Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taken For Granted

The time changed the day before. I was aware of that. Still, knowing that I would be walking through the park, with its low lying trees, posed a problem.
As I walked, I was mindful of the sharp branches hanging below. You could poke an eye out with one of those things. Wow, I can't see anything really. I take for granted that I can just avoid those trees and branches in the light of day.
Having sight is something we all take for granted. That is, until it is gone. Can you imagine not having sight...or smell...or taste..or hearing...or touch?
These are things we always take for granted. I always have. I have always had great health, and keen senses. I have never had a problem with any of them. But as I approach my 50th birthday in a few years, I take note of my sight which is weakening and possibly other senses that will fade as time marches on.
I always thought I saw everything well. But I did not. I never saw a time coming when my mother would not be a living being on this earth. I took that for granted.
I arrived at 11pm, just after my hockey game. I knew almost instantly that this would be the last night my mother would spend on this earth. I had taken for granted that she would always be part of my world, but that fantasy was now shattered with the reality that she was on her last set of breaths.
I was greeted by a somber Harvey. He knew, and I knew.  We all knew. The time had come. It was what my mother had wanted. Harvey was in tears, holding back tears that he couldn't hold back. He was taking this harder than anyone. I loved my mother, but he has spent the last 20 years with her, day in,  day out,  while I only saw her a few times a year at gatherings.
Harvey handed me the pamphlet. 'How to recognize the signs of imminent death'....or something like that. As it turns out, it went almost exactly like the pamphlet said it would.
We had gathered just a week before to meet with the doctors. Myself,  my sister, Harvey, my mothers brother Stanley and the doctor. We let my mother speak her piece. She said she had given up. Could not take it anymore. She wanted it over. She wanted to die. We all agreed if that was what she wanted, we would not stand in her way. The decision was made to stop all her prolonging medications.
Later, in the hallway, the doctor told us it would be about 2 weeks before the cancer overcomes her. At first, there was very little difference. She got slightly worse, gradually, but really she was already pretty bad, so it was not a large difference. The doctor assured us that my mother would get whatever she needed and would not suffer.
The weekend before she died, I was the one to stay with her most of the time. It was clear she was suffering badly. She was not allowed to eat or drink, as they felt she would choke. Even a bit of water or melted ice cream did make her gargle and cough a lot. However,  she was thirsty and hungry. She begged me for some water and some food. I was not allowed to give her any. That was heartbreaking. You always take it for granted that you wont have to see the person who brought you into this world, who protected and nurtured you in your time of need, suffer the way I saw her suffer.
Watching her die was tolerable, watching her suffer badly was not. Rest in peace was truly a phrase that meant something to me now. Until she died,  there was to be no peace. In many ways she did not really feel anything as they had her doped up on so much morphine that she was basically asleep and pain free most of the time. But she did suffer, that was clear.
In many ways, she had lost those senses we take for granted.  She could barely see or hear anything. Her sense  of smell was weak. But she never lost her sense  of touch. I think we were always glad for that. At least she could still feel our presence, our hands touching her hands to reassure her that we were there for her if she needed anything. Mostly what she needed was care and company. That was something we could provide.
Harvey left to go home,  but wanted to be there when she passed away. I assured him that I would call him if I saw the time coming. He was only fifteen minutes away.
As the sun began to rise, I saw her time had come.  I called Harvey and told him it was just about time. He rushed back and made it about 15 minutes before she drifted away, slowly and peacefully.
Of course at that point I had mixed emotions. I was happy it was over. More than a year of intense pain, for both her and us was now over. But of course,  that person who was always a part of my world was now gone.
A year later, there are times when it doesn't seem real.
Last night I had a dream that I was stranded at an airport. I could not find my way to the plane. This lady was charged with leading me to the plane. But she got so far away that I could not keep up and got lost again. I saw the plane fly away and I had missed it. I was stranded again. It was almost like the lady did this on purpose. All hope was lost.
Within seconds, my mother appeared. The young healthy mother I always remembered and took for granted. She fixed it, like she always could. She led me to a new, better plane. We sat together and everything was alright.
Those days are gone now. My mother doesn't exist in the real world. I am a passenger stranded without a savior. I have to fend for myself now.  I took for granted that she would always be there to help.
I always took for granted that I would be able to see.  But when the darkness came,  I could not see that I took that for granted.
Life...and death, poked me in the eye and knocked me down.  My mother was not..and could not pick me up this time.

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