July 13, 2006

Today, Mom did not wake up.

She is sleeping right now. She’s been sleeping later and later each day, waking around eleven or noon, then having one of her brothers carry her out to the deck for a few hours of book reading and bird feeding and enjoying the fresh air.

Today, when she hadn’t roused as I shifted her into new positions, when she didn’t even wake up as I emptied her catheter for the third time, I called Tammie to see if I should try and wake her to take some water.

She responded “The hospice nurses will tell you that is the most humane way to go.”

Which is true. There is a Do Not Resuscitate order on the fridge. No IVs. No saline. That was the hospice condition.

Last night she told Tammie “I just want to sleep now”. And she did. I told her I loved her as I shifted her just before bed, at one am. I’ve woken her up since to tell her again, but last night she looked me in the eye and said “I love you too, honey. Thank you for everything today.”

So I let her sleep, shifting her every thirty minutes to an hour, working on some fixes for Illustration Friday, talking to Josh online while I watched Mom breathe. Her apnea is more pronounced.

Tammie called back.

“I’m sending Theresa over to sit with you. I don’t want you to be alone. It’s not that you’re not capable -”

I cut her off. “I’m not worried about my capability, I don’t want to be alone either.”

And I’m not. Over the course of the next three hours, everyone arrived at the house. My aunts and uncles, my cousins, my grandparents. They are mostly still here. It is one thirty am. Mom is sleeping deeply, her brother Gregg on her right, wakeful and in the world’s most uncomfortable chair. Kenny is to her left, sleeping on his folded arms across her bed.

I noticed after everyone arrived, Mom slept more peacefully. She roused briefly to respond to hand squeezes and whispered “I love you’s” from each new loved one that arrived, then slipped back into sleep. The voices of our family were loud and cheerful on the deck, rising in waves. We all took turns in the circle around Mom’s bed. At one point, I started to cry, watching Tammie and Gregg and Kenny’s faces as they each sat with her, thinking of how close the five of the Carpenter kids are, seeing their whole history as if it were in front of me. Remembering my boy uncles and their teasing, Mom’s close companionship with her sisters. And I just felt it, for once – I saw past my loss, and my general understanding of the grief of the family, and I saw what her siblings are losing. Tammie took me outside – neither of us want to be weeping at Mom’s bedside. We don’t think Mom would like that.

So when the sun went down I started collecting candles. I didn’t want to turn the lights on. We set candles all around Mom’s bed, in the windows, on every flat surface, then outside on the deck. We took turns running to the store for beer. We ordered pizza. We held each other as we cried. Now we are resting, but Gregg is awake. I am awake. We take turns. Mom still sleeps. I am not alone, and neither is she.

(I reread this, and I see all the fragments, all the story that isn’t being told. I am tired, it is late and I am watchful. Later, perhaps, I will retell this story, and you will get a clearer picture of the immense circle of love)

  • CATEGORY: Cancer

12 thoughts on “Vigil”

  1. My heart goes out to you and your family. Having lost my dad to cancer in 1988, I can understand some of the feelings you’re having. My dad had a hospice worker but he fell trying to get out of bed one night, so we had to take him back to hospital, where he passed.

    May angels come to take your mother home, and may the Eternal Light comfort you and your family.

  2. I am far away, but I am also at your side, squeezing your hand, stroking your hair. I wish you nothing but love and peace and strength and want you to know I am here. I am here.

  3. you described the scene beautifully and eloquently. I’m sorry about your mom, and grateful, for you, that your family is with you. Sending you strength…

  4. Many prayers and gentle thoughts are being sent your way. What a loving description of your Mom and your Family. You will be stronger for having everyone there with you. Blessings to all of you.

  5. Your spirit, while having to face brute nature, is beautiful and enlightening… whether you are aware of it or not… your words, as your self, are an asset to many. My heart is with you.

  6. I knew Annette as a teenager and a young woman. She was a very special person that my family loved very much. I use to walk the floor with you, Brianna when you were a baby with colic. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures and thoughts, it has meant so much to me. You and your wonderful family are in our thoughts and prayers.

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