Annie's thoughts as she watches her mother die.
|You could have heard a pin drop as Annie sat quietly in the living room. In front of her eyes, her mom lay dying in a hospital bed. Unsure what to do; she watched as a family friend and a hospice nurse gave her a final sponge bath.
Annie had spent years waiting and dreading this moment and now as it was about to arrive, she felt numb and helpless as her mother labored to make it from one breath to the next.
As the sponge bath continued, Annie stared at her mother’s unseeing eyes and wondered just what was going on inside her head. Was she aware of what was going on? Could she see the two people gently washing her body or feel the wet caress of the sponge upon her body? Did she hear their quiet conversation or was she somewhere else; lost in a world that only she could see?
She imagined that her mother’s eyes were looking upon her own mother who had died thirteen years before. She imagined that her grandmother was standing at the foot of the hospital bed gently urging her mother to depart her cancer stricken body and follow her into the peace and serenity of the next world. In the hushed atmosphere, she imagined she could hear her grandmother’s voice gently telling her mom that it was time to go and that Annie would be alright.
As Annie listened to the steady rhythm of the oxygen machine in the corner, she felt a pang of fear rise up inside her. She had mixed feelings about all this. In a way, she was glad it was ending. Her mother had struggled for so long and been through so much. She had fought every step of the way and her weakened body was now giving out. Annie longed for her mother to die and escape from all the pain and suffering she had endured.
On the other hand, she had taken care of her mother for nineteen years and had never really been on her own. Her mother had always provided room and board for her and except for a brief stint at college; she had never lived anywhere without her. Her mother had always been a constant in her life and now her dying would mean for the first time in her life, she would be living alone and taking care of herself. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that and the thought of it terrified her. Would she make it? Would she be able to take care of herself and manage a household on her own; something she had never done before? How would she survive without the safety net her mother had always provided?
As these thoughts swirled around in her head like a tornado; she watched as her mother was turned over onto her side so that the two women could continue their soothing sponge bath.
Then came the words Annie had been dreading.
“She’s gone.” The hospice nurse said, as she glanced down at the mother’s face.
A lump formed in Annie’s throat as she watched the women silently resume the sponge bath. Only now it wasn’t meant to soothe her mother, but rather to wash her off for the benefit of the undertaker.
No tears came to Annie’s eyes as she stared at her mother’s lifeless body. It had finally come. The moment that she had been dreading for years had finally arrived. And Annie found herself unable to cry because all her tears had already been shed watching the torment her mother had gone through.
So, she sat motionless and listened to the steady grinding noise of the oxygen machine that had now been rendered useless by her mother’s passing. She watched as the women finished the bath, laid the body gently back on the hospital bed, put a gown over her mother’s pale, gaunt frame and covered her with a sheet.
As the two women went to take a break and call the family to tell them the news, Annie finally rose and walked over to the bed.
She looked into her mother’s eyes scarcely able to believe she was gone. As she stared down at her mother’s chest, she could almost see it rise and fall. She wondered for a moment if the hospice nurse had made a mistake. Maybe the nurse had looked at her mom when she was between breaths and had thought that she wasn’t breathing. But as she continued to stare at the chest, she saw for herself that her mother was no longer breathing and that it had only been an illusion.
Reaching out she took her mother’s hand in hers and felt the coldness there. As she gave the hand a squeeze, she imagined her mother standing beside her and watching her with love in her eyes. A soft smile came to Annie’s face as she realized her mother was finally at rest; safe and far away from all the pain and suffering of this world. Giving her hand one more squeeze, Annie kissed her mother on the cheek.
“I love you mom.” She said softly hoping that her mother could hear her. “Don’t worry about me, I’m gonna be alright.”
Even as she said it, she didn’t really believe her own words.