Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Waiting for Death

For six years I watched as my mother slowly deteriorated from a vibrant, saucy individual to someone who could not take care of herself and was cared for because of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, and kidney failure.  
For a little over a year I stayed with my mother, leaving my husband behind to take care of our house and animals; and staying with her, caring for her until my own health ran out.  I was recovering my strength when my niece called and said I needed to come home because the time for Mommy's departure had finally arrived.
I was not prepared, no one truly is honestly.  When my husband and I arrived all of my sisters and their families were present.  We embraced, a few quiet tears were shed, but it still wasn't real for me.  It just wasn't happening
The next day Mommy seemed to get so much better.  She was at herself and ... She said her good-byes.  After she had said her good-byes she just seemed to rest.  A different moment of waiting had begun for us and my husband had to leave and return home to work. 
I will never forget the anguished look on his face at leaving me.  The end was so very near and he had to be the bread-winner and make the money to keep up our house and keep us fed.  As he was pulling out of my Mom's driveway I couldn't help but wonder when I would be calling him to come back?  Would he make it home?  Would it be later that night, tomorrow morning, the next day?
Mommy lasted through the day and on through the night.  Early the next morning my niece crept into my room.  The moment her foot stepped through the threshold I was awake, yet I lay still.  Maybe, just maybe she was coming in to get something for Mommy or a blanket for herself?  No, she touched my shoulder and my body tensed.
"Sissy, it's happening," was all she said.
I got out of bed and went to stand by my Mommy's bedside in the living room where she had been moved so she would always be a part of the life of the house when she could no longer get up and down.  She was so very pale and looked so very fragile.  My oldest sister was across from me and next to Mommy's head.  My niece and another sister was next to me.
Mommy's eyes were open.  Glassy.  She seemed to be seeing something we couldn't, and I wondered if my grandmother was close or my uncle that had passed so many years before.  Were they closer to the earth waiting for her transition?  How many angels were close to us at that moment?  How was I actually going to make it without my Mommy, a woman who had always been there in my life?  I wondered if yet another sister was going to be able to make it in time from her home to Mommy's before it was all over.  (I don't even know when Sister2 actually arrived at the house.)
My eyes strayed to the rise and fall of her fragile chest.  How many times I had lain my head upon her breast in tears and in joy, laughter and sorrow.  Mommy gave a gentle sigh, a simple, gentle sigh. 
I remember holding my own breath, waiting for her to take another breath, waiting for her to move.  Waiting for just one more breath, one more moment....  I remember looking to her jugular and seeing it pulse ... one ... two ... three times and then still.
In a choked voice my oldest sister said, "She's gone girls." 
It's odd.  I don't remember most of an entire year afterwards, but I remember these events plainly, distinctly.  I remember them just as vividly as I remember Mommy planting her flowers and the vegetable garden and her laugh; of watching her wipe tears of mirth from her eyes on many occasions.  I remember how she would laugh with my Dad and make me laugh as well.  I remember all of those wonderful times, and I remember this.  
I didn't think I was going to survive waiting for death's arrival.  When it came, I was surprised at how still and quiet it was.  Part of me shattered and it has taken me a long time to adjust to life as it is now.  I think, hope, my Mommy would be proud of her youngest daughter for re-creating her life step-by-step once the fog had somewhat cleared.  As always, the written word helped me re-establish myself in the world of the living.
The Beginnings of Self-Creation
By Henrietta Asher Handy
Copyright (c) 2004 by Henrietta Asher Handy
Standing by your bed, the day you died, the day you fell asleep;
The day you left me forever in this lifetime
I felt the pieces of my world shatter.
It wasn’t my world any more.
It was a mass of strangeness
Of strange familiarities
Of loves found, lost, rediscovered
Life itself was now alien
I had stepped without moving
Becoming someone different
The chrysalis split down the center
And I emerged blinking and blinded
Into this unknown world of existence
And existence, a life without you.
The pieces of my world, Momma
Were so small, I could not pick them up
Gather them together to rebuild me
Dust remained for most of it –
Butterfly dust of gem colors
Remnants of what once was:
I scooped it all up in a mayonnaise jar –
It sparkled and glistened in the sun.
Sometimes Momma, that’s all the color of my world there was;
All the color I could hold.
It has been almost a year Momma
And just like yesterday
Now I think I can start to finally heal
Rebuild a world around myself
Perhaps inside myself, too.
The sparkling dust of Use To Be
I place so gently upon the window-pane
There I can see glimpses of what was
As I create what is to be.
It will take Forever, Momma,
Forever to be whole again
Still, it will take Forever to rebuild
This Life –
It will be forever to get to know this new Me, this new world
This world I live in without you.
Bathe I in the butterfly dust of Used To Be
Sewing and painting the colors of now
And hurt just a little less each day
Though some days I hurt just a little more
So begins the acceptance of the creature
The Creature that is now ME
I hope you’re proud of me, Momma,
Of whom it is I am to become. 


Please do not reprint without my express permission.  Thank you.


Alex said...

I think I just read about how an event woven into a drama is promising the re - birth of the youngest daughter.

The Mountain Girl News said...

Thank you, Alex. You have no idea how much your words really meant to me.

Anonymous said...

For what it’s worth, I believe that your Mommy would be very proud of you.


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