"Do you have anything you want to say to your mother? She can hear you."
Really hospice lady? You told me that the hearing is the last to go. My mom was pretty deaf. Could she still hear me? And did she really want to hear what I was thinking?
Is that the way to end? With questions that were unanswerable when she was alive, never mind at her last breath. So I shook my head. No, I said. I said everything I needed to say before.
In some ways, watching my mom die with a lie on my lips made sense. All families dance a dance of lies. Some truths are hard and necessary to tell. Others are hard and best unsaid.
Among the unspoken truths was I could not believe my Mom was dying. I kept asking how long it would take, thinking it was months away. It was minutes away. You are never prepared for your mother's death regardless of the circumstances.
I did her life good. I was there in a way that most aren't, and it took a toll. Maybe that is why I was terrible at death. I wanted her to die. She was miserable. I was miserable. We were both worn out from it all. I worried that she would wake up and we'd go back to being miserable.
I dreaded her death and yearned for more time. Go back and sew another curtain please. I want to hear the hum of the Necchi long into the night. Knit another sweater with red angora hearts. Wallpaper another wall. Hit another bingo number. Watch another football game.
It's been about a year and half since my Mom died. Hey, this is easy. I tamped down the guilt at feeling relieved. Slowly, though, she's crept back into my head. I dream of her. I remember her. I miss her. I grieve in short bursts of pain. It feels like a normal thing to do and is a relief to have the words mom and normal in the same sentence, because it is pretty much the first time that's ever happened... .
Maybe I did say everything I needed to say before she died. I said it when we renovated the house for her. When I sat in the ER with her, handling it, over forty times (a number I find myself saying with satisfaction, as if I earned the Caretaker Girl Scout Badge). I said it when I spent hours arranging for emergency oxygen during a power outage. I said it every day, sometimes shouting, crying and pleading. Until the last day, when I finally shut up.
I like to think my mom didn't hear the exchange with the hospice lady and if she did, understood what I meant when I said I had said it all before. I'll never know for sure, but I think she heard my unspoken words.