I am sitting by my mother's side. again.
Watching her breathe. again.
But not for very much longer.
She is dying.
It's not just a broken hip.
It's a broken heart. literally.
And an infection that has gone septic.
Blood that won't clot, or that may actually be forming tiny clots within itself, and therefore not where it is actually needed.
There are all kinds of official medical terms for these things, and I know them; have heard all sorts of acronyms flying about the ICU that will surely be the last room my mother occupies.
But is comes down to this: her body is worn out, as is her spirit.
There is no more fight left in either, only pain and suffering.
And it's soon time for that to come to an end.
I thought it would be last night, came barreling back to the hospital through rain and fog, having arrived home at dinnertime and stayed through putting the kids to bed; all while fielding phone calls from nurses, doctors and family members.
I walked into her room here in the ICU a shaggy mess, expecting to find her the same. But somehow in the hour since I'd last phoned in, her blood pressure had normalized and her heartbeat reigned in, no longer pulled by stallions, champing riotous at the bit.
"Your mother may not last the night" was still a possibilty, but no longer a softened, near certain prognosis.
And, indeed, she stayed the night.
This morning a nurse woke her up in the wee hours to administer another shot of vitamin K, attempting to stem the blood tide. "Thank you" my mother responded, astonishing the nurse who told me she had never been thanked for an injection before (more frequently cursed, I assume). That's my mother: gracious, grateful, full of love. And sorrow.
"Tough old bird" I whisper under my breath as I kiss her forehead once again.
How thing-like a body becomes when it is old and broken and clinging to life with tendrils weak and brittle as snow-scorched vine.
And yet my mother's hands are strong still, fingers wrapped, embracing mine, one of the few points of physical contact not obstructed by tubes and wires, her whole body a minefield of pain.
She looks like a fighter pilot: mask covering nose and mouth, offering air ever more oxygenized as her lungs are capable of absorbing less and less.
And fighter she is (tough old bird) clinging still to life, diminished now to this room, my hand, my voice, a cup offering ginger ale through a bendy straw.
She is still here.
I am here with her.
She knows I'm here.
And, for now, that's enough.