The call came at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It was time. She was gone. So I was not going to the hospital to see her. I was going there to see her body. She was already gone, some time earlier. Not long. She was 56 years old.
Knowing myself, though I was different then than I am now, and I was no braver with death, I am surprised that I went alone. The hospital was 30 minutes away. My daughter was six years old and I was six months pregnant. After 2 miscarriages, or perhaps more, we were ecstatic to have made it to six months.
My daughter was still asleep and my husband would stay home with her. He lost his mother almost exactly a year previously.
The last thing I remember discussing with my mother regarding the baby I was carrying was my question to her–why had she not asked me how he was doing, or how I was feeling, etc? She had never asked about the baby ever, or about my doctor visits, as some mothers will do, and she had done with my first. Despite our estranged relationship, we spoke on the phone often. I cooked for her when the treatments made her nauseous, and there were only certain foods she would be hungry for.
She said, “I was afraid to jinx it.” My mother, born again and hallelujah, and all of that, not to make light of her faith, it was the real deal, but she simply was not superstitious. I could say nothing back to her. This was a condition she knew something about. She had two miscarriages between me and my baby brother. Baby number four, my sister, was a surprise, in more ways than one.
I drove to the hospital alone. It was spring, and it was cold. I think it was sunny that morning, though later, the trip to the cemetery was snowy and muddy. I went to almost every family funeral in the spring, and in the mud, sometimes with rain, other times with snow.
I drove to the hospital alone.
When I arrived, my sister-in-law, older brother, and nephew were in a waiting area/hallway lined with windows. I don’t remember clearly, but I probably hugged my sister-in-law. I’m sure I did not hug my father.
I couldn’t avoid it. He had waited and asked the hospital staff to wait, and I would be going in to see her. That was the only reason for my being there. We had not spoken in months, my Dad and me. That is a story for another day. I wonder now if anyone went to the funeral home with him. I wonder if he wanted help. He was very self-sufficient by that point.
I walked through the halls and found her room. If the words sound sanitary, please do not judge me too harshly. It is the first time in 20 years I am writing this down, outside of verse which is always twisted with some fiction. I have to write this down. Perhaps writing will help me not to forget everything I want to forget.
Just because I want something, doesn’t mean that it is best.
I understood that she had died while he was out of the room. He knew it would be soon, and she had been in and out of lucidity all week. I remember my last visit with her where she understood that I was there. I held her hand, but I never looked into her eyes. They were closed much of the time.
She wasn’t there. She was so still and cold. I didn’t touch her because I knew that if it traumatized me, I would never be able to forget it.
This is not a remarkable story. Others have had to do so much more, see so much more, make horrible, hard decisions for their mothers. I only had to show up. But that moment played a part in defining me for the next 20 years.
My grown son asked me to write down my stories so he would have them some day when I am gone. Sometimes he worries that he will lose me early since I was in my mid-thirties when he was born, and because I have been so hard on my body. This is a chapter from my journal I am writing for both my children. I will share more later, but probably not in order. I will write various stories as they come up and beg to be written. Thank you for listening.