Today is my Mother's birthday...
This was the last post I managed to put up before she passed almost two years ago.
I thought I'd share it again.
It's quite strange really...
My mother lies dying and she fights for every second. People walk by her room, stop to ask how she is... come to stand by her... hold her hand... and I find myself comforting them. My aunt, my mother's friend, my great aunt who sees two of her sisters in their dying moments when she looks upon her niece lying on that bed, weighing less than 50 pounds. It's my place in the world, it's who I am. They wonder what is holding her back. 'That's between her and God' I say. 'She'll tell him when it's time to go.'
Mom worked for the Franciscan monks for thirty years, keeping their books ( I have NOT inherited her passion for book keeping, I mean, I can do it, but YUCK!), running one of the monasteries, managing the staff... my mother is and always has been a driver. And she won't change now.
We're fortunate. My mother has been taken in by people who nurture and love her, and care for her as if she were their own mother. The Franciscans have an infirmary and she has been in their care for months since her chemotherapy. Secular people are never admitted there as patients, but she is one of them and receives the best there is. I see the sadness in their eyes as she slips away, and I hug them or pat them on the back, thanking them for their compassion, comforting them in their own grief. They love my mother, and I love them.
The janitor comes in every once in a while and checks on her. He likes my mother; she always has a smile or a kind word for Robert. He has cognitive challenges, but is a good soul and works hard and my mother admires that... so do I. He's come in and checked on her twice this morning, so far...
People here worry about me, but I feel my mother's strength as it leaves her and flows to me, slowly. Her heart is still strong. Like Robert said to me this morning: 'she has a good heart'. Yes she does, in more ways then one.
She gave me life some 37 years ago, and continues to nourish me even though the umbilical chord has been cut for a long time, even though I married (ok, so that didn't work out so well), moved out and now support myself and my daughter. I've been stronger now than I ever have been. Don't get me wrong, I'm tired. I don't get much sleep. I'm not Superwoman. But my mother gives me strength.
I catch people looking at me, the nurse's aids in particular... they really fret over me. And I appreciate their kindness and concern. Some of them have been through this with their own mothers, fathers, one has lost her husband to cancer. They have shared this with me and it is difficult for them... to relive it all.
I've gotten to know the staff very well. I eat pretty much all my meals with them, I assist them in caring for my mother, and I touch or hug them a lot.
One of them, Jackie (ironically my mother's name is Jacqueline) who also has just one child, a girl, walks by the room around meal times on her shift and 'reminds' me to go down and get something to eat. She mothers me like I'm her own daughter and I've seen a tear or two in her eyes when she comes in and kisses mom softly. I hug and kiss her all the time.
Robert sighting number 3....
And then there's Barbara, she has the sweetest smile. She loves it when Mom winks at her. When she moves Mom on the bed, Barbara snuggles up to Mom while holding her. She sat with Mom trying to get her to eat strawberry ice cream... every bite was a victory. She has the day off tomorrow and came in to kiss Mom and tell her she'd be back on Wednesday. I know she's afraid she won't get to see Mom open her eyes again. She left the room on the verge of tears, trying to hide it from me, but I watch closely. And I gave her the space she needed.
Denise brought Mom her new faithful friend last week, Pepe the colourful stuffed parrot and he's always on Mom's bed. poor thing had the call button clipped to his wing. I've taken over call button duties, I felt sorry for Pepe. She has always let Mom move at her own pace (Denise has a strong self -preservation instinct), even when it would take Mom 45 minutes to decide to take her medication. and then another 15 minutes to actually take it.
I sit in Mom's room, with my laptop on my lap (which can't find a wireless connection) on a big chair at the foot of her bed, writing this. This is where I've been sleeping the past few nights. In a room with white walls, a nice sized window, black and white checker floors ( I haven't counted the tiles.... yet...), knick knacks on the counter and pictures and cards on the dresser. I hear classical music in the hall in the morning and mid-afternoon, people walking by, the man in the room across the hall listening to the news (loudly), bits of conversations, life...
Robert sighting number 4...
Alain, one of the nurses here had a room made up for me so I could have a proper bed to sleep in... I never do sleep there, I just go into that room.. the special room... to call a family member or a friend to give them news so I won't disturb Mom. My mother really is sweet on him. She holds his hand tightly and winks at him when he comes to see her. He has come in from home in the middle of the night to give Mom her morphine injections because only a nurse is allowed to administer it in that form. I offered him the 'special room' he had readied for me, he smiled.
It seems my mother has a few sweethearts here. She calls François, a nurse's aid who I've often caught staring at me with concern in his eyes, 'mon chéri'. I've watched the tenderness he shows my mother, the way he handles her like fine china and makes certain things are done right, leaving instructions for the night shift and checking with me to make sure everything is ok. I've watched him tuck her in and kiss her cheek. he has great respect for the dying, and remembers that they have the right to dignity no matter how frail they are. He's a good man.
There's Nicholas, I think he's her favorite. He has kind eyes, is quite shy and felt awful when mom was in pain as he had to remove a bandage. It's sticky and removing it causes her pain. I actually offered to do it for him, but he said no. And did it with such gentleness, taking as much time as he needed even though he has so many other things to do and so many patients to care for.
So many people here comment on how strong-willed my mother is. But those who have gotten to know her understand. They tell me 'm like her, which would have infuriated me to no end a short time ago, you can't put two women like us in a room and expect calm waters. But I now see the good about it. And Mom slowly lets me become her voice... very slowly.
Mom's friend, father George Albert comes to see her every evening, like clockwork at 8:30. It's a ritual they started when she was first admitted here. Now, if she's sleeping, which she has been doing a lot of these days, he just says hello, blesses her and wishes me a good night.
Father Ferdinand, my new main squeeze, had his 88th birthday the week before Christmas. He stops off to say hello every evening on his way to his bath. And at lunch time I go up to him in the main dining room and kiss his cheek. Yup, I'm sweet on him.
I am fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful people as the end of my mother's life draws near, people that have known my mother for years, decades even, and people that in a few short months have come to mean so much to her and to me.
Have I mentioned I've been blessed more times in the past few weeks than in my whole lifetime?
I miss my girl. I trust that someday she will understand why I have spent so much time far from her. She has my mother's spirit; I'm going to have my hands full.
A dear friend told me: 'you don't have to write it or post it. If it makes things harder then don't. But sometimes it helps to just write it down.' (-not an exact quote but it stuck in my head). Thanks bro. Your words mean the world to me. You are family.
To my dear friends who have been thinking of me these past few days... I love you.
The journey I've been on has been the most difficult I've ever faced, and it will only get harder. I draw my strength from mom, my girl, my family and my friends.
I love you all more than my luggage!
Hugs, smooches and gropes!
Bonne Fête Maman... tu me manques.