Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Thoughts on Death
Ever since Saturday evening at the wedding, my mother and death have been forthmost in my mind. Tuesday, a week ago, mom broke her foot. From there it has been a slippery slope to this evening and my preoccupation with thoughts of death. One moment Don and I are at a wedding celebrating one of life's great joys and the next we are in ER where my mother lies lethargic and unresponsive. The Tylenal 3 has made her lethargic, she isn't eating, she isn't getting enough fluids, she has become dehydrated and has developed renal problems and a bladder infection. Taken separately, these are not big things but in the body of an 85 year old, three years post stroke woman, these are very big things.
In three days she has gone from non-responsive, to alert, to weeping like a helpless child, to sleeping non-stop, to enduring crashing red blood cell levels. As my brother, David, and I stand in the hallway talking with her doctor, we find ourselves agreeing to blood transfusions and exams to detect internal bleeding. All I can think of is my father, his harsh cancer, his nine years of remission, and then relapse and fast decline and death in January 2001.
Back then I was focused on my mother, post-death responsiblities, my devastated 14 year old daughter, and my 19 year old stoic son. The details of putting a life to rest aren't easy and by the time all of this was behind me, a year had passed by. Focusing on my own grief didn't seem to matter anymore. I had gotten through this terrible year. Little did I know that that year would only be a preview of heartaches to come.
When a parent suffers a stroke, you are going to lose a big part of that person without any promise of what parts will come back whole and functional. For mom it was her loss of speech. She has the capacity to understand but to respond is an impossibly hard struggle. When you are 85 and have limited strength reserves, the effort to communicate becomes monumental. Every task that she performs for herself is done with great care and deliberation. There is no such thing as fast movement anymore. I have found that I have lost something fundamentally important with my mother's stroke. Our roles have been reversed and I find myself turning to the behaviors that worked for me as I reared our children only now instead of ushering my children toward life, I am holding her hand and walking with her on her last journey.
When I think of my father's suffering and swift release from life, I'm grateful, but then I can't help but wonder why mom has to struggle so with life when she is so clearly ready to leave it. I ask God "Why". As a Believer, I think that God must have her here for a purpose but I think the lesson isn't for her but for me. Am I getting the lesson, God? What is the lesson, God? Will learning the lesson release her, God? I wonder how much longer a very tired body can support a flagging spirit. Somehow, I think it is too long.
Posted by Annie Jeffries at 11:41 PM