Tuesday, January 15, 2013

That train is coming...

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.


  1. I love you, and I'm sorry. There's not much more I can say, but please know we're thinking about you and your mom constantly Varda. We send you love and hope and hugs.

  2. Varda, I'm so desperately sorry for the pain of the situation and the further pain to come. I am always so very moved by the way you write about your mother and your relationship together. The love is so palpable.

    I am astonished at your ability to write such exquisitely beautiful prose about such as this, but your words clearly flow from your heart directly to the keyboard.

    Keeping you and your family in my heart and wishing I could ease the inevitable. Please, tell your mother that your internet friends will miss her, too and we wish her peace. xoxo

  3. Oh hon. I love you. So many thoughts and hugs and loves sending your way right now - right there - right here.

  4. Thinking about you and your mom. Wishing you both strength. I am comforted by the image of you holding hands. I am sure you both are as well.

  5. Prayers. That's all I've got for you at this point. I hope it's enough. Oh yeah...love. Lots of love too.

  6. delurking to with you both grace and peace. So glad you are surrounding her with love.

  7. I've been thinking of you and your mom. You have such a special relationship. Sending love to you both.

  8. Such a beautiful post Varda. Sending you love and continued grace. You are amazing.

  9. A beautiful post at such a difficult time. I am sending you both love and courage. xoxo

  10. Oh, Varda. These last moments are so, so hard. The body, like you said, becomes this THING and our parent, who took care of us when we were helpless, becomes less and less visible.

    As painful as this is, it's a gift, too, that you give her. Being here now, as you have been for her all these months.

    Much love to you.

  11. your writing at such a difficult time is awe inspiring. i am thinking of you both and wishing you peace. sending hugs and support and i hope somehow knowing that we're "here" and reading brings you some warmth.

  12. I've sat that night. I'm glad you're with her and that you both know how much you love each other.

  13. so beautiful, thank you for sharing. xoox

  14. You get your toughness from her, for certain. I suspect she's as loathe to let go of you as you are to say goodbye. What an amazing gift, to usher a loved one across the final barrier. A gift for her that brings much pain to you - perhaps the opposite of birth, when through much pain she engineered your arrival into this world. You are a good daughter, Varda. I hope when it is my time to go that my girl will be at my side as you are for your mom. Sending you love across the miles.

  15. My heart is breaking for you. Thank you for continuing to reach into the pain and pull out these offerings. You are a beautiful writer and a beautiful soul.

  16. sending you both love as you experience this sacred part of life together.

  17. I cannot even stop myself from tearing up and quietly sobbing here at work, thinking of how strong and kind and wonderful she is.

    I am here for you..and my heart is aching with yours.

    send her my love...and you take as much as you need too.

  18. Varda, that was beautiful. I sat myself at this station with my father just a few months ago. And it was exactly like this. I am so glad that your mama has been blessed to be surrounded by your love in her last days. What a wonderful testimony to her life and love for you.

  19. Praying for both of you, for peace in some way. How lucky you are to have each other.

  20. This is very beautiful. It's hard to believe one will survive one's parents deaths. I have. Thank you.

  21. Perhaps the tough old bird will have a new set of wings soon. I ache for you. I yearn for peace for you all. You are loved.

  22. Very beautiful. May grace surround you.

  23. You just described my end of December with my father. December was a slow goodbye. Those last few days all my sister and I did was take turns holding his hand and saying."I love you." Sometimes sitting at his side I kept thinking how can that be my strong, fierce dad in that broken and elderly body? It was very peaceful at the end. The sadness has grown afterwards as I realize the permanence of it. I was blessed to have so many years on earth with a wonderful father. Seems you feel the same way about your mother. I'm sorry.

  24. Oh honey I'm so sorry. You write so eloquently but really what gives the words their power is how suffused they are with love. You are giving--have been giving--your mother the greatest gift anyone has to give: their own hearts, full and open and present. Your mother, I imagine, needs you with her so she can let go; you, like your mother, are a tough (not old) bird and, like your mother, are surrounded by so many people who love you.

  25. XOXOXOX I ca;t think of anything else to add.

  26. Oh Varda, my heart aches for you. But just think, your dad must be waiting so excitedly on the other side. Be well, be healthy through this. I wish her-and you-a painless (relatively) transition and much love to bear you through.

  27. I am so sorry. If this is the end, I hope she is graced with a peaceful and painless exit. Much love to you and your family.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!