one month

there are moments when I think she is still here.  I get up and start to plan my day remembering that I need to go and see her and then I realize that she is not there anymore.

routine is a funny thing.  for some routine is what keeps them going, keeps them breathing and reassures them that they are good.  if that routine is disrupted you are left with an aching to find that new routine, new direction, new purpose I guess.  you start the lists of things to do and proudly check them off one by one as they are completed.  for me the checking off makes me feel like I have accomplished something.  I know, I know that is what the list is all about, but really it is an exercise that I do daily and when I check something off I feel better.  I feel like I contributed to something.  it's part of my routine.

in her final week mom's routine and ours became dictated by her, her care givers and each other.  when the decision was made to begin end of life care none of us wanted to leave her side.  we wanted her to know that she was loved and we were here by her side and to not be afraid and we are taking good care of you mom.  we are not going to leave you alone mom.

one of the most important things was to insure that she was not in pain at any time.  they would have her pain meds coming every six hours and then every two hours if needed a smaller dose.  what would happen though is that we could see her start to curl her toes, knees to her chest in a fetal position and she would start lifting her arm up.  I could feel her getting agitated and restless and so we would stay and demand the extra shot every two hours before she started getting restless.  I would ask the nurse if they thought she was in pain.  no, no, do not worry she is not in any pain.  I found it hard to believe them and asked that the doses be closer together without me continually having to demand it.  

those final days and nights had us all worrying and fretting about each other.  did you eat something for breakfast dad?  yeah.  are you going to get some lunch now?  I'm here, you go, I'll stay here till you get back.  did you sleep last night?  I'm coming back now, did you need anything?  the nights had their own routine.  every two hours they would come in and flip her position.  sometimes they would wash her and change her gown.  then the injections and sometimes they were just coming by to see how she was doing.  how was I holding up.

It was hard to sleep while all I could hear was the hum of the oxygen machine.  it was so hot in that room.  there was a fan on the counter and one on the floor.  the window was open but there was no breeze.  her roommate snored loudly and there I lay in the middle not believing what I was living through.  not knowing if I just shut my eyes for a moment if she would be gone when I woke up again.

whenever they came in to change her position I would leave the room.  I headed outside for some fresh air and just to enjoy the quietness of the early morning.  I would return and she would be wrapped up like a newborn baby.  I would start to peel back the layers and lean to give her a kiss.  I'm here mama.  it's nadia.  I love you.  those first few days her breathing was smooth and it seemed like she was finally resting comfortably.  as the days went on and her speech began to fail her she became frustrated.  she would gather all her strength to say "I love you too honey".  when my dad would bend down to give her a kiss she would struggle but pucker up and give him one back.  it was heart breaking and beautiful all at the same time.  the love those two shared was an incredible gift that I was able to witness time and time again.  what an example they gave me of what true love looks like.

the last couple of days she was unable to speak at all.  her eyes wide open and her mouth as well.  I kept holding on to the belief that she could still hear us.  she knew we were here and we gathered around telling her we loved her and it was okay to go.  we will be fine mama.  I will make sure dad is fine.  I will take care of him.  go, mama, rest, it's ok.  we all said good bye.  we all gave her permission to die and yet she was still hanging on.

the final day before she died was the hardest of all.  I felt like I was pushing her to die.  it was an awful feeling.  doubts flooded into my head.  what if someone made a mistake?  what if she wanted to tell us something but couldn't?  what was she waiting for?  I thought she was hanging on for dad.  their love so strong.  their bond tight.  I couldn't imagine how it felt to know that the one you loved so deeply was about to leave you and you would never be able to hold them again, kiss them, touch them.  michael sensed fear when he was by her side.  I thought maybe he was right.  maybe she was afraid of what was next.  the unknown.

they finally moved her to a private room.  there was a beautiful breeze coming through the window.  lots of room for us to pile in and comfort each other.  we talked about memories and laughed about some of the silly things she had done.  we replayed the mass for her on the tiny tape recorder my dad had brought in.  it was recorded in italy where my nonna lived.  an outdoor mass that they gathered for annually to praise the madonna of water.  there was one part where mom's voice came on.  she was saying good bye to someone.  her old voice.  so clear and so full of life.  it was eerie to hear her like that after so long.

michael sent me home for the night.  after days of sleeping there he wanted me to have a good rest in my own bed.  I didn't want to leave her but I knew it was all catching up to me.  I needed to rest.  I needed to refuel for the next day, the next night, the next...

then the call came early in the morning that she was gone.  michael had woken up and went to check her and she was gone.  the nurse was called and she said she had just checked her a few minutes earlier and she was fine.  she was gone.  I called dad.  I got in the car.  I thanked god for ending the suffering and for it being early enough that the roads were bare and that the rest of the residents would still be sleeping.  we were able to see her without any disturbances of the breakfast crowd or staff flying around.  it was quiet.  she was at peace.  she was finally at peace.

many hours were spent by her bed writing in my journal.  I felt this urgency to get it all down before I forgot it.  I practically filled it by the time she was gone.  memories of her as a child, her as a wife and as my mother and nonna to dan.  stories she had told me and details I didn't want to forget.  it became an invaluable tool when I went to compose the eulogy.

writing also kept me busy.  I was focusing on the words as they flowed out of my pen.  what was happening to her with each passing minute was in my eyes a suffering that no one should have to endure.  what we watched as she slowly faded away was what I feel no one should have to witness.

the pain is still fresh.  the picture in my head of her laying there still clear.  I keep having dreams of her healthy and running around again.  life goes on and time will pass and so too shall the awful images.  I feel like my dreams are willing me to remember the young vibrant woman that she once was.  I feel her with me whenever I think of her and as I start to rebuild a new routine I feel her guiding me.  thank you mama.  thank you for always have been there to guide me.  fly bird fly.


Nancy said...

Such a familiar story in some ways... you had me in tears... please know you have been in my thoughts a lot lately.... hugs to you...

Anonymous said...

You were a wonderful daughter. I am sure that she was very proud of you.

Rett said...

Hi Nadia. I got here via Brave Girls Club. Your art is featured in their daily email in case you didn't know :) You have my condolences on the loss of your mom. I feel your pain.

Linda P in IL said...

I also came over from Brave Girls...You wrote a beautiful story about your Mom...I know your heart, it was the same with me...I read back through your blog...such love ...hang on to your Dad...take all the hugs you can get...let others help you...peace.