It’s a grueling schedule, not because of the work – basically I’m sitting in a room for most of the day, but because of the thinking. Far too much thinking that sometimes hits me with the force of an anvil.
Like when a nurse opened a side door in an office (there’s a side door?) and I glanced into a room that had balloons and circus figures painted on the walls above the beds. Of course,… kids die too – hadn’t really thought about that. Wham.
Or when yet another roommate dies. “Honey, I just want to tell you that your roommate passed this afternoon, we’ll take her out of the room after you have your dinner.” Wham.
Or when a newly admitted end of life cancer patient asks me if I can bring her a cup of coffee (just a little cream, please) when I make my mom’s bagel run in the morning. Even very sick people like good coffee. Wham.
I went down to Connecticut a day early last week because I had heard mom had had a bad day on Tuesday. But Wednesday was good. In fact it was really good. When you do well at hospice, they like to talk about sending you to a nursing facility (she is at is a short term hospice facility – not one that is long-term residential (which kind of sounds like an oxymoron to me when you are ultimately talking about end of life.))
“We’ll see how she’s doing tomorrow,” said her Doctor after he examined her. My brother and I have named him Dr. Death – not because he works with hospice patients but because in a discussion he told us that people dying of morphine overdoses is a myth, if someone wanted to die they would overdose on barbiturates. He was trying to assure us about increasing narcotic levels, but still, the nickname was awarded and it stays.
Thursday was bad. Mom could barely get out of bed. Her breathing was labored and her pain increased.
“We’ll see how she’s doing tomorrow,” said Dr. Death. Wham.
Friday morning was good. “Keep this up and you’ll be going to that nursing home in no time,” I told her. Friday afternoon, she tanked – badly.
“This is no way to live, Wendy.” She half whispered to me from her bed surrounded by pillows meant to take some of the pressure off her back.
“I know mom, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s not in my hands. What can I do to make things better for you?”
It’s a question I must ask about a hundred times a day.
“What can I do?”
“What can I do mom?”
“Nothing,” is always her reply.
But I know I can give her company. I can bring her a sesame bagel toasted with cream cheese on the side each morning I’m there. And I can give her comfort by companionship.
We talk about the tides. We talk about the news. We talk about the Ellen show. We talk about a particular nurse that rubbed her wrong. And in the next hour, we talk about all these things again.
So I continue to go down from New Hampshire to be with my mom in Connecticut from Thursdays to Sundays.
Because it’s the least I can do.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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