Sep. 25th, 2016

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 September 25, 2000 was the last day I touched my mother.  The metric of time melts away, as I sit here today, remembering.  I can see the hospital room, I can hear the shuffle of feet in the hallway, the background smell of disinfectant, the sponges on a stick used to moisturize her lips and mouth.   The dry texture of her skin is both familiar and alien.  The cancer induced weight loss has left her skin loosely draped around her frame.  I sit next to her for hours, my freckled hand resting on her freckled arm – our shared “deformity”.  The intermittent, but necessary intrusion of the nursing staff; they don’t come often and I take this to mean she is close to dying.  Vital signs aren’t really important at this point.  They check to make sure everything is okay with her iv line – the morphine drip keeping her out of pain, or so we hope, as she mostly sleeps.  I think they also are checking on us, her watching and waiting daughters. 

While she no longer has the strength to speak, she knows we are there.  Her eyes, brown and deep set have always been framed by glasses.  I don’t remember a time when she didn’t wear them. I’ve seen pictures of when she was young and I’m always taken aback by the lack of glasses on her face.  Now she opens her eyes wide and we get very close to her, so she can see us.  As her eyes focus on our faces, she smiles weakly. I see her through teary eyes.   I hear her voice in my head, “Don’t cry”.  This is what she would say to me, whenever the subject of her death came up in our weekly phone calls.  I’d get quiet and she’d say “Are you crying?”  No, I’d say, in a voice full of tears.  In her calm Mom voice, she’d say “Don’t cry”.  It always made me cry harder, just like I am doing now. 

After days of keeping a family member in the room with 24/7, she took the 10 minutes when my sister and I stepped out to go to the cafeteria, to take her last breath.  Coincidence or did she bestow on us her last motherly protection? We have no memory of watching her take her last gasping breath.  There was no dashing into the hallway, calling for a nurse.  Did she open her eyes on last time?  Was there pain in those last seconds?  All of that has to be left to our imagination, our final memories only include the appearance of her gently sleeping.   I prefer to think of it as one last gift she gave us.      

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