Riding the Wave
I stayed home for a while this morning to bathe the dogs and clean the house before heading to the hospital. I just couldn’t bear coming home to dog hair tumble weeds anymore, and I knew if I waited until the evening, I would be too exhausted. I also find housework meditative, and I need any sort of calming routines right now amidst the emotional turmoil.
Dan helped me with the dogs (we employ an assembly line process to wash the girls-I wash and he dries. He also gets licked by Sophie as she waits her turn in the tub. It felt so good to have this family time, this normal routine in which we bond, laughing at the antics of the animals. I cleaned the downstairs bathroom and pulled out the vacuum cleaner.
As soon as I began unwrapping the cord, a wave of grief swept over me, sobs erupting. Dan has told me that each experience of loss connects to those that follow, and often triggers would cause a fresh release of grief. I had a flashback to the morning ten years ago when we euthanized my sweet old soul dog, Guinness, in front of the fireplace, surrounded by love. After the vet left and we delivered the body to be cremated, I went home and began vacuuming, crying my eyes out, obsessively wanting to pick up every strand of his silky hair.
The vacuum cleaner triggered wave after wave of grief, as I then thought about the losses of my brother Bud, sister, Sharon, my father, two very special aunts and uncles, one of my close friends, a former student…loss upon loss. Grief, the universal connection that unites us all. We have all experienced grief, the loss of loved ones, beloved pets, we’ve all experienced the cruelty of illness. My grief is no more painful than anyone else’s, but when you are the one riding the wave, it can feel that way.
Dan heard my sobs and came to me, wrapping me in his arms, telling me to remember the triggers, that I needed to let my grief out whenever it came, that society loves laughter, but tears are often hidden, a source of shame or signifying weakness. He told me that is just not the case, that I need to honor my feelings, that our hearts feel things so deeply, and I need to ride the wave of grief, let it wash over me and let it ultimately heal me. As he kissed my wet cheeks, he said that without grief, joy would mean nothing. We have to have both to truly be alive.
He suggested a change in plans, told me to let the vacuum cleaner be, to take a shower and head on over to the hospital to be with Mom. That was what mattered- we can clean the house later. Dan is my soulmate and best friend, and knows me so well, sometimes, it seems, better than I do. His tender and loving heart will help me to navigate this difficult time. I am grateful for his love every single moment.
When I walked into Mom’s room, she was sitting in the recliner, and the nurses were giving her a bath. She looked so frail and weak, but her eyes still held a little sparkle when she saw me. “That’s my baby, that’s my Neese. She loves me. She’s so pretty- isn’t she pretty?” I told her she was sweet, but that I thought she was a tad prejudiced, and we laughed. The nurses looked at me and smiled, telling me what a sweet patient Mom was. I hear that from all the nurses and staff, and it always makes me smile.
I have sat in the recliner next to her bed for many hours, my home away from home, watching her fitful sleep, her labored breathing. Each day, a little more of the life fades away from her. Her eyes no longer sparkle, her beautiful smiles are becoming weaker. She tells me over and over how tired she is, how she can’t sleep, wondering why she doesn’t feel better. She says there are so many things she needs to tell me, but she is just too tired. I just kiss her forehead, hold her hand, and tell her to rest if she can. I don’t make any promises that she will be better soon, as I know in my heart that is not the case.
My hope is that we can get her out of the hospital and back into St. Martin’s, that she can be comfortable and feel wrapped in love until her last breath. I am supposed to begin jury duty tomorrow morning, but have a note from Mom’s pulmonary doctor, asking that I be excused. I need to be with her, for her and for myself. This is one of the most difficult vigils I have ever kept, but also one of the most cherished I will ever know.
I will continue to ride the waves of grief, buoyed by the love of my husband and our many dear friends. My sister, Linda, has been such a support, and I look forward to wrapping her in a big hug in the not-too-distant future. My other gift has been my newly found brother and sister, Andy and Leanne. They both know this pain, having lost their mother to cancer when they were younger, and of course, our father. They have both been sending me loving messages each day, checking on me, offering support. They have no idea what having them in my life- especially now-means to me. I wish that I could have been there for them when they lost their mom and also Dad.
As Dan reminded me this morning, even when Mom’s tired old body lets go, she will always be with me. She will just be free of the pain, the sadness, her spirit will be free again. I will remind myself of that each time I look at her, struggling to breathe, each time I give her water, or help to feed her. I know that when she keeps repeating the mantra that she is so tired, she is talking about more than not getting a good night’s sleep. Mom’s spirit is tired of fighting, her body is giving out on her…she is ready to go home. I am at peace, even as my heart breaks.