I was sad today. My time here with my mother is coming to a close. I hope only temporarily, but only God knows that. I have to go back to my home in Atlanta, GA to regroup. My children need their father, and I need my husband. My young family has to be maintained and I’m finding it hard to balance. I’ve been here in my hometown of Wilmington, NC helping my father care for my mother and allowing my mother the much needed time to bond with her grandchildren. I’ll be leaving in less than a weeks time and I find myself so torn.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.
Every morning I walk into my mother’s room and take her a glass of orange juice. At that moment I’m able to gauge how my mother is feeling and the general tone for the day. As I dropped the juice off my mother proceeded to give me smile, a wave, and a pretty enthusiastic “good morning”. Today was going to be a good day.
My mother slept for the better part of the day, but by early afternoon she was up and showered. She then asked my father to take her to the store so that she could get some fish to fry. Any day that my mother feels well enough to cook manifests into a small celebration. That evening she fried fish for dinner and we all sat around the table and made our bellies full while laughing and reminiscing about times past. Now, more than ever, these are moments that I want to capture in my memory forever and always.
Today was a good day.
Today wasn’t very good at all. My mother ran out of her regular pain medication and the alternative medicines that she had just weren’t cutting it. The worst part of all of this has been having to watch her be in pain at all. Outside of the obvious hurt that it causes all of us, I think it makes my mother face her mortality. The pain is a physical manifestation of the inevitable. When her pain is gone it’s easier for her to almost forget about her prognosis. When she’s faced with the pain, she becomes very sad and laments at length about dying. It’s hard for me to hear, but I listen.
Today, while she rocked back and forth to the throbbing of her pain, she told me what songs she wanted played at her funeral: “His Eye On the Sparrow” and “Amazing Grace”. Both are classics, but she wants “up beat” versions.
“I don’t want anyone dancing in the aisles” she chuckles, “but I don’t want the songs to be sung sadly.”
I sat and wrote her requests quietly, unsure of what to say.
I hope tomorrow is a better day.
Today was a better day. I’ve noticed that when her pain is bearable she decides to put on her wig to simply wear around the house. It’s a cute little number that we bought together months ago. It was the first one the shop owner picked for her. I remembered the way the small Korean woman looked at my mother when she told her that she had cancer. There was sympathy, with a pinch of pity, in her eyes. She gazed long and hard at my mother after embracing her tightly. This was a woman we didn’t even know. I was amazed at her compassion. I asked my mother later if that bothered her. She said that it didn’t but she wished that people wouldn’t dwell.
Right before dinner some of my mother’s church friends stopped by for a visit. It’s dizzying to listen to people jump around a conversation – making awkward attempts at avoiding any cancer related subject matter. The visit did seem to lift my mother’s spirits though; and when finally asked directly if she wanted to discuss her dismal prognosis, she brushed it off almost cheerily saying that it was a conversation best left for another day.
After the guests left and dinner was had, I took the kids into her room to sit awhile. These are the times when her spirits seem the highest. They look at magazines together on her bed and have senseless conversations. It’s so sweet yet so painful to watch. Each time, I can’t help but wonder if it will be the last.
My hero getting in some exercise.
She looked adorable standing there in her fuzzy blue hospital socks and her patterned fleece nighty – stocking cap perched precariously on her head. She was examining a Ciroc liquor bottle that she’d found on the kitchen counter – I’m sure curious at its contents. My mother, so frail and sick from pancreatic cancer. This was no longer the strong woman that I remembered. She still had the fight in her… But now, based on her appearance alone, there was no denying the fact that she was losing the battle.
Today the doctors told her that she wouldn’t make it through Christmas. This made me angry. I told my mother that they had no right to put a time stamp on her. That was for God to decide, not some presumptuous doctor. Still she cried. I’d hardly ever seen my mother cry before all of this. She was always a pillar of strength. Now I found myself with my arm around her diminutive shoulder as she shed tears. This felt so odd to me – so surreal. I hope my words got through to her. I hope tomorrow is a better day.