Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Another evening falls upon Mequon, Wisconsin. The snow is falling and sticking to the windows overlooking a courtyard and out further to a grassy field, all brown still in this winter. The stars are hidden behind the curtain of clouds now, dancing most likely in the southern skies, sparkling off the waters and winking at lovers as they walk hand in hand along some beach somewhere.
The hospice floor seems a little busier this evening. We have seen several families leave in the past four days only to be replaced by more sad, heavy-hearted, head-drooping individuals. We pass in the hallways and either acknowledge one another with a half-cocked smile or peacefully pass with no words as we keep our faces pointed to the ground – the clear and acceptable sign that says, “Please don’t speak to me right now”. Hospitals always seem colder at nights and I can start to feel the air temperature dropping and the hum of the air system seems to get louder as the night goes on.
Mom appears to be resting comfortably and we pray she has no concept of the amount of time she has been here. We are starting day five and she has not been out of bed since then. The nurses have turned her and reposition her often to avoid bed sores.
What angers me most right now in my grief is that my mother has gone from vibrant individual to, well, an elderly lady. There is talk of bed sores and trying to avoid blood clots in her legs. She is bathed daily and turned frequently. I moisten her lips with a stale green sponge of water, wishing desperately to be able to give her a long, cold sip of water. She moves very slowly when she does. Her left arm has been shaking a lot today and her skin is cold to the tough. I place my finger in her hand and tell her to squeeze if the answer to my questions is yes. Sometimes it takes a dozen or so questions before I clue in on what she is trying to tell me. They give her anti-anxiety medication and I can’t stop the feeling that maybe we are over-medicating her. Yet without the medication she will become agitated and restless. So sleeping is best right now and we all know that but I can’t help but feel like all we’re doing is putting her to sleep and waiting for the medication to usher in to eternity. I know it’s not true. I know it is the cancer that is taking her and the medication is helping her to not feel the horrible and painful ravishes of cancer-death. But it does not help my grieving today. I know tomorrow I will feel another type of grief, new emotions will come up with other ones are finally reconciled.
Her hands are thin and frail, she spends most of her time sleeping and, well, no one looks pretty while sleeping – yet there is a beauty about her that moves my heart. Her skin is so soft. Not many wrinkles in her face or neck and her skin is smooth, thanks to the moisturizing treatments we give her several times a day. Her legs are still gorgeous! We moisturize and rub her feet and legs and someone comments on how beautiful her feet her. Mom has always had the sexiest legs! She is pleased, I am sure, to hear us talk about how beautiful they are even now, in this time when she must feel anything but beautiful. Yet I tell her she is because I mean it – and I tell her that I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.
There is a time to dance and a time to mourn, tells the author of Ecclesiastes. My mom and I have danced many times throughout my 45 years of living. We have slow danced, we have box stepped, we have jitter bugged, and we have just let loose wildly. Now I mourn the eventual loss but soon again I look forward to the time when we can dance again – and dance again we shall.
And now for my mom’s eyes and understanding only, I grab the candlestick and sing in to it, “oh yeah!!”