Letting Mother Die
It is strange how pictures, postings and words can bring a cascade of memories; like a never ending waterfall that my bucket can never empty. I will say Mother’s and my relationship was unique to say the least, love-dislike, patient-impatient, forgiving-accusing, close-distant. We were more alike than what either of us wanted to admit, I was the one living out loud and she was living in the shadows of a “Minister’s Wife”……………Then in 1979 Mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and the mending began.
Her surgeon seemed to be a kind man, though I disagreed with his “If we find cancer then we remove the breast.” authoritative attitude. I asked if she could have the option to decide, he said “No”. After a long surgery they had “stripped” her lymph nodes, slaughtered her breast tissue (leaving her nipple in the middle of her chest), they butchered her womanhood. Lymphatic Cancer was the outcome which was spreading to her bone tissue. two rounds of experimental chemotherapy (IU Medical) and two rounds of radiation therapy and the cancer had started it’s course to the spinal nerves.
Over the course of two years I watched Mother slowly die, there were no Hospice Programs to lean on; only high dosage narcotics, experimental marinol and a Parsonage that required “keeping up appearances”. Mother and I both had good days and bad days, lucky for the world we had them together. When she and I were alone, I’d open the windows roll a “fat one” and blow her “shotguns”……The we would eat together with the roles reversed, afterwards she could have a good rest; awakening with a bit more strength. There were two songs she always wanted me to play on my giant stereo; Love is like a Butterfly and I will always love you. (Dolly Parton). We listened in separate rooms, so each other would not see the tears.
The cancer had eaten away her spine to a weakness that by my carrying her to the toilet and sitting her on it, the spine fractured…..Cancer was working it’s way to her medula oblongata, Mother forgot who I was. It was time to return to Hospital, she was broken, Father was broken and I was broken. I believe she was in Hospital for two weeks, majority which I slept on a cot at her feet. The nursing staff were kind, though I was the one who knew how to cradle her, move her with the least pain, so I remained. Slowly she lost ability to swallow, speak and move……..though we worked out the “yes and no” eye blinking. There are the witness of Angels we experienced and the “silver thread” holding us too close. Then a decision to stop suctioning her air pathway and death began.
It was 11:45 p.m. when it felt as a knife had been pushed though my back and the charge nurse made me lay down in the hallway. Only when I was away from Mother, she died. Cardiac Thrombosis, her heart exploded……….that is when the “knife” was removed and I returned to her room, still filled with her presence, to say goodbye. We buried Mother on February 14, 1981, I was 19. Being a PK raised in small congregants, always being prepped for the ministry, death was known from age five in the first person. So gorilla’s, explorative toddlers and the such…….a cascade of memories, like a never ending waterfall.