My mom is dying.
She's laying in a hospital bed, three feet from me. Her days are quickly dwindling, her frail body ravaged from the relentless disease she's battled nearly, if not all of my entire life. We will have no more conversations, I will never again hear her laugh, and yet she's right next to me. I can't shake her from the medically-induced sleep she's slipped into over the past week. And while I've always been fairly certain that this would be the beast that robbed her life, knowing the facts hasn't prepared me much more than if she passed away suddenly. Nor has it readied me for watching her life slip away, hour by hour.
My mom is battling multiple sclerosis. She has shown symptoms of the condition since she was about 19 years old (average diagnosis age is 37). The disease is fairly common across the country--I'm sure you know someone or know of someone who struggles with MS... but I daresay that I've never witnessed an MS patient fare as my mom has.
I don't remember a time when she walked without help--be it a cane, walker, scooter, wheelchair. She's bounced from nursing home to nursing home in the past decade--mostly due to no one in my family being able to take her in and care for her on a daily basis. She's 45 years old. Nursing homes are obviously specialized for the older set--I've often wondered what being surrounded by sick elderly people has done to her mentally. I can't begin to imagine. She has often referred to herself as a burden, referring to how she can't take care of herself. Last spring, her legs were amputated due to loss of circulation and bed sores. As the past few months have wore on, her speech had completely faltered. She's been bedridden for about a decade.
I have long considered writing about her trials, because I know I'm not the only one with an ailing parent. I have struggled with what would be too much information, because the last thing in the world I want is to exhaust my mother of the little bit of dignity she holds. But believe me when I say, it is a vicious, heinous condition.
I think her condition hasn't been a challenge for me in ways that a third-party witness might think--my mom being sick is all I've ever known. And yet, in my early childhood days, as a SAHM-by-default, she always had dinner on the table before 6 pm. We always had structure, we were always dressed impeccably, we were never short of love. When I hear friends retell stories of their childhoods, I am always silently impressed with my mom, knowing her body was so embattled with this disease, and yet she created as "normal" of an environment as possible. She was a constant fixture at our little league games--perched in her scooter, right behind the umpire, we went to church, she sat with us and did our homework on a daily basis.
I keep hearing from nearly everyone who enters her hospice room, how much I look like her, how proud she is of her kids, and how much of a fighter she is. Her kidneys failed last Monday. I was called at lunch on my workday, and told she wouldn't make it through the day. I couldn't get out of Nashville yet, so I decided to wait to hear more... days passed. She was still here, still holding on. Wednesday: she was responsive, attempting to talk, eyes open. Another day passed, again I heard she wouldn't make it through the night. I stepped onto a plane Sunday, and I've been here ever since. She hasn't improved. She won't be healed from this, on this earth. Last week, I heard myself uttering something that I can't get out of my mind: "my worst days aren't even close to what is her best."
There's a constant battle being fought in my heart. I don't want my mom to die, but I can't expect her to wake up and laugh her familiar laugh. I know her petite body is so, so very tired. We are now nine days past the day that was claimed to be her last--and she's still here. Fighting. I want her suffering to cease, so badly. I want peace for her, and more than anything, for her to know the depths of which she is loved. How much she has taught me, is still teaching me. How much I wish things had been different--how I wish she had never been stricken with this disease... how many silly conversations I'd spark up with her, things I won't get the chance to talk about with her.
It's impossible for me to feel the Christmas spirit. My mom has had a difficult life, to state the obvious and to say the
least. And in her final hours, I listen to the soft whistle of her breath, and earnestly pray that she isn't hurting right now. I pray I haven't let her down as a daughter. I pray I have the resolve to never squander another minute of this life, putting off a decision to do X, Y or Z, because I'm not in the mood. Errands as simple as running to Sonic for her beloved Dr. Peppers, or even the task of driving were taken from her years ago. I am furious this week, reading whiny tweets and Facebook posts--please remember what matters. Losing that prime parking space at the mall, or not being able to buy that gift you wanted, or running out of time to bake those signature cookies?? It doesn't matter. You won't remember any of it next month... don't waste time, precious time, worrying about it now. Just stop.
Thank you for your constant prayers and encouragement. Again, I am reminded of the dear friends I have in my corner. I am forever grateful for you thinking of me and my family right now.
I hope this week leading up to your Christmas is so full of love, and overflowing with lots of laughs and warmth. I have some scheduled posts I'll try to pop out here, but no guarantees... I'll be back here soon.