Sitting on the guest room bed in my parents’ home, my mom lays close to me in what has become her bed, the last place she will ever sleep. I hold her hand; gently massage her palm, wrist and forearm. She is resting, eyes closed; her skin golden and smooth bathed in the sunlight that peeks between the tilted slats of the shuttered windows. How can someone so sick, so full of cancer, be so beautiful?
My mind wanders to a more hopeful time in early summer, when the experimental drugs appeared to be working. While she was exhausted and sick from the chemo, her lab work showed promise, and we prayed for a miracle. Most evenings after work, I dropped by the house, my childhood home; kissing my dad hello and then running up the stairs to check on my mom. Propped up with pillows, solving crossword puzzles is how I’ll remember her most. She still enjoyed the comfort of her tall king size bed, covered in beautiful autumn colored bedding, one of the few indulgences she allowed herself, expensive sheets and comforters. She loved her bedroom, her sanctuary.
I kiss her and ask her how she feels. Listening to her words, I slather my hands in lotion, and begin to massage her hands, on some nights I massage her feet and calves. She relaxes under my touch and I tell her about my day. When silence falls between us, I concentrate on the movement of my hands; I close my eyes and imagine that I am using my will, my secret power to massage the awful cancer from her body. I visualize pushing it out and far, far away from her. I believe with all my heart this faithful woman, this compassionate soul, deserves a miracle.
But the miracle never comes. Instead, on a gloomy February day, I sit on the guest room bed, holding my mother’s hand. Her eyes open, the telephone rests between us set on speaker. My siblings and my dad are in the doctor’s office. I imagine them standing around a phone as the doctor sits at her desk. I hear paper, or feet shuffle as the doctor explains my mother’s declining condition, her current treatment, and hospice. We know my mom wants hospice. She has told us that she is ready to die. But the question must be asked, and answered. My mother says yes to hospice . . . there is a silence . . . and then the sound of six hearts breaking.
That evening I write an email to our family and friends . . .
On Feb 11, 2008, at 7:55 PM,
Dear Friends, Today my family met with my mom’s doctor. My mom and I participated via conference call. My mom told the doctor she no longer wanted chemo. Her doctor asked her if she wanted a hospice nurse/social worker to come to the house and explain how hospice works before she made a decision.
She, Mary and my Dad met with the hospice nurse at 4:00, but not before my mom met with Father Christian and told him that she was ready to die. My mom agreed to hospice. I was at the house on and off today, but left before all of this happened. Although it was clear after this morning’s meeting that we were headed this direction.
Tara stopped by to see her grandma right after the hospice nurse left. She called to tell me that her grandma said she was at peace and didn’t want anyone to worry about her. My mom asked Mary to say the Rosary with her. She said she was exhausted by the day’s events and wanted to go to sleep.
It’s been a long, long day. I believe every prayer has been heard and my mom is doing what is best for her. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – her strength is my strength. She is truly amazing. I can’t imagine there will be much to say in the coming days. Mostly, we’ll just be together. My mom loves when we are all together.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. Throughout this whole ordeal they have given us all strength, hope and I know eventually peace.
l love you all. xoc
And today, seven years later . . .
I still believe in miracles . . .