Continuing on. After Easter, we brought Nova over to visit for what would clearly be the last time. As soon as she walked into the room, my mother cupped her hands to her face and said “Kiss!” To which Nova gladly acquiesced. If there was ever a time I saw my mother’s strength in someone else, it was right then in my daughter…on that day and every other since. She didn’t cry, she showed no sadness at all. She sat on my the end of my mother’s hospital bed happily as she always had. Nova had always had a special bond with my mother. Because my mother had cared for Nova for the first several years of her life while I worked to support my family, she was basically her biggest supporter. In my mom’s eyes, she could do no wrong. For this reason, watching my daughter act as if everything was normal even though she knew that it wasn’t, I was more proud of her than I ever had been. Soon my mother began stating that she would be sleeping on the couch. Confused, my father and I questioned her why she thought that. She had believed that Nova would be spending the night as she usually would have and my mother would be giving up her bed so Nova would be more comfortable. We explained to her that her bed was there for her and she couldn’t possibly sleep on the couch. She then patted her bedside table and said “she can sleep here then.” We told her that Nova would be unable to spend the night as she needed her rest.
Soon it was time to say our goodbyes. The facade Nova had been showing throughout the visit broke briefly as she hugged her grandmother as tightly but gently as possible, kissed her on the cheek, and said simply “I love you, I’ll see you soon.” Her tear-filled eyes disappearing immediately upon looking into her eyes again. She wouldn’t break and I felt both sad and proud that she felt she had to hold it in for my mother’s sake. There was no talk of this being the last time they would see each other, just normal goodbyes.
The following days would be spent, my father, sisters, and I sitting quietly as hospice workers would ask my mother questions to evaluate her memory and examine the pallor of her skin to determine how close to death she was. I had never experienced death so intimately and certainly not with someone who was basically the most important person in the world to me beyond my children. Because of this, I continued to abuse my anxiety medication and cold medicine in a sad attempt to numb the despair I was feeling as I watched my mother draw closer to her death.
My sisters and I took breaks often either to allow my mother some privacy throughout some of the more personal care provided by hospice workers or to just cry without her seeing. Sometimes we sat in silence, others we huddled together in a heap of tears in an attempt to comfort each other and to show solidarity in the grief. During these days, there was an argument going on in all of our minds. Do we tell her it’s ok to let go and risk her feeling like we are tired of waiting or selfishly keep it to ourselves because, well to be honest, none of us wanted her to?
After a few days, my mother finally fell asleep and it became clear after several hours of her not waking, that she would not be waking up again. Our extended family began to slowly congregate in support of my family in our darkest hour. Because of this, I had completely given up any desire to stay aware. That day, I had taken at least 9 of my anxiety pills. Because my mother had begun taking her morphine in liquid form, i felt less guilty taking some of her morphine pills to increase the numbness. I took 4 within an hour.
Soon I began to fall asleep. Anything written after this about this particular day, may not be entirely correct as I only have other people’s accounts to go on. I would snore and wake up gasping for breath. My family picked on the noises I had been making. Please don’t misunderstand. My family is far from heartless, they were just completely unaware of what I had been doing and believed I was just overtired. Not soon after though, my sister and uncle began to realize that my gasping for breath was because I would stop breathing while I slept. My sister announced to the rest of my family that something was very obviously wrong with me. She got into my purse, checked the fill date on my anxiety medication that showed me having refilled it only 3 days prior and realized I had taken 27 of them over that brief time period.
Unfortunately, the last thing I had wanted to do, became a reality and briefly I had taken the attention off of my mother, if only briefly. My family called my husband who was home with my children. He immediately woke them and took them to his parent’s house so he could come take me to the emergency room. While my family and I waited for him, the only thing I can truly remember is my father flicking my face in an attempt to keep me awake. He said something to me that I will never forget. “I’m already losing her, why would you do this to me?”
My husband soon arrived to take me to the emergency room. I remember feeling only nausea, pain, and a feeling of freezing as they used medication to rid my body of the medication. Only then did I completely confess what I had taken. My husband stared in awe as I explained having taken the morphine along with the klonopin. He took videos of me to show me after in the hopes that I would see what I had done to myself and not continue.
Eventually I was moved to a regular hospital room and my husband left to get some sleep, or as I would find out later, seek comfort of friends. This is when my lucidity and awareness would begin to return to me. I was able to sit up and eat and eventually to fall asleep. How I was able to achieve this, I will never understand, as I had endured constant insomnia in the 18 months since my mother’s diagnosis.
Soon after I was awoken by my husband’s presence in the doorway. He hadn’t entered fully because I can remember seeing only his silhouette as he told me, “I have something to tell you.” Quietly and emotionlessly I responded “she’s gone, isn’t she?” as he completely entered the room. He merely nodded his head yes. I turned over in my bed to face away from him, pulled my covers up to my chin and stated “Please go be with my family.” I didn’t grieve, I just fell back to sleep. And he unquestioningly did as I asked. It was only the day after that I had realized the weight of what I had done. After 18 months of ensuring I would have no regrets, I had selfishly created the worst regret possibly. I had robbed myself of the chance to be present and there for my mother as she took her last breath. Even though I didn’t cry, I realized this is something I would frequently battle with for years to come.
After about a day, I was moved to the psychiatric ward. All of my possessions were taken from me and the rules off the ward were explained to me. I was given a tour of the ward and shown my room, completely empty of everything but a bed and a side table. I was shown the common room, where patients were permitted to watch television and do crafts with only safe materials. I soon realized there was no separation of the suicidal risks and the people that would normally be seen as crazy. Let me first explain that I am in no way making fun of these people. I had just not expected to be put in the same place as the people who spoke to the voices in their head, the ones who shouted profanities, and the people who sat in an eerie silence.
I eventually became friends with one other person. At first, he seemed quite normal and I had never felt it was appropriate to ask why he was there. It very quickly became apparent to me when he began to tell me that he was Jesus and at any time he could walk through the walls and leave. I frequently asked him why he didn’t and was only ever met with a response of “because I have no reason to.” He had began customizing styrofoam cups. He made probably a dozen of them and soon gave me one that he obviously had put a lot of effort into. So I took it gladly to my room and took it with me when I eventually left.
When I was allowed to receive visitors, I was met with an array of different family members and emotions. Mostly anger and confusion, but also support and love. I remember becoming angry at one of my sisters and asking her to leave but I can’t for the life of me remember why. The time I spent here, I refused to cry or even think of the reason behind why I was there to begin with. It’s as if I was on a mental vacation.
Of course when talking to doctors or in groups, I was open about why I was there. Participating in groups was a requirement in order to be released, so I did so. I told the doctors honestly that I wasn’t entirely sure if I was ready to leave but it was very important that I be released by the day of my mother’s viewing. They were able to make this happen and I was released the same day of her viewing.
After my release, I had to rush around to buy appropriate clothing for the events that would follow. At this point, I still had rarely given myself a chance to mourn appropriately thus basically sitting quietly in my black dress and only responding to questions my children would ask.
It was my understanding that her viewing would be closed casket and I felt a somewhat relief at this. Not having been present for her death, I felt like I had avoided seeing her dead body and to me this was almost a gift because I had really wanted my last image of her to be alive. When I arrived at the funeral home with my husband and my 4 children, I was told just before entering the room that my father had changed his mind and her casket would be open. I tensed up and took the next 30 seconds to try to explain to my children what they would be experiencing when we walked into the next room, even though not one thing could have prepared me myself for that moment. For at least two years, I would feel an unexpressed resentment towards my father for this, until one point I felt comfortable enough to ask him why he had changed his mind so abruptly. He only confirmed what my sisters had told me. He had seen her and realized how beautiful and “like her” she appeared and that he felt it would be another chance for me to see her and say goodbye.
I remember walking into that room as terrified as possible. I left my family to walk up to her casket to see my mother appearing asleep. She was dressed beautifully and wearing her purple lacy baseball cap as she had in life. She was also wearing a bracelet that had come in a pack of several. One was given to me, my daughter, and both of my sisters. Tears welled in my eyes and I touched her cold hand and pulled it back immediately. Through sobs I told her that I loved her and that I was so sorry I hadn’t been there for her like I should have been. I attempted to clear my eyes as much as possible and brought my children up to see her. Nova crumpled completely finally feeling free to show her emotions now that grandma wouldn’t see it. The other children weeped quietly with a lack of true understanding. I was grateful that Nova’s father had attended because unfortunately between my own grieving and wrangling my children who hadn’t realized that it wasn’t the time nor the place to play and have fun, I was unable to give her the attention she so desperately needed. Occasionally I would go to her, hug her tightly, kiss the top of her head, and tell her that I loved her and that I was so sorry that she had lost someone so important to her and then release her back into her father’s arms.
People started to appear that I hadn’t seen for years, from the neighbor who had lived across the street from my parents a decade earlier who had seen her obituary to my sisters ex-husband. The grief was very similar in every attendee and it was the first time I had realized how much my mother had not only touched my life, but the lives of every single person she had ever met.
The following day, on my youngest daughter’s fifth birthday, we were given an orange tag to hang from our rear view mirror to announce to other cars that we were part of the convoy transporting my mother from the funeral home to her final resting place. I remember sitting in the car staring at the near fluorescent tag as my husband drove, feeling the true weight of where she was going. When we arrived at the cemetery, her casket had been placed above the hole dug for her and a mass of beautiful flowers was placed atop it. We listened to the words spoken about my mother and intermittently huddled together to comfort each other. When it was time to leave, I really felt that I was leaving her for the last time. I watched the casket until I could no longer see it, wishing that I would wake up and all of this would have been a terrible nightmare.
We drove to what was now only my father’s home to celebrate her life. The kids played in the backyard and the adults sat on the back porch telling funny stories and laughing. This get-together was not for crying, it was for remembering and smiling fondly. It soon began to rain and right before we called the kids inside, we realized that while it was raining on every other side of the porch we were sitting on, the backyard where the kids were playing, where there was no cover of trees, was completely clear of any rainfall. We silently looked at each other in confusion, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that my mother was there ensuring the children were not affected by the dreary weather. When the rain finally stopped, the biggest, most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen appeared in the sky.
It was at this point that every belief I had ever held that there was no life after death completely left me. I knew my mother was there telling me that she would never leave me and that one way or another, I would always have her.
The last part of the get-together was when my father took my sisters into the dining room and explained to us that there were three things that we would have to choose from, the plaque that had been on the lid of her casket about her being a mother, her wedding and engagement rings, and her anniversary ring.. The silence in the room was heavy before we finally announced which items we would like to have. Strangely each of us had picked a different item. I had picked her wedding and engagement rings, while my sister Kelly picked her anniversary ring and Tracy had picked the plaque. Easy enough. I felt pleased with my pick and immediately put the rings meant for my mother’s tiny fingers onto my pinky and held them close to my heart.