So, good news! I passed my exams with a high enough average score to qualify for an internship with a transcription company! Yeah!! I’ll find out more details tomorrow, and I’m pretty anxious about it. I’m not questioning my skills or abilities; I’m wondering whether or not my time as a caregiver will be an obstacle to me getting a job. I haven’t worked since the summer of 2005. I spent the last 13 years caring for my mother full time. Ideally, I’m hoping my work will speak enough about who I am that the work gap won’t be a factor for prospective employers. Realistically I know there are people out there who don’t see caregiving for an elderly parent or a family member as work. My own siblings slightly fall into that category, although now that our mother is gone, I feel like they are beginning to see what my reality was like. It was work. It was 16 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year nonstop. I’m hoping those I encounter in my job search will be empathetic and realize that what I did was work. I have the skills to do this job well and be an asset to any company I end up working for. I just hope I get the opportunity to prove my worth and the 13-year work gap won’t be a hindrance. I hope potential employers will see that my caregiving shows that I am dedicated, that I am a hard worker, and I would be a valuable employee to add to their team. So onwards and upwards with fingers crossed.
Yesterday my niece and nephew surprised me with a visit. They have been absolutely wonderful during this difficult time. They lost their dad in 2011 and their mom in 2016 and they keep telling me that I was there for them during those times so they are making sure they are there for me during this sorrowful time. The three of us have always been close ever since my sister and her husband adopted them from Russia. They are also close to my mom and losing her is hurting them deeply. To see them doing their best to set that aside to be there for me has moved me beyond words. I just feel so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. They are definitely one of the things that are bringing light to my life right now and pushing the encroaching darkness away.
Today I stayed home. Yesterday the nurse was talking about how my mom’s breathing would become more of a rattle when the end is near. When she said that I felt my heart twist and, at that moment, I knew I just don’t want to be there when mom passes. I think it will just destroy me. My mom and I have discussed it before and I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there and she said that that was ok. So I feel at peace with my decision. Yesterday, I had a few minutes alone with her so I sat down and spoke to her from my heart. I told her what a good mom she had been and how much I will miss her. I also told her that I am going to be ok and for her not to worry. She was unconscious when I said all this but the doctor keeps telling us that she can hear us. I feel like she heard me, I swear she squeezed my hand three times when I was finished. That has been the family “thing” three squeezes means “I Love You.”
A couple of hours later when it came time for me to leave, the levee broke. I started crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Just short hiccupping gasps every 20 seconds or so when I started feeling oxygen deprived. I leaned over her and kissed her forehead several times and choked out how much I love her. Walking out of that building and away from her knowing I’d never see her again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After I got home though, something surprising happened. I felt lighter then I have in weeks. It’s like a weight on my soul had been lifted.
Flash forward to today and I heard from my sister and nephew that she’s sitting up and talking and eating and drinking again. My nephew said that she was talking to him about robbing a bank (she’s mostly delusional these days) so my nephew told her the bank was closed. Ms. Sassy’s response? “That will only make it more fun.” That is how she has been since early last week. This sense of humor we never knew she had is coming out more and more. Friday night she had us all laughing over her antics. That’s what I want to remember. That’s the final image of her that I want in my head. Sitting up in her hospital bed, holding court over her family and making us all laugh.
Today I was alone in my mom’s hospital room holding her hand and watching her sleep. I noticed movement behind her eyelids and realized that she was dreaming and I started contemplating what she might be dreaming about. And this poem came into my head and there I was holding my mom’s hand in one of my hands while writing this poem on my phone with the other one.
What do the dying dream of?
Is it the lives they’ve lived and
Are leaving behind?
Or are they going to an orientation
In the life after this one?
Is that why they start speaking again of
Loved ones long gone?
Do they begin drawing near
In the land of dreams
And then break through to
The land of life
As the departure draws closer?
What is it like for them to step back
Through the veil
Only for a brief time?
To see the changes in loved ones
Still journeying among the living.
Or have they watched through
The curtain dividing the two worlds
And have seen everything?
Maybe that’s what the dying dream of
Do they cross over and peer back
Whispering to others about
What is to come?
Today my sisters and I met with mom’s doctors and realized that we are not talking about sending her to rehab. The brutal truth, that we finally faced today is that she is ready for hospice care. She is just so weak and in pain so much of the time that’s it’s not fair for her. I mean, we’re going to include her in discussions about what she wants but now it’s a matter of us telling her that it is okay to go and that we will be fine moving forward. The spiritual aspect of this experience is sweeping away the physical. The past couple of days she has been seeing her mom, brother, and childhood friends who have all passed away. Knowing they are here and waiting to help her crossover is very comforting for us. We know she won’t make the journey to the next world alone. She’s going to leave a world where she is loved and enter different kind of world where she will have open arms and eternal love waiting for her. I’m gutted by this turn of events but I’m really trying to focus on the reunion that she is so close to having with those she has lost. I’m glad she is going to see them all again, it’s just hard knowing that in order for that to happen her family is going to have to say good-bye.
No real news today. Everything is as stable as it can be with my mom right now. She’s had an increase in her pain medications so she is sleeping more and when she is awake she’s pretty loopy and incoherent. I was sitting there watching her today thinking if I will ever have a regular conversation with her again. Then I started thinking about everything I meant to say to her but kept putting it off until tomorrow. I wish I hadn’t waited because, as I should have learned with my dad but obviously didn’t, as our parents grow older we only have so many tomorrows before they are gone. That may seem obvious to some but I think many of us put thoughts of losing them off to some vague future time in the distance. A future that we can almost see like a mirage and think, in some way, it’s never going to come. It’s just a shimmering image on the horizon. Until that shimmer becomes a wall of cold hard reality that you run into and bump your nose on. I don’t think I’ve bumped my nose yet but I can sense its cold stone surface looming up over me. That might be the most difficult thing with this whole experience, not knowing what is going to happen next. Or when it will happen. She might have months left and she may have days left, we simply don’t know. When I let my thoughts stray to the idea of losing her, I think about how her passing will be the hardest on me because I will, in a sense, be losing two lives. My mother’s and the life as a caregiver that I’ve known for the past 20 years. When my thoughts start going there I kick it down the road, towards that vague shimmering day. I keep telling myself you can deal with it then. There will be plenty of time for tears and grief later.