Tonight I took my mother off respiration and dialed her morphine up ’til she went out.
She roused a few times. Once she asked if it was ok to pee right there in her diaper. Another time she asked for water, and then said, sleepily, that she was happy, floating away on the earth.
The last thing she said – at least the last words I understood – was that she knew it would be over soon, and that she was trying to be brave. Somehow she knew the struggle was just about at an end.
Barb and my cousins Sam and Amy were there as she sank slowly; the girls made a beer run and toasted my mother with coronas, and we talked about childhood and death, about my aunt Penny’s departure, a dozen years gone.
We didn’t make it til the end. The girls left around two, and I watched mom draw one slow, shallow, labored breath after another. And I thought about how many hours it could take for her heart to die.
I said goodbye before she was gone, and walked out.
I have not yet been able to cry. That will come when I know it’s over, or maybe before. But I have no slightest doubt that what made her her is gone. Most of it had left her over the last week; the rest was just the body not giving up ’til it was certain it was no longer needed.
She made it very, very clear that this was what she wanted; the great gift tonight was that her doctor understood that. He understood the futility of treating a patient who was ready to go, the futility of prolonging a life that was over. So the choice was effortless.
There’s been a weight of responsibility on my shoulders for years; it has not quite lifted yet, but I feel it already lighter.