She lies in bed, her eyes closed and her mouth agape; she looks like she might be ready to go. I sit on the bed beside her, holding her hand. It feels cold. She doesn’t hold my hand back. That’s a first.
“Are you OK Mom?” I ask. No answer. “Mom? Are you OK?” Again no response. A minute goes by. Another one follows. I wait. Then, with considerable effort yet surprising clarity, she answers: “I’m OK.”
“Are you in pain Mom?” I say. This time the reply is almost immediate: “No,” she says, “I’m OK.”
I’m amazed she is able to understand and to answer so succinctly, given her declining language skills and physical condition. Today she’s immobile, unseeing and seemingly knocking on heaven’s door. But she’s also lucid. I’m comforted that, should she in fact be in the process of dying, at least she’s not in pain.
“I’m going to get her some soup,” Sally’s voice is soft. Sally is one of Mom’s several “sitters.” I hate the word “sitter,” but I love and appreciate Sally. She’s with Mom Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. Mom has more “extra” care than anyone else in the LTCF; many of the other residents have been (it would appear) left there to die on someone else’s watch. They have few visitors (for reasons about which I can speculate based on my own experience), and rarely if ever leave the residence.
Sally cares deeply for Mom. It shows in the way she greets her and treats her (gently, with respect, love and humour). Besides me, Sally spends more time with Mom than anyone else. Over the last 10 months she has come to know her moods, likes and dislikes, and personality quirks. She pays attention. I am so grateful to her.
I feel at ease leaving Mom when Sally is with her; I know she’s in good, competent, caring hands. Mom does best with one-on-one care like the kind Sally provides. Sadly, I’ve come to learn such care is a rarity. Mom is one of the lucky ones, or lucky for a few hours a day at least. Sally bends over on the other side of the bed, gets close to Mom’s face.
“Would you like some soup Patti?” She speaks softly. She knows Mom’s hearing is fine. No need to shout at her as some do.
“Souply douply.” Mom says thickly but clearly without opening her eyes.
I chuckle. “Souply douply” is Mom’s “rhyming slang” nickname for soup. It tells me she’s in there somewhere, swimming in a pool of plaques, tangles, medication and infection. But she’s there, somehow keeping her head above water. Apparently she is still choosing not to leave this world. Her body may be slowly shutting down. Her brain is most surely being destroyed bit by bit. But her spirit is indomitable, and she has the heart of a lioness. She wants to live.
One day soon she will fly over the rainbow. But not this Wednesday.
April 23, 2014