It's been almost a week, now, with all members of my immediate family in the house. Myself, my dad, my brother, his wife, and their two kids. Various friends of the family percolate in and out, with a few around almost constantly to help.
My nephews, ages six and four, constitute a herd as they thunder about the house. We're trying to instill some quiet zone rules. My brother and I shamble about, sleeping on no particular schedule, reading, foraging for food, running errands. My dad spends as much time during the day as he can out of the house on errands.
My mom is in bed in the front living room. She is on oxygen, has a Foley catheter and a pulmonary drain in, and is taking liquid lorazepam through an implanted IV port. She's dying. That's why we're all here.
Her cancer is a metastized endometrial cancer, and is 'fully developed' in her heart and lungs. She refused to stop undergoing chemotherapy even at the end; as a result, her hair is mostly gone. Her skull is becoming uncomfortably visible when you look at her head as her body weight drops. She stopped taking food a couple of days ago, and now only intermittently accepts water. She is losing her ability to swallow. She hasn't said anything lucid in a couple of days, but at her most lucid will answer clearly that she is not in pain when asked.
Sometimes, pretty much whenever she wakes, she is extremely agitated, repeating "oh God, oh God, oh God" over and over again as an absent reminder of her distress. When she awakens, whoever is sitting by her bed calls in other members of the family, and we all assure her in quiet voices that we're all OK and tell her that she's at home, in her bed, with her cats, and that she can stop worrying, stop fighting. We're all going to be OK, Mom. You've done your part. You don't owe anybody anything. Do what you need to do.
(Die, in other words.)
When I'm not sitting with her, all I can think about is the sheer amount of crap in my life that is piling up as I sit here in northern Vermont. I haven't been to work in weeks. I moved to New York City less than a week before coming up here; my cats prowl my not yet-fully-unpacked apartment in New York, peeing on my sofa in their outrage according to the cousin who is feeding them. I need to get on with my life. I need to recover what of it I can; by the time I moved, it was a complete shambles, in between eighteen months of mom deteriorating and fighting my father over decisions involving her care, of my own ongoing depression and going broke over the move and carrying the upkeep of two apartments (since I haven't been able to rent out my original one in Boston) I really, really, really need to spend time pulling myself back upright.
But mom is still here. And mom needs us to talk to her, when she can hear; which might be all the time, for all I know. She needs that fractional infinitisemal version of the support she gave me, all my life, growing up.
I haven't cried. I will likely lose it once she's gone, any day now. I have to stay functional; between my father being almost completely irrational and unable to understand that, and my brother being fully occupied with his family, I have to be able to respond at any given moment to ongoing crises.
For example, today, we discovered that the cats have both worms and fleas. All ten of them. My parents' cats. Ten pills. Ten neurotoxic neck lotions to apply. I can't even tell all the little fuckers apart, really.
Doesn't matter. Do what you have to.
One of our friends, who is experienced with terminal hospice care, keeps recommending that we all 'tell mom what we need to tell her.' How can I make her understand that there isn't anything I need to tell her? I told her everything, all the time. There's no great cache of secrets. If she doesn't know how I feel, then we've been doing everything wrong, these years. I do tell her, when I speak to her, that I love her. She has always known this. I tell her that I am okay, and that she needn't feel that she is leaving with the job of me undone. I am lying in that I am not okay, but I am not lying in that there is nothing for her to do, nor would I expect there to be. She has nobly fulfilled her part. What is left is mine to solve.
Her lungs are shutting down as they fill with fluid.
I am not sure. Sometimes I hope, fiercely, that I will be sitting there holding her hand when she draws her last breath.
Sometimes I hope I am not; cowardly, I hope to be asleep, or running an errand, or just...not there.
I've told her everything I can.
I don't want her to suffer.