Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Derailed again...

Seems like every time I think things are going to calm down and I can really start working on my own personal projects (like this stupid blog), life gets in the way.

Or, in this case, death.

See, last month, I finished my final essays for Grad School and then had my last class, a three week course on Library Collection Development of Graphic Novel Collections (i.e. comic books). My final assignment was due June 22. While writing this paper in the heat (the A/C at our house was broken that day so it was 86 degrees in the house), I got a call that my Mom had fallen in the bathroom and they had to take her to the hospital. Everybody told me to finish my paper and get there as soon as I could (well, except for one of Mom's neighbors who tried to lay a guilt trip on me because I wouldn't drop everything and rush to the hospital to wait in the waiting room). Somehow, I finished and I went to the hospital.
My Sister and my Uncle and Aunt (Mom's brother and sister-in-law) were there and we waited for a bit. The doctor came out and said my sister and I could see Mom, finally. She was in ICU, but she was awake and lucid. She was dehydrated and tired, but we were able to talk some. We talked about some dumb stuff (like how she was going to miss that night's episode of Army Wives) and some important stuff. My Sister and I stayed for a little while, but it was becoming obvious that she was getting tired so we said we should leave so she could rest. I kissed her goodbye and told her I come up the next day to check on her. On my way out, I told her to "behave herself" and she kind of laughed.
We'd been through stuff like this before. Mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer back in June of 2001. Originally, the doctors said 6 months, maybe a year or maybe even 3. She blew that out of the water. Granted, the cancer kept coming back and she had more surgeries and chemo, but she kept fighting. But then, in early June of this year, we got the news that her kidneys were failing and the doctors couldn't really do much else. She had maybe 3 or 4 months left.
We didn't even get 2 weeks.
On June 23rd, Monday morning, about 9 hours after I left her in ICU, I got a call from the hospital saying we needed to get there ASAP. My Sister got there the same time I did and we rushed up to ICU. It looked like the whole emergency staff was in her room. They were putting in a breathing tube. She was unconscious. The doctor started asking about living wills and what her wishes were. I couldn't make that decision yet... I needed other people... my uncle... my wife... somebody. The doctors said we had a little time to decide.
The rest of the family arrived shortly and we waited. I made phone calls letting people know things were looking bleak. The doctor came in and said we needed to decide because they were about to have to try and resuscitate. We all knew Mom wouldn't want to be kept alive on machines, so I said "let her go."
After the staff had removed most of the machines (just the ventilator was there), they let us go in to be with her. My Sister and I held her hands and shortly the nurse came in to let us know that she was not really breathing on her own anymore and it was time to take out the tube and let it end.
For about 5 minutes after the tube came out, my sister and I stood on each side of her, held her hands, and listened as her breaths became shorter and shorter until... nothing. The nurse came in and said she was gone. We said our goodbyes and left the room.
After that, it was a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, funeral plans, flowers, family, food.... just all sorts of busy. We buried Mom, next to Dad, on Friday, June 27th, 1 day after what would have been their 38th anniversary and 1 month after my 33rd birthday.
I'm really not sure how this post ended up with all of this. I logged in to just make a quick post saying life was hectic, but I'm still around. Instead, it's turned into another post about someone close to me who died. It's almost the second anniversary of the death of one of the most interesting people I ever knew, Wayne Erickson. 2 years later, and I still can't bear to read what I wrote after his death (I've moved the original Yahoo blog post from 7/19/06 to this blog).
It's not like Mom's death was a complete shock. Granted, we knew it was unlikely that she'd make it to Thanksgiving, but I really thought I'd have more time with her. I had just ordered a copy of one of our favorite movies (What's Up, Doc? with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neil) so we could watch it one Saturday afternoon. In fact, I had just quit my Saturday part-time job at the library so I could have more time with Mom... arranging things, discussing the estate, getting her to tell stories of her life to my video camera, just hanging out... but I didn't get to do any of that.
Now, I don't have any of those "I never told her I loved her!" regrets... I know she loved me and she knew I loved her. But I do feel a little bit robbed. It's like I started the last chapter of a book, all set to find out how it neatly wraps everything up, and somebody snatched it away before I could finish it.
I really thought I could handle this... I mean, 7 years of fighting cancer is a long time and you know that you probably aren't going to be on the winning side. The chemo hadn't been working for awhile and I could just tell that things were heading downhill. And I tried to steel myself up... to be numb... to somehow disassociate from the loss that I knew was coming.
But I couldn't...
I'm getting along mostly okay... I still become sad for no reason and tears start falling if I think about Mom too long. As long as I stay busy, it helps. But the fact is, the world feels different now. It sounds overly dramatic, but it really feels like part of me is missing and I'm kind of having trouble focusing. Things that should make me happy don't make me as happy. I'm bored almost everything.
I know this is just part of the process and it takes time. I really just wish I could take a month away from it all, but that's not an option right now. I also wish I could just explode into a million tiny pieces and then slowly rebuild myself and fix the broken parts. But that isn't possible either.
I won't go into it too much here, because this post isn't about religion, but I cringe every time somebody brings up Jesus/Christians/God/Heaven. Mom knew I wasn't Christian. I don't know if she knew that I'm an atheist or if she just thought I was agnostic. At any rate, we didn't discuss religion much. She had her beliefs and I had mine, and that was fine. But for whatever reason, and I know it's largely just people trying to make me (and themselves) feel better, I find little comfort from people's comments about Mom being "in heaven with the Lord" or that people are praying for me. See, this compassionate deity they all rave about saw fit to give Mom cancer in the first place. They can rationalize it all they want, like, "god gave her cancer and the strength to fight so that other people can be inspired!" That's idiotic. It really is. If god is such a benevolent dude, why not just get rid of cancer instead of inflicting the pain of cancer on his true believers to make a point about inspiration and faith to other people? Why make friends and family go through the pain and anguish of watching a loved one slowly die? And as for people praying for me... what good does that do? By praying, is god going to make me feel better that he took my Mom from me? Screw god and screw the prayers. I don't need the prayers. The damage is done and I'll heal in time, but not through the spiritual prozac that believers think god will provide. If god didn't want me to suffer, he shouldn't have taken my mom. And if god DID want me to suffer, what kind of an asshole tortures and kills someone else to make their target suffer?
Okay... I'll get off that... it just makes me angry.
This post is not my final goodbye to my Mom. I refuse to say a final goodbye to my Mom. Because a final goodbye means I stop thinking about her and I stop remembering her and I start removing her from my life. She may not be here anymore and I may not be able to hear her voice or see her face or hug her anymore, but she's still with me.
And you don't say goodbye to someone who is with you.

Love you Mom!


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your loss Pope. I lost my dad when I was 18, and no matter the age it's never easy.


jff0319 said...

Hey - I just read this post. I'm so sorry for your loss. My mom has lung cancer and it's been hard. You gave a great tribute to your mom in that post.

Apologist said...

I am so sorry that you lost your mom. I can not imagine what it would be like to loose my own mom. I don't talk to my dad very much since he isn't the best with his kids, and if my mother passed away before him - my brothers and I would all be lost.

I know you said you don't need prayers, but would you allow me to pray for you still? I know its a tough situation to go through. God doesn't want you to suffer though, so don't think that.

I lost my grandma at 5 years ago. I was closer to her than I was with anyone. From the time I was little, I'd sit on her lap and she would read me a story - til I was about 7. She would always read me something. I loved her more than my own mother - then she began losing her memory. At 7 years old, you don't understand why your grandma can no longer remember who you are. It was hard.

She lived with us from then on in our two bedroom house and I shared a room with her and my brother. I helped take care of her 7 years, until she got sick and doctor made us put her in nursing home.

She was in there less than a year, and we could tell she got lonely and it wasn't like home. She wuld mumble non-word phrases to me and I acted like I understood - even though deep down my body would ache with pain.

I was there the day she died. We were about to leave for home. It was almost 8 pm. She began to turn purple. We called the doctors in and they put her on oxygen. She still was gasping for breathe. I had never seen such a scared look on her face.

I was not a Christian at that point, but to me, that proved there was something beyond death. My grandma stared up with the most terrified look on her face as her breathe was being pulled from her. I couldn't bear to watch and wondered how God could do this to me or my mom. My mom laid her head on my grandma's chest, and at that moment - my grandma's heart stopped beating. One tear rolled from her eye... and she was gone. I couldn't speak or feel anything. I was numb. It was literally the worst day of my life. If there was a heaven or hell, I wasn't sure my grandmother made it to heaven.

I know how it feels to lose someone so close to you, that you don't want to forget. I have tried because I can't think of her and be happy. It brings me to tears now even now thinking about her.

I hope you get through this okay. Time doesn't heal anything, it only covers it up. I can say that God did help me through this two years later. Things happen for reasons in our lives, and we can't change them. What we go through will either make us or break us.

I hope you are doing well.



Rotten Arsenal said...


I appreciate the kind words. If "praying for me" makes you feel better, then go right ahead. But it's not going to do anything for me at all. I'm not suffering. The suffering is over. If God had not wanted me to suffer, he would not have caused my mother all the suffering she endured over her life.

What I don't think people realize is that while I still get sad and I still cry from time to time, it's not from pain. It's just grief. I understand why Mom died... she had cancer. People get cancer... people die. Perhaps it isn't "fair" by human terms, but it's how life works. One day I will die, too.
I'm sad because my Mom isn't around and I can't talk to her or hug her. There's a piece that I've had all my life that isn't there anymore. But there are pieces of my life that haven't been added yet too. But I'm not hurting and I'm not suffering. Don't mistake the process of adjusting to loss as suffering.
Time does actually do a wonderful job of healing wounds. You don't have to forget the past or cover it up. It just adds to who you are. Would I choose to remove the sadness from the memories of my Mother's death? No, I wouldn't because that's just one more piece that makes me human and allows me to understand and connect with other humans.

I'm sorry your Grandmother's death was so painful for you. It didn't sound peaceful for her or for you in any way shape or form. You shouldn't forget how sad your felt and the pain from the experience. But you need to come to terms with it. Understand why you felt that way, but don't let it overpower you. And mostly, remember the good memories more often than the painful ones.