Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lesson 1: Death (Part 3)

My Mother passed away on Monday evening.

It's now the early hours of Friday.

I'm alone. It's quiet for the first time in a long time. I close my eyes. I see her face. Her beautiful, kind face. Asleep. At peace, after fighting so long. My God, she fought and fought with every fibre in her body. I am so proud of her. It made me feel ashamed, as I am not one that clings to life, eats life, savours life. No, I am one who who could throw it away, fall away.

I hate the film, I would tell her. I want to walk out. Why should I stay if I know I don't like it? I've seen it before and it never changes. Watch it again, she would say, maybe you're missing something? But I can't see anything? I know the plot, I know the script, so I stare and stare and look for... I don't know what.

She gave me life, she protected and loved me. Supported me. Encouraged me. And she was kind and gentle and funny. But above all she loved life. Loved everything about it. Why? She had cause not to. Her childhood was so hard. Life didn't love her and yet she didn't let that break her. It hurt her and scarred her and never left her but she kept loving... her family, her friends, life.

And forgiveness. She forgave those who hurt her. She just couldn't hate.

Not like me. I can't forgive so easily. Those that hurt me or my loved ones are burnt into my very being. Forgive? Maybe. Forget? Never. I've changed, as we all do as we get older. Life has made me a harder  person and as a result I've become emotionally more detached, more sceptical, of life, colder, more wary to let people in. I don't need to. I don't want to. The wagons started circling years ago. There are no gaps now. The drawbridge is up. The doors are bolted but to a few.

And now? Now she's gone. Can I learn from this? Can I learn from her. To try to accept life as it is, as she did, without hate, without bitterness, without recrimination? Not as I want and think life should be or how people are and act but accept things as they are? If I could just have a piece of her humility and zest for life that she had, I would be a better man.

She stayed so strong and fought so hard and wouldn't let go. She loved life.

I will try. For her.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lesson 1: Death (Part 2)

I can't sleep. It's 4.00 am. It just keeps running through my head. Around and around.

My Mother has been fighting the most aggressive form of lung cancer there is. One year ago she was diagnosed out of the blue. We had held a party for my Father in July of last year. Food, wine and laughter. Both of them in relatively good health, young at heart, in their mid seventies, their 56th year together. The sun shone and we spent the day outside with family and friends. 

In September she developed a niggly cough. Maybe a chill or a bug. Nothing to worry about. She left it for a while, maybe a week, like you do. It wouldn't shift. She saw her Doctor and was prescribed a course of antibiotics. She kept coughing. She finished the course. It was getting worse. I took her to have a scan of her chest on a Sunday. "Wait two weeks for the results", they said. By Tuesday the Doctor was sitting next to my Mother in the house and softly whispered what we all feared. She looked at my Father, then me, then back to the Doctor. "So what happens now?"

The world comes crashing down.

I penned the first piece over seven months ago as a sort of cathartic measure. A way to express the emotions I was feeling. I never intended to publish it but a few weeks ago my Mother asked me if I had written anything. She writes beautifully herself (The View From This End) and has always encouraged us to be creative. I was tempted to say no. As a Mother I didn't want her to read my pain. But I could never lie to her. Even as a child she would fix me with those eyes and I couldn't. It never changes. Parent and child. 30 years of difference but she can still put me in my place with that Mother's look.

So I said yes, I had written something. She asked to read it. I took her my laptop and placed it on her lap in bed. She read without expression and then paused and said "Publish it, I'll be your first follower". 

There have been many shared experiences with my Mother over the last year as she has fought this vile disease with every sinew in her body. Many days have been horrendous, some uplifting, a few even funny but she has never shown an ounce of self-pity or shed a tear (at least in front of me). 

It still doesn't seem real. I thought I could cope. I have been coping. I am coping. Coping... being strong... being there... at home... at the Hospice... sitting with her... people passing away in the night... not there the next day... seeing how they suffered for weeks. Their husbands and children, like me, smiling as we enter the Ward and as we leave. A wave, a blown kiss at the door. Then the smiles disappear. The stomach turns over. Despair, grief, helplessness. I feel my strength ebb away. 

I'm beginning to wobble. I love to be with her but hate what is happening. I can't find the smiles. The smiles have gone. Why won't they come back. She needs to see me smile. And I always made her laugh. Now I can't. I hate it. Hate... and love. 

We don't know how long she has left. No-one does. Maybe someone. Please don't let her suffer, please. She said to me tonight, "What if I don't get in, you know, upstairs?" Her eyes wide and locked on mine. "If YOU don't qualify," I said, "then it must be pretty empty up there". She closed her eyes and smiled gently. 

I can't sleep. It's 5.28am.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lesson 1: Death

My Mother is dying.

I've been prepared for it for all of my adult life, haven't I? Accepted yet dreaded this day would come. Her advancing years meant her odds were not improving. Time was not relenting and yet... just a few weeks ago she was fine. Healthy, smiling, laughing, talking of Christmas and all it entails. And now she's not. This happens to other people doesn't it?

I'm OK with death. I mean I'm not afraid of it. I'm at ease with the notion. But that says more about me I guess. After all, it's not like there's a get-out clause, a 'Get Out of Death Free Card'. It's as real as it gets and yet it's ripped a hole in my chest like a being hit with a cannonball at close range. Searing through my flesh and splintering bone and tearing muscle and ligament, leaving behind a gaping wound. I know it won't heal completely. It may close in time, become smaller, bearable and the burning pain may recede but it will never heal.

My Mother is dying. Help her, please. Somebody save her.

I want to be strong for her. I want to cry but I can't. I want to save her. I know I can't. She's helpless and so am I. We try to act normal when we're together. "How's your day been, she asks?" (I think), Well... it's been hell, as has the night and every minute that passes as I think of what you are facing. (I reply), "OK Mum, everything's OK. I'm fine." But it's not OK. It's not even close to OK. It's terrible. And I don't feel fine. And she smiles at me, like only a Mother can. And I'm at home again. I'm very young. A movie reel plays in my head. I'm off school and in bed, feeling unwell. She brings me a hot drink, sits on the bed and puts  her hand to my brow. I close my eyes. It's soothing and safe and I feel better. I open my eyes and she's smiling at me. That same smile. 

My Mother is dying. She has Terminal Cancer.