of them. I thought about my mom taking her rings off so she could roll the meatballs for her Sunday sauce. I realized I never learned how I never even learned how to make the meatballs and now it was too late. I just wanted to take everything in. Her face, her hair, her hands, just everything.
As I was sitting there I suddenly remembered something. There was something I wanted her to have with her. I had gone to her house a few days prior to look for this necklace that she had, that she always wore. When my dad passed back in 2006, she had gone to a jeweler with an idea that she got from a friend. She took his wedding band and had them bend it into a heart shape. They added also added a bail to it so it would hang on the chain, flat. For some reason though, I couldn’t find it. I looked in all of her jewelry boxes and it was nowhere to be found. I found her wedding band but not my dad’s and so I grabbed that. Then I remembered she and I had purchased these necklaces after my dad passed. They were crosses in which had a little screw at the bottom where you can put some of the ashes. I had been wearing mine for the whole time she was in the hospital. I took the necklace out of my pocket and quietly leaned over and said her name. Her eyes slightly opened up. I told her that I had something that I wanted her to hold close to her. I said to her, “this is the cross with daddy’s ashes, I know know much you have missed him for the last ten years and I want him to be close to you, so I’m going to wrap this around your hand and I want you to hold it.” I gently lifted her hand and wrapped it around and closed her hand on it. She was so weak she couldn’t even hold on to it. I then said, “go be with daddy. It’s ok, he is waiting for you.”. In the days prior my mom had been saying some strange stuff and she had mentioned my dad being there quite a few times. She also told someone she saw hands reaching out of her. That is actually a very common thing for people to do when they are dying. My dad did it too.
After that, words just came naturally to me. I told her what a good mother she was and how lucky I was that god choose her to be my mother. I told her that if I could be even half as good a mother to mey son as she was to me and my brother, that I’d be ok. I told her how I admired her dedication and how she put her heart into everything she did in life from being an employee to being a wife and mother, and how I was lucky to have her as a role model. I told her how strong she was and how she never gave herself enough credit. My mom always compared herself to her sisters. She would always tell me, “I’m the fat, ugly sister.” I don’t know why she looked down on herself like that and so I reminded her that she always compared herself to them yet she didn’t realize that of all of them she was by far the most beautiful because she had the biggest heart, and like she always used to tell me, “beauty is only skin deep. It’s what’s on the inside that counts”. Beauty means nothing if you have a rotten personality and black heart.
I was nervous for nothing. The words just came out. Naturally, and I told her everything I wanted to say to her. There was one thing that I know she needed to hear before she left this world and so I promised her that I would try my hardest to fix everything with my family but most importantly my brother. I think my mom’s biggest fear in this world was leaving it knowing that me and my brother would still be separated and wouldn’t be there for one another. I wanted her to know I’d try.
As I was talking to her, her head was leaned away from me facing in the opposite direction. I walked around the bed, then I got real close to her, and I bent down so she could see me in her line of vision. I told her try to look at me. To really try to focus. I saw her eyes straining to move. I promised her I was going to be ok, but I was going to miss her terribly. That was when suddenly I heard a noise come from her mouth. I couldn’t make it out. Her voice was extremely raspy and low. I asked her to say it again and out came three short, one syllable words, “I luh you.”. I looked at her and asked, “did you say I love you?”. She nodded her head once and then she just kept saying it over and over until her voice was no longer able to come out and just her lips were moving. I saw a tear drop from her eye and I started to cry and I told her I loved her too, more than she could ever know.
I love you wasn’t a phrase that was often said in our home. In the months prior there would be times I’d be with her and my brother would call and every time they hung up she’d say, “I love you.”. She didn’t say those words to me often and I don’t think it’s because she didn’t love me. I think it was just that we didn’t need to say that to one another all of the time. It was pretty obvious by the closeness of our relationship and how we talked to one another multiple times a day, everyday. The week prior to this day was really hard too. I felt like she was angry with me. She was snippy with me and had yelled at me a few times when I was trying to help her. I felt like she was annoyed by me being there and at times, maybe she didn’t want me there. I know now that is a common part of the process of dying. Anger and detachment. It’s something I guess we need to do to separate ourselves from the ones we love. I needed to hear those words at that time and I am so glad I did. It was a beautiful moment in such a horrible situation. I was happy about it but at the same time, completely devastated. I knew that it was the last time I’d ever hear those three words fromher mouth.
I sat there for a few moments and I could actually see she was finally relaxed. I watched her as she drifted back off into sleep. It was an emotionally intense situation. I needed to get up and take a lap around the building. I walked out the room and ran into Kathy. She told me to come take a break with her as she ate her late night dinner. I sat down in the break room with her and two other nurses. They shared some crazy stories with me and it was nice to forget what I was going though for a minute. I don’t know how those work do what they do. How they leave this shit at the hospital and manage to go home and be wives and mother’s without letting all that sadness affect them. I have a whole new appreciation for nurses. I really admire them and the work they do. It takes a special kind of person to do what they do.
I went back into mom’s room and sat there for a bit. I had probably only slept a total of four hours in the last two nights. It was starting to catch up with me. Kathy came back in and we sat there and talked for a while. I am not going to lie. My mom looked scary. She had her head turned to the side, one eye was wide open while the other was half way shut. Ten years ago I never would’ve imagined myself being able to sit there alone with someone I loved in such horrible condition and looking so scary. It’s an image that I don’t want to remember, but any time I think back to her time at the hospital, that is all I see in my head. I hope in time that vision fades. I do not want to remember my mother like that.
It was rounding 4:00am and I had set myself up as close to my mom as I could physically be. I wanted to be able to hold her hand and touch her. When my dad was in the hospital my mom slept in that chair every night and held his hand. My mom was the most fiercely loyal woman on theplanet. Her love was truly unconditional. I hated that she had to be in a hospital dying. I wished she could’ve had the privilege to be home on hospice as my dad was, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. My dad was in the hospital a week or so prior to his death. He made the decision to stop all treatment and go on hospice at home. He didn’t want to die in a hospital. My dad accepted his situation and in a strange way, his death gave me a whole new respect for him. He handled it all like a true man, like a father should. He sat all of us down one by one and talked to us about his decision. I will never forget that conversation. He told me he was going to stop treatment because he didn’t want to go through all the bullshit anymore. I told him, “dad although I don’t want to see you go, I understand. It’s YOUR life and I can see that you are tired of fighting.”. Back when my mom’s kidneys failed in the early 90’s, I remember being in the car with my dad one time on the way up to visit my mom in the hospital. My dad said to me, “if I ever get sick like your mother is, just kill me. I don’t ever want to be sick like that. I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I don’t know how she does it.”. I remembered him saying that and I told him, and my dad said one of the most meaningful things he had ever said to me, in my life. He said,” [my name] you are the only one who gets me.”. Those words meant a lot to me because I knew he wasn’t just talking about in this situation. He was talking in general terms. Of his four children, my brother, me and two half sisters from a previous marriage, he had very tense relationships with three. I think I was the only one who cut him some slack and understood the reasons as to why he was the way he was.
Anyway, I got off track there but my mom literally stuck right by his side as he was going through the transition of leaving this world and going to another. In the last few days of his life, either me or her were in the room. She hadn’t showered in days. She would only leave the room to get food or go to the bathroom. We were sitting there talking one day and my mom was saying how disgusting she felt and how badly she needed a nice hot shower. I told her to go and that my dad would be fine for a few minutes. We called my brother, who was living in the basement, to come upstairs and stay by his side. My mom turned on the water. At the time I was going through some old pictures of my dad so we could display him at his wake and I had all the albums and stuff laying on my mom’s bed. I left the room that he was in and went into their bedroom. The very second after I closed the door I heard my brother screaming, “he’s gone! He’s gone!”. It was the first time in three to four days that both me and my mom were both out of the room, at the same time. I truly believe he was waiting for a moment like that because he didn’t want us to see him take his last breath. I felt like my mom deserved the same thing. She deserved to leave this world with someone by her side, especially since she was so scared and not ready to die. She never made it to the acceptance stage. She didn’t have enough time.
I don’t even remember falling asleep that night. The last thing I remember was saying goodnight to my mom and kissing her of the forehead, then laying down and watching a video on my phone. At about 7:30 am I woke up to the sounds of beeping machines and Kathy and another nurse, talking in a dull whisper. I popped my head up and asked what was going on. She told me my mom’s heart rate went up extremely high and she was trying to calm her down. I was trying so hard to stay awake, but it felt almost as if someone was pulling my eye lids down. The previous night when the nurses were in and out of the room I’d pop up and feel wide awake. The first thing I’d do is look at her chest to see if she was still breathing. This time I was fighting to keep my eyes opened and I don’t even remember falling back to sleep.
At a few minutes after 8:00 I was awoken by someone saying,”sweetie…..sweetie, you need to wake up, this is it…your mom is going.”. I was a bit disoriented and so I looked up at the clock, and then right away realized where I was. My head shot over to the right of me to look at my mom’s chest, as I did all of those other times. I asked the nurse, “she’s not breathing?”. She said, “she just stopped “. As she was talking she grabbed my grabbed my mom’s wrist and held it, then said, “she still has a pulse.”. There was a long pause of silence, as I sat there staring at the nurse holding her wrist. It seemed like minutes, but was probably only a few short seconds. She then jerked back a bit, almost as if she was startled. She slowly put my mom’s arm down and said, “I have to call the doctor.”……..
….and just like that, at 8:04 in the morning on November 20th, 2016, my mom passed away…….
(To be continued in my next post)