The last few posts were very hard for me to write. Reading them back to myself, I can see how much I struggled. I am still grieving. As I wrote this it has barely been four months since my mom has passed. I am still in shock. I still won’t allow myself to fully go to that place where I get too deep because I am afraid of being so sad, and crying so much that I won’t be able to turn it off. From this point on in the story we are pretty much up to current times and everything I’ve been dealing with since her passing, and so once I fully catch up to present days I’m going to start talking about the grieving process and how I’m dealing with that. First though, I must finish the story and tell you all what happened in the days and weeks following her death and how crazy that all was for me. If you read any of this story, thank you.
It was the morning of November the 20th, 2016 when my mom passed away, at 8:04 in the morning. I was the only one with her besides the nurses, who were complete strangers to me. They both looked at me and expressed their sorrow. I rubbed my mom’s arm and it was still warm. I stared to cry and said, “goodbye mama.”. The other nurse turned to me and said that they would give me a few minutes alone. For a second I panicked as if I were a little kid, that they are leaving me alone with her now lifeless body, but then I realized, this isn’t the scary part. The scary part was what I witnessed for the past month. It was just her body and her spirit had left it. It was still my mom. I thought to myself, she was finally at peace, with no more pain and I was ok.
I got up out of the chair and paced around, just looking at her. Her eyes were opened but looking down and I could see there was no life left in them. That is another image that is unfortunately burned into my brain. At the same time it was so scary, it was also peaceful. I found peace in knowing she didn’t have to suffer anymore and I didn’t have to watch her suffer anymore. I have never seen a person suffer in agony like that before and in so many ways. While what my dad went through was horrible, terrible, what I watched my mom go through over the course of that past year and especially in the month before she died, I cannot even find adequate words to describe it. Watching a person suffer like that will really make you question of there is a god because no human being should have to endure that much suffering. I have to believe that there’s a heaven and a place where we go on to bigger and better things because otherwise, it all seems to senseless.
I realized my family would be on their way shortly and so I decided to step out of the room to start making phone calls. I didn’t want everyone just showing up without knowing, and so the first person I called was my brother. He told me he and his wife were heading up to the hospital and would be there shortly. He also said he’d notify my aunt Debbie and Aunt Bea and I figured between them, they’d notify everyone else. I went to walk back to the room and the door was closed so I knocked. They told me to wait a moment and that they were just cleaning her up. In the meantime the on-call doctor came to talk to me. He apologized for the loss and had me sign some papers. He also asked me if I wanted an autopsy in which I declined. I’m actually sorry that I did. At times I question why things took such a drastic turn. Why my brother and his wife stayed away from the hospital for those few days before she died.
By the time I was done discussing things with him, the nurses were done. I walked into the room to see they had closed my moms eyes, neatened up the sheets and folded her arms over her chest, simarlarly to how they do it in the funeral home. They also gathered all of her belongings and put them in bags and piled the bags on the table and chairs. She had accumulated a lot of stuff in her months long stay. As I was in there I could almost here her telling me to grab her phone and her iPad before my brother and his wife got it. I knew my mom was like me and she never deleted her text messages. My brother would’ve been devastated had her read the text messages between me and her. I also knew she talked to a lot of people about what was going on and how much she hated his wife. I couldn’t do that to my mom. Even though she physically isn’t here, I felt like it was wrong.
I walked downstairs to put them in my car and as I was on my way down my cousin Tina called me. Of all of my cousins her and I used to be the closest. Tina was Aunt Debbie’s daughter and she was an only child. I always felt bad that she didn’t have a sibling and so I sort of stepped into that role for her. We used to talk daily since the time she was a young teen. After my mom she was probably the next person in my family that I communicated with most, but six months before my mom passed she kind of just cut off communication with me, without any explanations. There was nothing that I could think of off the top of my head that I did that would cause her to just drop me like that. In the same token I also didn’t bother to find out what was wrong. I was too busy caring for my mom. I eventually found out it was because of the letter I wrote to her mom. I was shocked. She is well aware of who her mother is and how she operates. I’ve never seen a mother and daughter at each other’s throats more than her and her mom. If my son ever spoke of me the way she spoke about her mom, I’d be really upset. Besides, I don’t think she was presented with my letter in its full context and so I almost can’t blame her for being angry. If you just read that last letter I wrote, it looks as if I’m just being a mean asshole. That’s how my aunt operates.
We stayed on the phone for a while. I hadn’t talked to her the whole time my mom was there except for a few texts in the very beginning, after I had accidentally called her one day. I told her all the crazy shit that was going on with my brother and his wife and how they were non-stop harassing her about seeing an eldercare lawyer and health proxies and her “wishes”. I hoped she’d share it with her mom so maybe she’d have an understanding of what was going on and why I’ve been so upset and angry.
Eventually I saw my brother and Satan coming up to the hospital with their one and a half year old daughter. I figured I’d give them a few minutes alone with my mom, the. I told Tina I’d call her back. I walked into my mom’s room. My brother and Satan are sitting on the chairs and the baby is running around the room trying to lift up the blankets and stuff on my mom’s bed and Satan’s just sitting there talking and laughing as if she’s not sitting next to my mom’s deceased body. My brother just had this blank stare going on. I thought it was so strange and inappropriate that they even brought their baby. They always seem to find baby sitters when they want to go out to the bar but they can’t find one for now? Satan has a 14 year old daughter who could’ve looked after her. I told them I didn’t think there was any purpose for anyone in our family to come up. There was nothing for anyone to do. She was gone. The hospital was at least a half hour drive or more for the majority of my family. My brother agreed. He then turns to me and says, “oh yeah, by the way, we made an appointment at the funeral home for 3:00 today.” It was around 12:30. I had slept a total of just over 6 hours for the last three days. I hadn’t been sleeping well for long before then. I was dealing with insomnia for a long time. I explained that to him along with the fact I just wanted to go home and see my son and my husband and relax. I felt like I hadn’t seen them in a month. I was hardly ever home. I’d spend 8+ hours at the hospital each day. If I could, I’d bring my son up with me in the early afternoon and my husband would come pick him up around 3:30. Most nights, by time I got home they were both bed. I asked my brother why we couldn’t wait until the following day, like we did when my dad passed. My brother then said to me, probably one of the most fucked up things, he has said so far, “well I mean it’s thanksgiving is this Thursday.”. Was he fucking kidding? I’m sorry our mother’s death has inconvenienced your holiday. I said, “I don’t give a fuck about thanksgiving!” It’s so unimportant. My brother was always like that. He did what was convenient for him without taking anyone else into consideration. While he was at his house at a 50th Birthday party and sleeping in his nice comfy bed, I was sleeping on a shitty old piece of hospital equipment for the past two nights. If the roles were reversed I could guarantee he wouldn’t want to go that day either.
When all was said and done he and Satan stood up and said they were leaving and they’d see me at 3:30. They just walked out. They didn’t even look at my mom, touch her, kiss her or say goodbye, while her body was still somewhat warm. They didn’t even look at her. I know she couldn’t hear them but it just showed me how emotionally unaffected then were by this. I never once saw my brother’s wife shed a tear. I saw my brother shed a few over the days prior but never when she was around. My girlfriend Kathy who was the nurse said that on that last night while I was at my house picking up my clothes and stuff, she walked in the room and was shocked to see my brother sitting there balling his eyes out, like to the point where he doing that weird breathing thing you do when you cry really hard. Of course Satan wasn’t there that night. It’s so sad that he cannot be vulnerable in front of her or show any weakness. I was happy to hear that had some human emotion left in him. Satan on the other hand, didn’t seem the least bit upset about my mom’s departure. I know my husband cried. In our 9 years together it was the first time I ever saw him cry.
They walked out of the room with the baby and their empty stroller and left me there to carry all of my mom’s belongings, all by myself. One of the male nurses there who I became friendly with, came in with a box of coffee for us that he paid for out of his own pocket. I felt bad telling him that no one else was coming. I have to say that the nursing staff at that hospital was phenomenal. I had become friendly with all of the nurses. I almost felt like they were my family for that month. They all treated my mom with kindness and compassion and most importantly, dignity. I felt like I was going to miss seeing them and talking to them everyday. Anyway, the male nurse who got me the coffee also went and got me an extra wide wheel chair to help he carry all the bags and belongings down to my car. It still took me two trips to get everything in my car. After the first trip I called Tina back and talked to her for about 15 minutes or so. When I came back in to get the bag I opened the door to my mom’s room and was startled to see a group of young medical students surrounding her bed. They all turned around kind of shocked to see me standing there and when they did I was able to see they had taped cotton over my mom’s eyes. The doctor, who I assume was their professor, started to apologize profusely about me having to see that. She then explained to me why they were doing that. My mom had obviously signed up to be an organ donor. Because they couldn’t use any of her organs or tissue because of the cancer, they were going to see if her eyes could be donated. The reason they needed to tape cotton to them was because so they could keep them moist. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact I was happy to see that they were going to try. I know that would’ve made her happy.
I finally got back to my car and started to drive away from the place that had almost felt like home to me for those last few weeks. My 30 day parking pass expired that day and I had to pay for parking. It was bittersweet rolling out of there. I was happy to never have to go back but sad at the same time because I was leaving there alone. I had driven my mom home from there several times that year and now that was it. Never again would I drive her anywhere. It was a hard pill to swallow.
I got home and walked in my front door. My son came running up to me yelling, “mommy!”. My husband too. We all just say there and embraced one another and cried. We all sat down on the couch and I went over everything that had happened that day up until then. I told him I had to go to the funeral home and he agreed it was bullshit that they couldn’t wait. Neither of us could understand why they were so eager to get my mom’s wake over and done with and on with their lives.
As I was home I received a phone call from the place that handled donations of the eyes. The woman who answered was very pleasant to deal with. She needed some basic and background information about my mom. I ended up being on the phone with her that by time I got off, it was time for me and my husband to leave to go to the funeral home.
We pulled up and of course my brother and Satan were already there sitting in the lobby. I needed my husband there too. Satan is very quiet when he’s around. I think she’s a little intimidated by him. It was so uncomfortable with her being there. It was like having a (demonic) stranger in the room sucking up all of the good oxygen. The funeral director was a woman, different than the woman who came up to the hospital. The first part of this meeting was completely redundant. It was exactly what we had accomplished in the hospital. She asked us basic info about my mom and once again my brother was looking at me for the answers. My husband and Satan were quietly sitting in two chairs off to the side. Then me moved on to how many days we wanted the service. At the same time I said, “one” and my brother said “two”. I wasn’t really sure why he wanted to do two, but I just went a long with it. I was much too tired and upset to argue. Then she showed us the book of Mass cards and we picked ones that had assorted pictures of flowers. My mom loved flowers. We decided to have a priest even though my mom wasn’t really all that religious. She still believed in god and I think she would’ve wanted him there for her family’s sake because a lot of my aunts and uncles are religious.
After we wrapped up all of the details, it was time to talk money and how this was all going to be paid for, that’s when Satan jumped in. She had already apparently done her homework and knew that my mom had three life insurance policies and one of them lapsed. I was in complete shock. My husband and I looked at one another and without saying a word I know he was thinking exactly what I was thinking, “how the fuck does she even know about that shit?”. The funeral director said she’d look further into everything and see what was what.
As the funeral director was tallying the costs, my brother turns to me and says, “after here me and [satan] are heading over to [a local Irish pub]. We figured we would go there between the funeral services.”. I had went along with all their crazy bullshit up until this point but there was no way in hell I was agreeing with this. For the last two days Satan was going around telling my family members that we were going to go back to my mom’s house between the viewings. Whatever family member is was that told me that, thought it was incredibly ballsy for her to offer up my mom’s house. They also though it was a little strange. I also found it funny at she was able to lend her own home to a friend’s sister to have a 50th birthday party in, but she didn’t even offer it up for her husband’s family. Someone must of told them that was weird and so now they picked this Irish pub. I had to laugh when my brother said it, I replied to him by saying, ” [our mother’s Italian maiden name], we are Italian. There’s no way in hell we are going to [local Irish pub]. We will honor her by eating Italian food.”. I could see the smoke rising from Satan’s ears. I know she’s the one who picked that place. She is Irish through and through. St. Patrick’s day is her favorite holiday. I told him to go check out a local Italian restaurant to eat at. I wasn’t going to no pub so I could watch Satan get drunk. No thanks.
After that it was time to go down to the show room of death, as I like to call it . . I was stunned the fist time I had been down there when we were making my dad’s funeral arrangements. It’s like a little store. The first room you walk into is all filled with urns and all these miscellaneous knick knacks and memorial items. You can really customize your wake. Then as you go through there, you enter a large showroom that’s filled with caskets that are all sitting there with their doors propped open. If there’s anything I learned from watching HBO’s six feet under, it’s that death is a business too, and this room confirmed it.
We picked our casket and went back in the first room to look at urns since we were going to be cremating my mom. As I started to look around I noticed that not only did they have big urns, they had smaller ones too. There was one urn specifically that reminded me of something my Aunt Debbie would like. That’s when I got the idea. I again remembered my mom in her final days, that she just wanted her family and so I turned to my brother and said, we should get these for our aunt’s and uncle’s this way my mom could be with all of them. My brother agreed it was a good idea and the funeral director told us that during the wake she could pull down my mom’s siblings and our grandmother and they can pick the one’s they like. Since my mom told my aunt Debbie that she wanted her ashes mixed with my dad’s I decided to keep my dad’s urn and just add my mom’s ashes. My brother and Satan of course picked out the most expensive urn on the shelf for their house. God my mom would hate to be sitting on their mantle.
Another thing that hit me as we were down in that room was that I didn’t remember discussing what two days exactly we would be having my mom’s wake and so I asked out loud. My brother answered, Tuesday and Wednesday. I looked at him like he had five heads. That left us with one day to find a place to go between viewings, get flowers and photos together, etc. etc. Again I had to open my mouth. I was concerned for some of my mom’s family who lived out of state, who may want to come to pay their respects. They’d need more than a day or two to make travel plans, especially given the fact that thanksgiving was that Thursday. I mentioned that to my brother and suggested waiting until the day after thanksgiving, to have the wake. Even though it would be hard, we could e at least have people the option to travel here. His answer was that he already took Tuesday and Wednesday off from work. God forbid my mother’s death ruin his thanksgiving and his three day weekend. He’d rather waste his 2 days off from work so he could enjoy the rest of his week…..selfish fuck!
We walked out of the funeral home and Satan, still reeling about my “we are Italian” comment, ran straight to their car and didn’t say goodbye to either me or my husband. My brother stayed behind and talked with is for a few minutes. He started spewing plans of what we should do in the following days. The next day, he and Satan were going to order the flowers and go to the Italian restaurant. Then he started to go into this bullshit about just opening up my mom’s house and having an estate sale so we didn’t have to be bothered going through everything. I sat there and just looked at him dumbfounded and wondered, did he even know our mother? She actually used to go to estate sales all of the time because she would sell stuff on eBay. She always used to tell me how sad she thought it was that the family didn’t want to be bothered looking through the deceased’s stuff. She asked me never to do that if she died. I never would anyway. I know my mom was very sentimental, as am I. I want to touch and see everything she held. I want to find little treasures like a letter she wrote or card that she saved. My brother and Satan seemed like they wanted to be in control of everything……everything.
(To be continued in the next post)