That was not fun. And I’m so sorry — for it all. I know it wasn’t fun for you and I am certainly in no place to complain. I also don’t regret a single second. I would do it all again. There were also a few precious moments. Very precious moments. Like when we sat with our sock-covered feet in the sun and watched the squirrels eat all the bird seed out of the feeder while listening to Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. I really liked that part.
But if I’m being honest, there were way more sucky moments than precious ones. Hospice, while wonderful, is also cruel. There were cruel, painful moments like when you told me you didn’t want to die. It was a terrible moment when you told me I couldn’t understand. It was awful especially that time you fought me so damn hard because you just wanted to make the bed and make it nice and have it feel like a real bed with tucked-in sheet corners and decorative pillows overflowing on top of the her *and his* pillows for sleeping and when I couldn’t get it all to fit you yelled at me, “THIS IS NOT A HOSPITAL BED!”
I still weep thinking of that moment. I have so much compassion and empathy for where you were at that very moment but I was also so frustrated. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t doing it right. And when I tried to reason with you, you really let me have it because you just wanted me to see you for who you were. To be present with your humanity. There was so little you could control by this point, but you could control this bed. You could make THIS look nice.
I should have been nicer about it. I wish I would have tried harder. I mean, god, there’s got to be a YouTube video out there instructing on how to make a perfectly beautiful hospital bed, right? Why didn’t I just google that?
We had 6 weeks. And there by the grace of God go I that we got to spend at least a part of each of those weeks together. Early on, it was mostly just visiting and television management (can’t we just turn MSNBC off for an hour for a Grace & Frankie epi?), but later it was care. Care in the form of blended smoothies you could barely get down. Care walking you to the toilet and praying you wouldn’t lose your balance. Care putting pills in your mouth when you got too weak to do the task yourself.
I never in a million years thought I’d have been capable of some of the things I had to do in the name of your care. As my favorite Peloton instructer often quotes, it’s true, “you don’t even know what you are capable of.“
And yet, I still don’t feel like it was enough. I’ve never had a strong maternal instinct. I’m not good with intimacy. I like boundaries. I like walls. Straight up when I found out you were going into hospice, I made it very clear to everyone that I would not be one of the caretakers in this process. I would be there for you, yes. But I would not be there to feed you, wipe your privates or change your clothing. I was so very, very clear about that.
And it’s not because I didn’t/don’t love you. I’m pretty sure you understood. It’s just not who I am. Those are actions that don’t come easy. For goodness sake, I don’t even like to hold babies. I am uncomfortable around helplessness. In fact, helplessness gives me the urge to run in the opposite direction.
But while I did set those boundaries with you, I also didn’t run. The six weeks between February 22nd and April 11th were the most transformational in my life because that time taught me that I could be there for a person. Be truly there even though every cell in my body yearned to escape.
I’m still sorry it sucked.
I’m sorry I had to force you doses of lorazepam when you got feisty. I’m sorry that I had to make you to nap when you didn’t want to go to sleep (you didn’t want to miss a thing!). I’m sorry I gave you so much shit for watching cable news. And I’m really sorry for all the times I practically skipped to my car late at night when released because I could finally retreat to my hotel room to watch Housewives and drink whiskey.
I’m also sorry we didn’t have a bunch of deep conversations. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you more questions. As cliché as it sounds, I thought we’d have more time. I thought there would be more chances. I’m sorry I wasted time distracting us from meaningful moments substituted with Pretty Woman and Miss Doubtfire. (Fuck, those movies are so bad! Why did I make us watch them?)
Sucky shit is transformational. I’ve been through enough dark patches in my life to know that pain also goes hand in hand with growth. In the ashes, flowers are born. New life takes root. I will come out stronger, better, more empathetic and understanding and changed. Yet, that’s what also sucks the most about this. YOU don’t get to come out better. YOU don’t get to come out changed. YOU had to go through this shitty, sucky, horrible-ass experience and just die.
I’m so sorry for that mom.
I’m so, so sorry.
It’s not fair. It sucks. And while all your pretty little kids get stronger and better and more evolved, you don’t get to be here to reap any of these rewards. Your sacrifice is the ultimate.
That’s death, I guess.
If I were Christian or believed in God, this might be easier. I could comfort myself in the stories of the afterlife and how we will all be together again — some day. But I have to be sorry for that, too, because that’s not what I believe. I don’t have that happy ending in my head. It’s not in my future.
Instead, I’m just sad and sorry.
In your final chapter, you taught me the greatest lessons that I’ll ever learn:
- I am capable of more than I know.
- Humanity is everything.
- And when in doubt, google that shit.
Thank you for that, mom. Thank you. And, again, I’m so sorry.