death watch

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 […]

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.

0 thoughts on “death watch”

  1. Reading this series of posts has been astonishing, and beautiful, and so heart-breakingly sad. Thank you for sharing this. Sending love and comfort to you, and to Barb and the kids as well.

  2. I’m at a loss for words, really. I’m thinking of you, glad that you’re feeling a bit of relief and that your mother has left you with words of peace. It’s a beautiful, if ragged, grace.

    In the awful endurance test that has been your mother’s end, its imminent finality has to feel ambivalent. I’m thinking of you and yours and wishing you the warmest from each other and from yourselves.

  3. This came so fast.. That alone makes it hard to cope. Thinking of you with love and sadness. My best to you right now… I’m glad her time at the hospital was peaceful and painless. Glad you were with her.

  4. Hang in there, man.

    We did the same with my grandmother, and it was absolutely the right thing. It clears the path for her journey, a journey she’s already started anyway. You can’t stop her from going, but being a good son you can make it easier for her to go, and you did.

    Call me when you feel up to it.

    Hugs from me too.

  5. My thoughts are with you. It’s not an easy thing watching a loved one die. I was at my grandmothers bedside for her last breath on earth – an experience like no other.
    ((hugs))

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