My brother got up to the hospital shortly after talking to him. We paged the doctor and he was there within minutes (which is highly unusual). He explained the same things he had told me, to my brother, and thankfully my brother agreed with my “choice.” It wasn’t really much of a choice though. It was really the only option we had.
He explained to us that it could be hours or days until she actually passed. About a week prior to this there was a woman in my mom’s room who was clearly at the end of her life. She was older than my mom by many years and I could tell she was in her last days. She was sleeping non-stop and when the nurses would come in, she would start screaming at them, telling them to leave her alone and to not touch her anymore. This anger and agitation is a very common part of the process. Anyway, this poor woman had no visitors for days until her sons finally showed up. They moved her into a private room where she passed away peacefully. I asked the doctor if it was possible we could do the same for my mom and he told me he’d try his best to get us that room.
Although I saw this coming from a mile away, I was still in complete shock. There were no questions anymore. No hope. My mother and best friend was going to die. People say it’s “easier” sometimes when you know before hand. They say you can prepare yourself. In a wa yes, but in reality, nothing can ever prepare you for losing someone. In a way it’s almost harder because while you know it’s going to happen, you don’t know when and so you are stuck in a constant t state of anxiety. I knew this was coming since the day I heard she had a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I read many articles about cancer in immunocompromised patients and what the survival rates were and statistically, they were not good. I knew it would be a while but not knowing how or when was what made it so hard for me. Losing my mom was my biggest fear not just for that month or year but for my whole life. Since the day I was born I had this connection to her where I never wanted to let her go. My mom used to tell me this story all of the time about how no one could hold me except her, when I was a baby. My aunts used to get mad because they wanted to hold me but every time my mom would hand me to one of them I would scream bloody murder until they gave me back over to my mom. One time her and Aunt Debbie decided they’d try to fool me and so they went into another room and switched shirts. Aunt Debbie picked me up but her face was turned away. She said right away I knew something was wrong and so I kept trying to pull Aunt Debbie’s face toward me. Finally she gave in and and turned her head and as soon as I did, I started to scream for my mom! No one can ever take her place.
It was my husband’s 40th birthday that day and it killed me when I had to call him and tell him the worst news I’ve ever delivered to another human being. My husband had a really good relationship ship with my mom. He was better to her than her own son was. He always called to check on on her and sometimes he’d go over there on Saturday mornings while I was still sleeping, so she could see our son. I knew this news was going to hurt him too. I asked him to come up and if he could bring my son so he could see her in hopes that maybe she’d remember it.
The night before, when I was up at the hospital, I was trying to clean up my mom’s room. I was just fidgety and didn’t know what to do with myself. I just wanted to keep her awake and talking to me so I kept asking her questions what she wants to do with this or that. She wasn’t really responding much except for “yes’s” or “no’s”. She was sleepy and she was kind of trying to talk, but she was kind of going in and out. I asked her, “what is it ma? What do you want?” She looked at me and said, “I just want my family.” and so I remembered her saying that to me and I knew that meant she wanted me to get them there.
One by one my aunts; uncle’s and cousins all started to pour into the hospital. All 5 of her siblings were there with their husbands or wives (except for Aunt Debbie who is twice divorced) and a lot of my 12 cousins, also came. They set up shop in the waiting room where my brother and I had just sat down with the social worker, the day prior. Everyone took turns going in and out of my mom’s room to visit with her. It was sort of overwhelming. Everyone was crying and in shock. I don’t think anyone realized how bad she really was and later I found out why. They were being misinformed by my brother and his wife.
Satan told us she had to leave to go to the doctor and it was nice not having to see her around for a little while. My brother was actually spending some time with my mother. He hadn’t been up there in days. I could see in his face that there was a lot going on in his head. My brother was very quiet that day. I wondered exactly what it was, that was going through his head or if he even cared. I wondered if he had any regrets that he hardly saw her or acted like she existed for almost three years. That in and of itself just made me sad. I loved my brother, but I just hated who he had become. It still hurt me to know he was going to have to live with all that regret for all the fighting they had done. Prior to Satan my brother had a very good and very close relationship with our mom. He would keep in regular contact with her and make sure to visit her at least once a week. It was sad to me that he let someone else spoil that.
Another difficult part of that day was when my grandmother arrived. She was about to get the shock of her life. My grandmother had no idea that my mom even had cancer. My mother elected not to tell her. I thought it was a very bad choice and she was doing my 89 year old grandmother a disservice. When I asked her why she didn’t want my grandmother to know, my mom told me that Aunt Bea had decided that it would be best that at 89 years old, she didn’t have to worry! Aunt Bea thinks she’s the mother. How fucking dare she make that decision for her and for my mom. That is not her story. I was really disappointed in my mom. They think they were protecting her but all they were doing was hurting her. I tried to put myself in her shoes and think which I’d be more upset about, knowing my daughter had cancer and being able to mentally prepare myself and making sure I talk to her and spend as much time as possible with her, or not knowing she had cancer for an entire year and then finding out when is too late. I sorted avoided my grandmother for the last few months when things started to slowly decline because if I was talking to her, and she asked me any questions, I was NOT going lie to her and like I felt about Aunt Bea, it was not my story to tell. Many of the nurses in the hospital had this same talk with my mom. They would ask if her mother knew what was going on and my mom would say no and then the nurses would all say the same thing, that my mom was doing her a disservice. By this time I think my mom had lied so long she felt too bad having to explain herself.
My husband left and went home to watch my son. I really wished he could stay because I could’ve used someone to be on my side. I felt like I was virtually alone. The whole time my mom was in the hospital, out of five of my aunts, only one reached out to me and that was my mom’s youngest sister. Of all my cousins, the only ones who checked in on me was my oldest cousin Nikki. She was the only one who consistently called me. My aunt Bea and my aunt Debbie weren’t being mean but they were kind of ignoring me and giving me the cold shoulder. Likewise, I was kind of avoiding them. I was avoiding almost everyone. My cousin Nikki was by my side the whole time and I could never thank her enough for treating me kindly, having some compassion and understanding. She actually listened to me vent and actually tried to empathize with me. No one else wanted to hear anything I had to say and that really sucked because I think if they knew the story they’d understand why I was the way I was at that time.
In the late afternoon I was in the waiting room with some of my family. Aunt Bea, uncle Bob a few others were in my mom’s room. Satan came back from her Doctors appointment. She walks in and my aunt Debbie asks her how her doctors appointment was and suddenly she pulls this sheet of paper out of her purse and starts reading it to everyone. Her reason for going to the doctor was because she had an upper respiratory infection. Anyway, she starts reading off what the doctor prescribed to her, antibiotics, a cough syrup and……. oxycodone (aka Vicodin or Percocet) . My aunt D yells out, “oxycodone? What kind of doctor is prescribing you oxycodone for an upper respiratory infection?”. Satan says, “I guess this doctor.”. “My aunt D says jokingly, “Damn wish my doctor would do that!”. Satan made a comment that she had bottles and bottles of it at home. It sounded highly suspicious to me. This was not the first time she had made mention about having pills. She had mentioned it a few times to different people and I personally think she has an addiction to them.
My mom was mostly unresponsive that day. This may sound strange but it was kind of relieving to see her sleeping. I felt as if anytime she was awake she was suffering, whether it was from physical pain, or mental and emotional pain, and it was hard to watch her going through any of that. She was comfortable and that was all that mattered. They had put her back on the pain pump and told us we could press it every hour for her. She held on tightly to that thing. There were a few times when she popped her head up and said hello to people but it was almost as if she were in a dream like state because she was so heavily medicated. I was told that every time she woke up and I wasn’t in the room the first thing she’d do is look for me and ask where I was. She also woke up for my husband and my son which made me so happy yet unbelievably sad knowing that it was the last time she’d probably say his name or be able to acknowledge his presence. She was able to recognize faces and that gave me a weird peace too. I was glad she knew her family was by her side, like she wanted.
Later that night I was in the room sitting on her bed and she opened her eyes and looked around the room. Someone asked her how she felt and she said “good but it’s scaring me that everyone is here.”. I said to her, “Everyone is here because they love you.”. I stated to cry and then She looked over at me and said, “[my nickname] you’re scaring me.”. I was trying to choke back my tears. I didn’t want to scare her but I knew she wanted her family around. I still to this day don’t know if it was right that I didn’t tell her she was dying. I was always honest with my mom. We had a very honest relationship. I just didn’t see what good it was going to do her at that point. I think she knew. I think she knew all along and didn’t want to tell me because she didn’t want to scare me either. That’s something I am always going to wonder about.
The doctor came back to me and my brother to check up and see how we were all doing. He told me that he was reserving the private room for us. The patient that was in there was supposed to be discharged at some point the next day. He asked how I was doing and I didn’t even know how to answer him. He then said to me, “you did an amazing job caring for your mom.” He leaned in and gave me A huge hug. It felt good to hear that from someone because there were many times that I questioned if I was doing the right thing or everything I could do. I knew I was never going to get that validation from my brother or my two aunts who were supposedly closest to my mom and so, to hear it from a professional and someone who deals with this stuff all of the time, it really helped.
When the doctor walked away my brother asked me if we could talk privately. I really didn’t have much to say to him but I agreed. We walked down the hall and he turns to me and says, “tell me what you think, me and [Satan] were thinking of calling someone from the funeral home to come down here tomorrow so we can start making arrangements.”. I just looked at him for a moment, in complete shock and then I asked, “Why?” and reminded him, “She’s still here.”. He tried to sell me the idea by telling me that he wanted her to get into this specific funeral home because my dad’s wake was there and the holidays were coming up. I hated having to argue but I thought it was a TERRIBLE idea and completely unnecessary. Why waste an hour talking to some funeral director when we can spend that hour with her? Besides, there was absolutely no need to pre-plan her funeral. Had she died in a car accident or something we would’ve had to go after the accident and plan it. If we couldn’t get her in the same funeral home, oh well. There’s 100 others around. I didn’t want to get into it but I told him I didn’t think it was necessary and he seemed rather annoyed that I didn’t agree with him. I explained that I didn’t believe it was going to save us any time afterwards. We would still have to go there and pick out Mass cards and a casket, etc. They couldn’t bring their showroom to the hospital. I told him I didn’t want to argue and I didn’t think it was a good idea and and I just walked away.
I really don’t know what all of this stupid bullshit was about. It was all a show, for him and his wife, to make it seem like they were being helpful and actually gave a shit about my mom. To me however, it was insulting. Where was he when she had her surgery and went home barely able to walk? Where was he when she fell at 11:30 at night and needed an ambulance? Where was he when she was up for three days straight because she was in so much pain? Where was she when she was at the emergency room in horrible pain? Where was he for any of it? He showed up when it was convenient for him and did the bare minimum just to keep himself from looking like a complete heartless asshole. Now all of the sudden he wants to come in, in the 11th inning and be the here by doing completely uncecessary bullshit? If I were him I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything but sit there and soak up every last minute that I had with her.
It was getting late, almost midnight. I decided to “sleep” at the hospital. My aunt Debbie said she was going to stay too. I was kind of happy in a way. I thought it would give us some time to talk and hopefully fix things between us. Since I hadn’t spoken to her in months I didn’t tell her all of the crazy shit that was going on. Plus, it would be nice to have somewhere to talk. I’m not going to lie either, I was scared being alone and knowing my mom could’ve died at any moment.
I went into my moms room and some family members were starting to leave. I had to run back to my house which was only a short four miles away and get some comfortable clothes to wear and my contact lens case. I sat down on the foot of my mom’s bed. My Aunt Bea was seated on the other side. People were walking in and out of the room for the entire day and I felt bad for the elderly woman who shared a room with my mom. It’s hard enough to sleep in the hospital as it is. I mean you really don’t sleep. There’s always nurses coming in to take your vitals or people screaming, announcements over the loudspeaker, carts rolling down the hallway, nurses talking really loud, janitorial staff cleaning, other patients yelling, etc. I expressed my concern for the old woman. I said I felt bad that there was so much activity going in and out and that she was probably tired and wanted to get some rest. Aunt Bea heard me and I thought she’d also try to empathize and say “what if that was my mother?”. No, instead she waves her hand and says, “Oh fuck her!!” and then proceeds to stick her middle finger up towards the curtain that divided the room in half. I know this sounds silly and isn’t really a big deal, but when she did that, it really bothered me and really made me think. Small moments like that could really show you a person’s true character. Over the last few months of my mom’s life I really started to see everyone’s character much more clearly than I ever did before, my Aunt Bea especially. If you didn’t know her the way I do, you’d be shocked by her doing that. Aunt Bea is always the first one to send you a birthday card or call you to wish you a happy birthday. She will compliment you and praise you and make you feel special but behind your back she will mother fuck you, to no end. I started to see who she really was long before this day and believe it or not, Facebook is what exposed her. I just started to notice how incredibly fake she was. She’s an ass kisser. She’s a phony and she’s a manipulator. Her whole life is based on worrying about how she’s perceived by others and looking perfect, and so she goes above and beyond to manufacture this imagine of a loving, caring, honest, thoughtful, god fearing, empathic Saint; but in actuality, that’s not who she is at all. She’s quite the opposite of everything she portrays herself to be. She’s a very ugly person.
Aunt Bea made my mom feel like shit. She gave my mom her kidney, and then I guess to her, that meant that she had the right to treat my mom less than human. I believe a lot of it was out of jealousy. My mom had a lot of traits and ways about her that I believe my Aunt wanted. My mom was smart, intelligent, and well read. She was independent and did everything for herself. She didn’t depend on my dad to do it for her. She was a dedicated worker and was recognized for it. She was an amazing mother, who until three years ago, had really good relationships with both my brother and myself. Aunt Bea possessed none of those skills. She would always say things to me like “oh, well your mother is so smart, she reads all those books and she can figure anything out…she’s good like that. I have hardly read any books.“. It goes to show how stupid she really is because reading books didn’t make my mom smarter than her. My mom was smarter because she took interest in things other than herself. If she didn’t know how to do something, she’d try to figure out another way. She listened to other people speak and absorbed information, and yes, she read books too. That’s what made her smarter. Reading a book didn’t make her any smarter.
I am an empath by nature. A lot of my crying that day was because I was feeling the pain of everyone around me. I would look at my grandmother and think, “Wow. She is 90 years old. She lived through so much.”. Born in the mid 1920’s, she has seen everything from the Great Depression to the Vietnam war, to the gulf war, to Iraq and 9/11. She watched people much younger than her by many years, die off one by one. My grandfather and all four of his siblings have passed on and she outlived all of them and now here she is, at 90 years old and she is losing her baby. Her and my mom had a very special bond and I think it’s because of all of the siblings, my mom took on the most of her traits. It hurt me to know that. It doesn’t matter how old you are or your child is, you should not die before your child. I’d look at her and just think about how hard this must be for her and I’d cry.
As for my aunt Debbie, her and my mom were the closest of the two sisters. They were the only ones who were single and lived independently. When my dad died, my aunt Debbie would call my mom up in the morning before work and they’d stay on the phone until it was time to leave. They’d then get in their cars and talk to one another while they were driving in. They did this every morning for the last ten years. If my aunt Debbie bought something, she’d call my mom up and tell her about it and a few days later, she’d have the same thing. They drove the same truck and all, just different colors. At the hospital that day, I could physically feel her pain.
I left the hospital and a few more people hung out until I got back. I knew it was going to be a long night….