Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Yes, she did.

It's true. Mom died this morning.

It was a bit after 6, maybe 6:10 or so. Her breathing changed, and Brooke came to get me. I had been in bed for half an hour after staying up through the night and watching her breathe. It was the fifth night in a row that I had taken the overnight shift--the fifth night in a row that she had needed constant vigil.

I missed the last half hour of my mother's life.

The six of us came around the bed and watched her breathe her last few breaths. I may have seen three, but I'm only confident of two. Her hands were cold, but her head was still warm. I climbed onto the bed by her right side, tucked my face beside her head, and I felt her body fail.

It was startlingly peaceful. Her body slowed to a stop. Liver failure is the way to go. The same stuff that made her skin yellow reduced the capacity of the nervous system, and she had almost no pain. What pain she had was well managed by tiny doses of narcotics--oxycodone, then morphine. Forty-five minutes before she died, Dad and I had started to move her onto her side to help prevent bedsores. She was nonverbal and didn't move, but she made a sound in her throat to tell us she wanted to stay put. We did it her way and went to bed.

Dad started the coffee pot, and we sat back to look at her. He called Hospice, and the nurse--the same nurse who had been seeing Mom--came out to check for a heartbeat and complete the death certificate. We sat around staring at each other until someone started breakfast and I broke out our phone lists and started calling.

Today consisted of answering the phone, making phone calls, being fed regularly and somewhat forcefully, picking constantly at my cuticles, and selecting a casket.

I'll have more to say when I can get my thoughts in order. I haven't written since last Sunday, but I'll have to do it soon or else lose what I now know. Soon. It will come in pieces, but it will come.


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