3 Days of Loss
5 hours. 4 hours. 20 minutes. 5 minutes. Car parked. 20 steps. 10 steps. He stops at the door. 3 breaths. Hand to door handle, click and push. He opened the door to his parents’ house and entered. His body upright and strong. His soul tired and crippled. Immediately his nose began searching for familiarity; sustenance for his weary soul. Sniffing, his olfactory senses searched for essential oil resting in a diffuser, the scent of freshly vacuumed floors, and the roasty smell of coffee beans. No such smells were sniffed. What lingered instead was only rubbing alcohol, and the smell of clean; clean as in he was in a sterile hospital clean. Scent was the first loss of the many losses he was to encounter over the next three days. He thought he simply came to experience one great loss, but what was to come was the gradual loss of someone.
The fragrance was no relief to his sad soul, so his soul searched for the welcome. Yes, the welcome. A welcome so great it must be given a demonstrative article. It was her greatest gift to the world, the welcome. A person on their worst day would have to acquiesce to the reality that they were indispensable in her presence. Her welcome was warm yet strong, a bulwark of grace that allowed anyone in. The warmth pulled you in and the strength assured you that this, a moment of relief, wasn’t going away.
He hugged his aunts, his dad and his brother, then hesitantly wandered back to her room. She laid asleep on a hospice hospital bed. His dad leaned over and whispered in her ear, “your oldest son is here.” She extended her arms up reaching for him. He leaned over to receive the hug. She then, in a faint voice said, “I am so happy.” That was the welcome his soul searched for, but it would be the last welcome. She spoke no more. In 30 seconds he lost THE welcome, and her voice.
That was the first time he cried since his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. That was six years ago. For six years he lived knowing loss was certain, but that loss was always wedded with hope; hope for medical or mystical miracles. No miracles were coming. Mom was dying. Hope was dying.
His mother believed in God. When he was 4 his mom would wake him up in the morning and tell him to get his “God story book” which was a children’s Bible. She would grab a spiritual text and her Bible, brew coffee, and they would sit in silence. She would read, write, and sip her coffee that was marked with cream. And he, like her, read, wrote, and sipped milk splashed with a drip of coffee. God was beautiful during these days, a good emperor clothed in splendid regalia sitting on a majestic throne. The boy inside of the young man always hung on to this image, but the 25 year old inside him ripped this image from his 4 year old self. “How childish,” he said to his younger self. That was the end of day 1. Over the next two days the glorious emperor would fall from his majestic throne and become disrobed as his mother’s breath weakened and her pain intensified.
What does a young man do when his mom and the god of his youth is dying. He plays Call of Duty. Yes, he entered into virtual reality and “pwned some chaches.” He chuckled to himself and thought, “video games wasted time. Time was a big deal a day ago.” It was two in the morning yet it felt like it was only nine or ten PM the night prior. Time felt slow but moved quickly and neither one of those things really mattered.
His phone’s alarm buzzed.
“Time for her pain medicine.” he said to himself.
He went to the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle labeled Morphine, filled a syringe with the recommended dose and walked back to her room. He was greeted by his aunt and uncle. His Dad was finally resting. His snoring competed with constant humming of the oxygen that was making his mom’s death more comfortable.
More comfortable… He read it several times in the hospice pamphlets and said it to his unconscious mother as he administered the pain medicine sublingually.
“Mom, this will make you more comfortable.” he whispered.
He said it and made no qualms about others using it over the past 36 hours. More comfortable is said to make sure the living are more comfortable, but if the living were honest they would admit that the phrase more comfortable and death living in the same pamphlet is stupid; absolutely f — king stupid. Nothing was comfortable about this. She gasped irregularly and grimaced at any movement of her body. She was in pain, and the soul of he, her son’s soul, was in pain. He lost the luxury of being comfortable 36 hours ago.
After the medicine was administered he went and laid in bed. Once again, there was no comfort; no ease for his roughed up conscience. At this point he was uncertain of what was actually harder, dying, or living with death. He thought back weeks prior. His mom was still walking and alert. The day was Sunday and all family members were dressed in church attire, ready to attend service. Just before leaving for church his mother became nauseous, common occurrence as of recent, and asked to stay home.
He, her oldest son, volunteered to stay. He hated the idea of going to church that day anyway. His fear was violent, and it felt so incredibly fake to put on his nice clothes and attend a service where no one knew his soul was slumming it up in what felt like Sheol.
He made his mother peppermint water to ease the nausea, and took it to the couch where she laid. They sat and talked about faith and doubt. She asked difficult questions, the type of questions that most church people fear. Do you think God really cares? Do you think we REALLY go to heaven? IS GOD REAL? Incredibly these questions rolled off her tongue without torment or angst; with ease she doubted God. She taught her oldest son a lesson that day. His understanding of it came to fruition in a poem.
Christian filled with anger? tisk tisk tisk.
Yet, a child running to the Father with balled up fists
is a loving Father’s bliss.
For a son or daughter yelling cease and desist
are children that still persist.
And persistence decreases the distance between father and son.
Angry child, come
The flashback ended, and he was back to his sheol. His soul slayed, all that there was to do was to go to bed where his memories of her projected on the back of his eyelids. That was the end of day two.
It was early in the morning. His alarm went off. He had slept for a couple hours.
“My turn.” he thought to himself.
He got up splashed water on his face and went straight to the refrigerator, grabbed the medicine and went to give it to his mother.
He entered. His mother’s breath was shallow; short, sharp, gasps for air. Her face discolored and gaunt. Grief began to build. It was as if his stem cells exited his marrow in the form of sorrow. The night prior the hospice nurse informed us that death was near. He looked at his mother and it was apparent that death had come. Her lungs were just the last to know.
She exited listening to her favorite song and surrounded by family. It was horrendously beautiful.
“The tears. Where are my tears.” he thought. He witnessed death expel breath indefinitely from her lungs. The Tigris and the Euphrates should be on his cheeks and a lake should be at his feet. It was a desert. His tear ducts were dry. He felt the grief building but was comforted by her lifeless presence. He thought it was strange that it still felt like his mom was still present. All his life he was taught that a person is a microcosm of spiritual, emotional, and physical realities, but it was evident that the body, her flesh, anchored all those wonderful realities to the land of the living. He knew his mother of tomorrow would not be there, but his mother of yesterday and the day before, and the day before that was still in front of him.
Grief and darkness were there, but he still felt like he was in her queendom. For moment he felt like a four year old again. Safe, secure, grounded.
Then the coroners came. They looked like anyone else whose profession was collecting the dead for burial; weird as hell. He, her son, was disposing of all the drugs that were prescribed to his once living mother, when they entered with the gurney, the vehicle that was going to remove his anchor, the battering ram that was going to crumple the queendom. Grief took him by the throat. The secure four year old self, the child that was part of his 25 year old identity, was now a scared child lost in a grocery store.
They slid her body onto the gurney and that is when the 60 plus hours of grief left his body in the form of tears and sounds so raw and real an onomatopoeia could not capture it. He left the room. All he could feel was ache. The coroners rolled her out into the living room, and his dad came to get him with tears in his eyes, and said come say good bye. The 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 year old self were paralyzed by the uncertainty of what it means to say goodbye to mom. The 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 year old self wanted to yell that this isn’t fair. The 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 year old self wanted to spit in the face of God. The 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 year old self wanted to roll her back into her room and act that this, the death of his mother, did not happen. The 25 year old self that sat on the hallway flour took all those feelings, stood up, kissed his mother on the forehead and said goodbye. That was the final loss of his three days of loss.