Saturday, October 26, 2013

Defying gravity

"Everyone deserves the chance to fly, and if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free."

Mom is still alive. Her body at least is a fighter.

The morphine is keeping her relatively comfortable, her vital signs are good, but she is refusing food and water. She will open her eyes but is otherwise unresponsive.

I've been doing research on how long it takes to die from starvation and dehydration. The consensus is that death will occur within two weeks. It has been five days now for mom.

My brother is with her now, for one day, to see her one last time. I'm so conflicted. I feel like I should be at her side and I also feel like it won't make any difference to her, she won't know who I am or that I'm there.

I think I'm angry at her for not trying harder when my dad died, for giving up on life.

I don't know when to go. I have commitments in my life that won't allow me to just go and stay for the duration. If I go to see her now, I may not be able to go back a short time later to put her to rest.

It's like I lost my mom three years ago when my dad died, and it tears me up to see what she has become.

I can't cry, I can't care, I love my mom, but the body in that bed isn't my mom. I know she is being kept comfortable and not in pain and that is the most important thing.

If it were me, I wouldn't want my children to see me that way. If I put myself in my mom's shoes, I don't think she'd want me to see her this way.

Or is that just rationalization?

My brother says he is there on both our behalves and then I can go on Monday, either to see Mom or to see to the arrangements, to be there for her interment.

There won't be a funeral. There is no one to invite. Her friends disappeared along with her memory, those who haven't passed on themselves. At 90, friends are few.

Mom is not a believer, so there will be no service. Someone will say Kaddish because it is important to my brother, whether he attends or not.

I'm so restless. I don't know what to do with myself. I have a show this weekend that I've spent a lot of time preparing for, and I feel like I will let people down if I cancel. People would understand of course. A dying parent, of course they would understand.

It's just that I could cancel and my mom might live another 10 days.

Or is that just more rationalization?

My research into death from starvation and dehydration is reassuring, insofar as it sounds like a serene way to die.

Strange as it sounds, as the body becomes dehydrated, the brain releases opiate-like chemicals, which can lead to decreased pain and discomfort, even feelings of euphoria.

I'm really not angry at my mom. I have forgiven her for many things. She wasn't the best mom ever, especially when I was a kid. She was a better mom to me when I was an adult. I think she did her best, but due to circumstances in her childhood, she may have looked at life and at parenthood through atypical filters.

Mom is a Holocaust survivor. She left Germany on a Kindertransport when she was 16, not knowing the family in London who would host her, not knowing much English, not knowing whether she'd ever see her parents again.

That's one reason why it so was hard for me to accept that she could survive something like that and then just wanted to give up near the end of her life. She was in her 88th year when my dad died, and all her interest in life died with him.

I have to say it. I felt like her children and her grandchildren meant nothing to her. That I meant nothing to her.

And now I'm left with a boatload of mixed emotions to wade through, about my duty to fly to her side, to hold her hand, to say one last goodbye, to be with her when she crosses over.

If I could have my druthers, I'd remember her the way she was and blot out the last three years of memories of the woman living in my mother's body.

Or is that just more damn rationalization?

I will do the right thing. I will go to say goodbye. I will give her permission and forgiveness and tell her I love her and I understand that it's time for her to go and wish her godspeed on her journey. She's earned that much, she deserves that much and more.

I was never the daughter that she wanted, although I think there were times when she was proud of me. Even if I still can't be that perfect daughter, I can do my best to be a daughter she would be proud of, here, now, in the twilight of her mortal coil.

This is Mom today.


"So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down."

Stephen Schwartz (Wicked)



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