Saturday, January 09, 2010

As the end approaches

My mother has been in the hospital for several weeks now. She had surgery, and after a few days, was sent to a skilled nursing facility for rehab, to regain her strength and her mobility. Her plan was to be home in 7 days (she's a tough little lady!). But after a few days there, she seemed to be declining. I called her on New Years Day, and I didn't even recognize her voice at first, she sounded so frail. I rushed over to the SNF, and, after spending a few minutes with her, listening to her cough and laborious breathing, I told them to send her to the ER. She was admitted to the hospital with a heartbeat that was way too high and irregular, plus a mild case of pneumonia.

On Sunday, she seemed to take a turn for the worse. It was so alarming to me and so dramatic, that I sent a message to my brother, telling him that it would be good if family members could call her that day. I really thought the end might be approaching.

When my dad died three years ago, it was sudden and unexpected. He went about his business that day: gassing up the car, checking his email, calling his sister. That evening, he died in his recliner, watching TV. We knew this was how he would have wanted to hospitals, no lingering. My mother remarked many times that it would have eased his mind so to know that this was how the end would come. But, because his death came unexpectedly, I felt a lot of regret that I had never told him the things I wanted to say.

So on Sunday, I sat there next to my mother's hospital bed, as she coughed and gasped for breath and moaned, fearing that death might be near. But I couldn't bring myself to start THAT conversation, because I feared that she would think I had given up hope. But obviously she was thinking the same thing, because she opened the door for me by telling me that she wanted me to have her car. Once she said that, the tears welled up, and I began to tell her so many of the things I wanted to did she. It was a conversation I will never forget.

Fortunately she turned the corner the next day and has continued to improve. She is supposed to be discharged back to the SNF today. I'm hoping that she is able to return home, and that when the end does come, it will be lingering, no hospitals. But this time, I won't be left with the regret of things unsaid.