It’s 3:20am, Tuesday January 4, 2011. My mom died just over 90 minutes ago. My mom died. How weird is that to type. It’s not real. Even as I type it, it doesn’t become more real. How does it? When does it?
We got a call at 12:30am and were informed by my mom’s doctor that we should head to the hospital to say what we needed to say to her as she was declining rapidly. During the afternoon that day, everyone in our family had the chance to talk to her. My dad and I went in the room together. We looked at her, assessing her current condition and I took her hand. Warm, puffy, turning a little blue in the creases. I touched her brow. My hand rested there long enough to register it’s heat. I had an iphone in a latex glove, cued up to a video of Everly talking, I held it up to her ear. Evie ended the video by saying, “bye, bye,” it was fitting. My hands shook as I held up the phone, that minute and thirty-eight second video lasted forever. I knew my mom would want to hear her voice, I knew that she would want to hear her saying bye-bye. I took the phone and held it in my other hand and walked away.
I switched places with my dad; he went to the head of her bed. I walked to the door and stood there to give my dad time alone. I knew there would be things he wanted to say to her, these things were for her to hear and not me. It hurt to stand there as I could hear him softly talk to her. I picked up little snippets… “what have you got yourself into” stuck with me. What had she gotten herself into, what had she gotten all of us into? I helped my dad take off his mask and gown and gloves and he went to wash his hands. I went back to the head of the bed. I felt alone in the room. There is really no other way to say it. I knew I was alone in that room. Her blood pressure dropped steadily.
We did our customary call to the hospital that night before we all went to bed, or tried to go to bed. They told us that she was continuing to decline and that they gave her 48 hours. They called us at 12:30am and told us that we had better go in there. My aunt and I got our shoes and coats on quickly and I ran to start my car. My grandpa woke my grandma and we were quickly on our way. I instantly wished we hadn’t taken my car the minute we pulled onto the dark highway. It wasn’t the cars fault but I hated it all the same. The stupid car that would take us to the stupid hospital with the stupid doctors and the stupid nurses- useless the whole lot of them. It’s easier to be angry than to be sad.
All four of us gowned up. All four of us walked into her room. All four of us said good bye. The nurse turned off the blood pressure medication that was keeping her blood pressure up. Her blood pressure started to drop. I explained the numbers to my family members and what they represented. The room got heavy and quiet. I held her hand to my belly so that she could “hold” what is to become her second grandchild. I said to my family that this was the closest she would come to holding this baby and it broke my heart. Yep, that’s right, I am pregnant with number two. We just told everybody at Christmastime and am I ever glad that we had that news to give to her on her last Christmas with us.
What felt like hours had passed, but it was probably only 5 minutes. I asked the question that none of us wanted to; what happens now? No one knew so I asked the nurse, do we just wait for the blood pressure to continue to drop, I didn’t know how much more of this I could take. The nurse told me that they would take out the respirator next and for that we would have to leave the room as it could sometimes be messy. We walked out. I sat on the floor. I knew the minute they stopped the respirator that she would be gone physically. I focused on breathing in and out. The mask was full of tears and wet against my lips as I sucked air in and out. My throat was closing up, it was harder to get air in. I tried so hard to get to my happy place… On a beach, feeling the terrycloth of the towel underneath my body, letting the warmth of the sun kiss my freezing cold body, smelling the salty air, the seaweed and of course the margaritas. I could hear the waves and then beep… someone’s monitor would go off. Oh yeah , I am at a hospital and my mom is being taken off life support.
They told us we could go in the room. I just looked at her, I knew she was dead. My grandma touched her chest to feel for her breath, my aunt said, she is not breathing mom. And my grandma said, oh honey and looked at my mom with the most excruciating pain in her eyes. I have seen some pretty messed up things in my life, things that have given me bad dreams and anxiety, but I don’t think I have seen anything that made me feel so terrible as I did in that moment. My pain became secondary. My heart went to my grandparents, my mom’s parents, the people who remembered her as a little girl who they rocked to sleep and kissed her owies and tried to make everything better. Oh fuck. Now it was my grandpa’s turn and I had to look away. I knew how he would look and I didn’t have the space left in me to handle what I knew I would see. I stared at the wall. I thought of Everly, I thought of the new baby inside me. I knew I had to get out of there. I ripped my gown off and went to the waiting room.
I called my dad. He answered it on the second ring, he was waiting for me to call. I didn’t speak, I couldn’t. I just sobbed in his ear and he knew. He knew the minute the phone rang. I finally squeaked out, she’s gone. I know he said. He told me she was in a better place than we were and that she was happy now and not suffering and at peace. Peace. Hmm. It’s going to be a while before I feel the meaning of that word.
We drove home in my car. Stupid car. Car of death. My aunt declared that she could murder a BigMac and a vanilla shake and I said I could use some fries. So we drove through the McDonalds drive through. There we were, the four of us going to McDonalds. Jeeze, McDonalds, iphones, wouldn’t their marketing departments love to know how useful their brand really is in a family’s time of need. We waited and waited in that stupid drive through line. We all came up with reasons why it was taking so long and we all complained about how it was taking so long, but of course we were polite to the employee when he finally greeted us and we accepted his greeting of “have a good night.” Are you f’in serious buddy?
We got home, ate our stuff and 2 hours later I went to bed. I crawled in with Everly and Brandon. I breathed in the smell of them so deep I could feel it in my toenails. My family. My everything. I watched Everly’s sweet little face while she dreamed. My angel, who now has her own angel. A few straggling tears made their way out. I sniffled a few times and closed my eyes. I passed out for 4 hours.
Waking up was surreal. For a moment I forgot what had happened and then all of the images of the night before came rushing back. I had to pee. I went inside, said good morning to my grandparents and went to pee. I looked at myself in the mirror. Puffy eyes, red eyes, sad, sad eyes- well I guess only technically one eye can really hold emotion so I should say I had a sad eye. Have you ever really looked at your face? Like really looked to see where it came from? I searched for my mom and I found her in places and my face looked different to me.
I layed down on the couch next to my grandma, she was stroking my forehead. Now there isn’t much in this world that the grandma forehead stroke can’t fix. All of us who have been blessed with forehead stroking grandmas know that. I was okay for a few moments in my tiny slice of the world. I thought about what was going to come next. What I was going to have to do to take care of everything. I decided that I didn’t want my grandparents to have to. This was something a child knows they will have to do for a parent one day, it is NOT something that a parent should have to do for their child. I called the funeral home and I made arrangements. I called different restaurants to find a venue to hold her celebration of life. Doing these things made me feel better in a small way, I had some purpose. The funeral home told me that we would have to bring the clothes we wanted her cremated in with us to our appointment. Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that.
We talked about what mom should wear. I decided that she should have something new and pretty, because she barely ever got something new and pretty. Why did it take me until her death to buy her something new and pretty? We went to the mall. I had some GAP gift certificates that I had been given for Christmas so I thought this would be as good of a place to start as any. I told my cousin that I wanted to look in BabyGap first and so we did and we had fun picking out an outfit for Everly (of course). Then we headed over the ladies section. I saw a rack of dresses and I noticed a navy blue one, and it was perfect. The colour was perfect, the style was perfect it was great. I held it up and asked my cousin if she liked it, she said she did. I asked her if she thought it would fit. The salesgirl overheard me and told us that we could try it on if we wanted. I opened my mouth and said, it’s for my mother to wear when she is cremated tomorrow. I regretted that right away. My cousin teared up, I teared up and the poor salesgirl teared up and said she was so sorry. Great, now I had to ruin her day. I decided that I wouldn’t be honest with the cashier when she asked how my day was going.
We went to pick out some jewellery next. My mom loved to be flashy and the centre of attention, so we grabbed a honker of a necklace that was full of bling and would compliament the navy blue of the dress perfectly. I was now holding a bag of clothes that my mom was going to be wearing as her body was burned. Not the best shopping trip I have had, but it was successful.
We headed over to her apartment next. It was important to my grandparents that my sister and I be able to have what we wanted of my mom’s things. I took the photographs that I had given her over the years. She had framed a picture of Everly and put it into a frame that had a quote about how grandchildren are what life is made of. I had given her that frame to tell her I was pregnant with Everly. She had kept the favors from my baby shower. She had kept the Christmas, birthday and every other occasion cards that we had given her. This was my first time in my mom’s apartment and it was a mother’s apartment. She had photographs of us everywhere. She loved us so much. I never doubted this in my life, even in the hard times when I was an angry teenager, but seeing it plain as day how much she wanted us around her all the time was too much to handle. I took my photographs and sat in the hall. I looked down the long hallway. I took a picture of the long hallway. I could see snow falling from the window at the end of the hall. I thought this is what my mom looked at as she was walking down the hall everyday to her door. I want to remember this. I want to remember her life. It’s such a silly thing and really kind of a stupid thing, but you know me, I will take a picture of just about anything.
And then we drove back to my grandparents. The car was quiet. My cousins really didn’t say much. What can you say? We passed a pool that looked super fun and I asked my younger cousin about it, he just exploded into life and was bursting to tell me about all the fun things that it had to offer. I told him thanks, I think we will take Everly there tomorrow and then I thought… after we meet with the people who are going to burn up my mother’s body.