Monday, September 16, 2002

It was the longest night of the year -- December 21. They played an endless loop of Christmas carols at the nurse's station. I tried to say all those things they say in the movies over the words of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." It was a moment Stella would have appreciated.

Just as I did when I was a child, I laid my head on her breast, close enough to hear her heart beat, as soft as the flutter of wings.

When she was finally still the nurse came and I asked for a moment. I peeled off all the band-aids stuck to her skin, as thin as crumbling parchment. I combed her hair. She never wore it neat. This was my own small triumph.

My brother came for me and we went outside. Dawn was breaking, bathing everything in a steel gray. I thought of that tub she painted and laughed. Then we each lit a cigarette. For Stella.

From Smoke and Mirrors, by Dawn Shurmaitis - As a mother battles cancer, her daughter turns to cigarettes for comfort.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

As I usually do every Wednesday evening, I went over to Mom's to help her with her bills, as well as spend time with her. We often go out to eat since it's a real treat for her to get out and about, and eat some fun food. I sure don't blame her, I'd feel the same way if I was mostly cooped up somewhere, hard to get about on my own.

Today, as is often the case in recent weeks, Mom was still napping the day away, not even dressed yet. I helped her get up, then she took it from there, washing up, dressing with a little help from me. I brushed her hair to make it look nice.

All during this time, she was quietly (and sometimes not so quietly, when it overcame her even more deeply) weeping. It was one of those days when the absence of Dad hit her hard again. My own theory about why it's not getting any 'easier' for her, at least those raw emotions associated with recent loss, could be because Dad's decline and death occurred at the same time Mom's own physical/mental health appears to have begun to decline. Perhaps for her, every day is like Dad has just passed away. She can't 'get over it' because it keeps starting over in her mind and heart.

On the other hand, I've come to realize even more than I knew before, how very close they were, and how perhaps I've got it wrong. Maybe Mom's decline happened in response to Dad's.
Recent research has shown that intense grieving lasts from three months to a year and many people continue experiencing profound grief for two years or more.
I dunno. All I do know is I try to show her my love, to touch, to spend time, to stumble my way through talking with her about it. She often says she has nothing to live for, wants to die, wants to be with Dad, then says she doesn't know what happens when you die. I tell her no one does this side of death. It's the undiscovered country from which no one returns...that we know of. We can hope, we can believe, but we can't know. It's hard to accept, but there it is...