Sunday, May 11, 2008

Just before Mother's Day

The day before Mother’s Day, I sit in a hospital emergency ward with a very sick woman. Her lungs are filled with water, she’s all bones at 90 pounds, and she’s coughing helplessly. A saline solution pumps into her veins to keep her hydrated and oxygen is being fed through her nose. The woman’s my mother – 88 years old and now fighting for her life.

She stops eating and the doctor tells me she's dying.

Yet later when I mention my sister coming, she opens her mouth and takes careful bites of extremely tasteless food. Chews and swallows. Like I said, she’s a fighter. She’s struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for years and now she’s battling the odds as her bodily processes break down.

I tell her there’s nothing to fear – her spirit will live on. And the next world is surely a better one. If she remains here she will only suffer more. It’s time to let go.

This isn’t what she wants to hear. Once most of the water is removed from her lungs, and the oxygen mask taken off her face, she breathes a sigh of relief. Then she eats some more, shoring up her strength. She simply isn’t ready to go.

In my heart I am glad she decided to stay, even if it’s for a few more days or even weeks. The world isn’t the same place without her.