Thursday, May 11, 2006

For Scoble: Be Strong

You don't know how you'll manage if someone you love actually dies. It never seems possible. Something I wrote here around the time of my dad's illness.
What If It Happens On My Watch?

When my mom was very ill with lung cancer in 1997, my sister and I shared her care at home in her last weeks. I did the nights, my sister relieved me at dawn to do the day vigil. Sick and dying people are usually much more lively at night, I learned.

I had a therapist at the time, thank goodness, and I remember breaking down in tears one day, admitting I was so scared to have my mom die when I was "on duty." I asked him, "what if she dies when I'm there — what do I do?" The pressure of giving her shots of blood thinner to stop clots, keeping her lips damp with a swab, giving her morphine, singing to her, making her comfortable, just being with her, was getting to me and I just didn't know how I would handle it at the moment she died.

He was a good man. He said slowly, "there's actually not much to do at that point." It was so simple and so obvious. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me, but of course, when it's over, it's really over.

Strangely, what I imagined was not at all what happened. My mother died at 7:30 in the evening — between the two shifts — with me and all three of my sisters, my brother, my dad, my two brother-in-laws, her granddaughter all around her bed, at home. Nine of us barely fit around the bed and we were all there to help her move on.