Monday, January 28, 2013

Hanging In

At some point the battle will end.  The body will fail.  Not the will.  This has been a real battle, not the peaceful crossing for which we hoped. 

My mother is hanging onto life by the finest of threads.  We felt sure that she would pass late on the 25th or in the wee hours of the 26th.    She didn't.  We visited, we watched, we waited. 

Yesterday I prayed.  "Please, Mama, don't go today, it is Christie's birthday."  

Christie is her first grandchild and only granddaughter.  We had a little chat about the birthday.  OK, it was a monolog.   "Do you remember when you came to Palo Alto?" I asked her.  "Do you remember the flowers you brought?  Two dozen anthuriums in the palest baby girl pink."  They were spectacular.  No single flower was less than about 6" across at the widest point, and there were so many!  She had purchased them earlier in the week and hand carried them from Honolulu to San Francisco.  "You got to the hospital and proudly carried those flowers down the hall to my room.  'It's a good thing this baby is a girl,' you told me.  'I would have looked pretty silly with all this pink for a little boy.'"  

The boy came 3 years later.  "You picked him up at Honolulu Airport, brought him home, and called all your friends and neighbors to come and see your grandson before his parents saw him.  You had bought him a beautfully soft blue crib blanket, and wrapped him in it before you returned him to the airport for the rest of his trip from Maui to Los Angeles."  

My mother had not been supportive of adoption.  I asked her what changed her mind.  Short answer.  "You didn't tell me you were going to adopt a Hawaiian baby!" 

The 28th arrived, gloomy and wet.  Still no phone call. 

I left her bedside at 4:00 this afternoon.  Ian had been there in the morning.  Today she is sleeping deeply.  Periodically, her chest heaves as she pulls in a deep breath all the way from her diaphram.  The breaths between are shallow.  There are occasional gasps following a few seconds of apnea -- no external breathing.  Her hands and feet are cooling.  The tips of her fingers are taking on a blue cast.  Like mine do when my hands get cold.  But these are all early signs, not the ones that say, "It's time." 

Although she is totally unresponsive, the nurses assure me that she can still hear and on some primal level is aware of what is going on in her room.  So we talk quietly and avoid conversations that could be heard as trying to hurry her on her way, shove her out the proverbial door. 

This afternoon I indulged in a bout of retail therapy at Kahala Mall.  I will return to Palolo Hospice House tomorrow afternoon.  If The Call does not come before then.  And each afternoon until she decides it is time to leave. 

Keep on giving thanks for all those dedicated health care professionals who specialize in palliative and hospice care.
Don't forget to pray.

1 comment:

  1. I'm thinking of you and find this section of Compline always brings me to rest:

    Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

    Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.

    Lord, you now have set your servant free
    to go in peace as you have promised;
    For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
    whom you have prepared for all the world to
    A light to enlighten the nations
    and the glory of your people Israel.

    Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.



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