Can’t. Used to. Was. Doesn’t. Loved.
These are the words I never thought I would use to describe my mother at 63 years of age. So full of life a few months ago and now she is, for the most part, bed ridden and/or lethargic. She can barely speak, eat or drink. This brick house of a woman is confined to less than 1500 sq ft of space. All she sees is the same walls of her teen years and beyond. She’s come full circle, back to the ancestral home that has served four generations of our family, which is still the residence of her 90 year old mother, my grandma, who must suspect her eldest daughter is not well from the confines of her own room.
Care coordinator. Family PR. CFO. COO.
These are the job roles I never imagined my only sister, who is not even 30 years old yet, has had to undertake for this journey. She was already mentally exhausted from walking through a hellish road full of good intentions gone awry: her first marriage was a literal uphill battle that she eventually managed to walk away from. Life is cruel. Lilo, as I generally call her, is the true General here, the heavyweight champion willing to turn this very alien thing handed to us into something manageable. She keeps fighting hard, like a true badass, she is at her wit’s end. The quicker than the Flash engagement and wedding were mere formalities for her to ensure both my new brother-in-law and my mother became legally family before we all got caught up in the business of mom’s impending departure from planet Earth. This was her way of telling mom she’d be alright. Thank the heavens for him, her rock, cause I am sure we wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without his resilience, experience with loss, and love.
Distracted. Frazzled. Jumpy. Distraught.
These are the words I never thought I’d use to describe myself. Studies show grief physically and cognitively changes people. In my case, I can’t concentrate like I used to, and half the time I’m slow to the take. The severity of mom’s condition has me glued to my phone in order to avoid missing important information. I have to steel myself to check the messages, especially when the come fast, one right after the other. Always assume good intent/good news? The level of Traumatic Stress, pre and most surely post will be through the roof, as these sorts of things become muscle memory, guttural reactions to a prolonged state of apprehension and alertness. Regardless of my peep’s comforting words or wisdom, I won’t be the same after this. None of us will. Grief physically and mentally changes us without our approval nor under our control.
It is what it is…
The logistics of the operation are the one thing that drives us all nuts. Being in constant communication is not as fun as it sounds. Misunderstandings occur daily. At least our recent three-way video conferencing call to sing Happy Birthday to the struggling cancer patient went well. Tech, ftw! The Colonel is too sick to move around the house, and too tired to participate in anything that drains her energy and make her cranky. Looking at her through my cousin’s smartphone was intense; mom is still very much herself but cannot articulate her thoughts, barely speaks, and is doing her best to not worry us. It’s the downhill slow and steady decline that seems to be the point of contention and anxiety. I didn’t realize she doesn’t look as ill as she truly is, yet at the same time you can tell the systems are starting to fail. The vanity of her better days replaced by rooting grey hairs that betray her once jovial attitude.
She’s been a good convalescing cancer warrior, a brave and kind soul on the brink of death. As far as we are concerned she made peace with everyone and is waiting her turn to cross the river Styx patiently. Last we heard she has problems swallowing which I am sure she wrestled with to eat a slice of the chocolate concoction baked in her honor. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Surrounded by family and friends she marches on as best as she can. For once in my life I wished I believed in movie style miracles. If I could wave this all away, I would in a heartbeat but what done is done. All we can do is learn to live with it, and without her, taking it one proverbial day at a time.
In the end no one makes it out alive, as my mom would say. All you can do is make the best out of the 💩 situation. Are you making sure you leave those you love better than you found them? Get insurance. Save. Prepare for the worst. Have a will. Be responsible in death as you were in life. Your family will thank you, just as much as we appreciate what our matriarch did for us: provided us a safe and healthy space to grieve with none of the financial burden.
They definitely broke the mold with this one.