A Death in the Family


My mommy died.

After about 18 long, grueling months of downward spiraling health, she passed away on 13 June 2016 at around 4.45AM. She had been diagnosed the previous month with terminal lung cancer, and we were told that it would be days, rather than weeks.

Dad called me the day after I got back from a trip to see them at the Beach, and told me that he had called EMT because he could not get her O2 level above 81%. As it had to be in the 90’s at all times, and he could not get it regulated, he decided it was best if she was taken to Hospital. She was hooked to O2 to try and get the level up. For the past couple of years, the whirr of the oxygen machine was a constant noise in the house. It was on 24/7/365 to give her the breath that she could no longer take. We learned how to relegate it to background noise, to the point where we no longer could hear it. It was simply another noise in the background. Like a washing machine, or a clock ticking, or a dog barking outside. It moved wherever she was. Boone. Raleigh. Cary. The triangle of places to stay. It was her version of an American Express card.

After a short stay in Hospital, Dad and I brought her home, with the help of Hospice, so that she would be in a comfortable place, surrounded by the people who loved her and who would be there to help her transition from this life, to the next. I moved in with them, and told my Dad I would be there until…whenever, whatever.. Dad and I learned to feed, care for, bathe, comfort, love, and medicate her. To make her comfortable. To ease her pain. To make her days to come easier. Hospice came every day, except weekends, to help, and they were a true blessing.

Mom never once complained about anything, in fact, kept most of her humor the entire time. Her ability to speak, fractured from a stroke a year previous, suddenly became absolutely clear. It was the strangest thing.

I learned how to change a diaper, for the first time in my life, and I realized how utterly awful I was at it. Completely pathetic, but I did my very best. Dad would lift up mom’s torso, and I would complete my origami underwear in record time. It was a funny, yet sad, group effort.

Eating was a struggle for her. Nothing tasted good, but her love for sweets, especially Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups  existed until the very end.

She died 37 days later, around 4.45AM in the morning, after a long, difficult night where she could not catch a breath, and could not catch a break. It was a long night for Dad, who came upstairs at 3.15AM to tell me she was having trouble breathing. I pulled on my robe and I went downstairs and gave her some Morphine and some Lorazepam, to try and ease her breathing. Dad sat up for a while, with her, just to listen to her breathe. I went to bed and he came up around 4.45AM to tell me that she may have passed, shortly after he fell asleep. He woke, when he could no longer hear the sound of her breathing. I came downstairs and checked her, and had to tell my Dad that she had died. There is no easy way to tell someone that their mate of 54 years, 360 days has passed away. I went upstairs and threw up, and dressed. and then I called Hospice.

I never thought about life without my mom, because I could not comprehend a life where she would not be in it.She was such a forceful whirlwind of humor and nature that the world is a lesser place without her. We argued a lot, as Mother’s and daughters are wont to do, and sometimes I feel like I was simply not good enough to be her child. She was a lithe dancer in her young. I am a short, squat, fire-hydrant shaped artist. She was simply beautiful in her youth. I am what one would call “interesting looking”. It’s okay. I have my own talents. I learned, in her illness, that I had a infinite capacity for caring and love for her.




One thought on “A Death in the Family

  1. My dear Squirrell, first of all YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL inside and out. I wish I could ease your pain, but I don’t know how. I can’t imagine losing my mom, and I hold my breath any time the phone rings at odd times. My parents aren’t getting any younger either and they are far away, so there is always a chance that if something happens I may not get there on time to say goodbye. I hold both you and your dad in my heart. Love you.

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