Today was the most horrific day I have ever lived through. Mom was more alert, but also more solidly in the throes of cyanosis, the buildup of CO2 in her blood that many people with COPD get toward the end. It made her delirious, and in pain, and unable to tell me what hurt — unable to say more than “Help me” or “Water” or “I love you so much.”
This morning a sweet CNA gave her a little bath, which Mom loved. Soon thereafter, about eight hours ago now, she started thrashing around, moaning, crying, in great distress. We had someone come out to put her on a machine that would help her breathe better, but it used a mask over her mouth and nose, and the forced air was intolerable, and she started clawing at the mask to get it off. Even her nasal canula, which she had worn for years now, became too much for her. As her anxiety and incoherence grew — she was like a wild thing, trapped in this bed — she at one point said, “I’m so tired, I’m so very tired,” and “I’m sorry” — sorry to be leaving me. I told her it was OK, that she just needed to relax and let go, that I loved her and everything was going to be all right.
But these things are rarely swift and tidy. I finally called the hospice nurse and asked for advice, and she said many end-stage patients experience what is called “terminal agitation,” and just couldn’t be calmed down. She told me to give her a mild sedative (the pill she had taken at bedtime for years, very mild indeed), and after about a half hour she had calmed down enough to sleep a little. I heard a cough and looked over, and she looked comfortable, so I went back to work, sitting in the easy chair next to her bed. A few minutes later I looked over at her again and . . . she was gone.
I will probably have words in the days and weeks ahead about this remarkable woman. We’re going to have a funeral here, then send her up to Maryland to be buried with my father (there will be another service for our remaining family up there). Then I’ll be about the process of learning what it’s like to be completely on my own. The idea is both exhilarating and terrifying.
I wrote a friend a few days ago and said, “I am trying to be a shaman, to journey, to be a psychopomp. But all I am is a scared little boy.” She told me it was OK to be a shaman and a psychopomp and a sacred little boy all at the same time.
I just realized that I haven’t anything more than a couple of bananas today, and I’m suddenly very hungry. I think eating may be the most grounding thing I can do right now.
Goodbye, Mom. Let me know what you find on the other side. You can always reach me in the Dreamtime.