Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holding on to LIFE

Sometimes the end comes quickly.  But sometimes it comes slowly, after years and years of a downhill spiral or months and months of deterioration.  Which is better?  Who can say.

For my mother it's been a slow progression along with times when she fooled us into thinking the end had come.  Close brushes with death, high fevers and serious infections we thought she couldn't overcome, but she did.  A fighter to the end.  Even now as she's endured a major stroke, she is hanging on, leaving all of us hanging on in the balance.

I'm reminded of a scene in Rocky when he's in the boxing ring, knocked down by Apollo Creed, struggling to get back on his feet, and eventually he does.  One of the commentators says, "What is keeping him up?"

I guess some people have a very strong determination when it comes to surviving/winning in life.  No matter how many times they're knocked down, they just keep coming back.
My mother has lived a long life, that's for sure.  No one would blame her for wanting to bow out at this point and go join hands with Dad in heaven.  But something is keeping her here.  I don't know what that is, but perhaps it's us--her family.  If she feels a very strong tie to us, her daughters, maybe she simply doesn't want to let go.  Perhaps her motherly instincts are telling her we need her so she thinks she has to hang on.

But it's a painful roller coaster ride of emotions for us watching her go up and down, back and forth between living and dying.  I sat at her bedside last Wednesday watching and listening to her breathe, loudly at first, then very softly later on.  Her mouth was open and drooping on one side--the telltale signs of a stroke.  We were told she was dying so we sat at her bedside, ready for anything.  I wasn't sure I really wanted to be there for the end because I've never watched someone die before and I didn't know if I could handle it.

I went home in the afternoon and didn't know what to do with myself.  Nothing seemed to be the right thing to do.  Every time the phone rang, I feared the worst.  I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't write, couldn't rest.  This state of limbo is just torture on the living.

The next day my mother woke up and was hungry for breakfast.  She amazed all the nurses as well as all of our family.  They did not expect her to recover.  And even though we all breathed a sigh of relief, we know the end is still coming.  It's a day to day situation in which she sleeps a lot, doesn't eat very much, doesn't really speak much, doesn't walk around, doesn't participate in daily activities that keep people feeling vibrant and happy--and therefore her quality of life is not one to be desired.

I'm preparing myself for the day when she will leave this world.  I have to.  As hard as it is letting go, hanging on is also painful.  I want her to be at peace.


  1. I feel for you, Kathy, and I'm so sorry it's to this stage.

    Hold on to your words. Their beauty will help you through.

  2. My mother had five daughters, no sons. We went through just about the same thing. Our mother was a fighter too. Every phone call, every visit, we held our breath. Steeled ourselves for "that day." Such love you have, and she has for all of you! Your post is beautiful. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Kathy.
    Anne (aka "stormie" at AW)

  3. Yes, Kathy...
    thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.

    I've had years to get over my Dad's death...
    his came without warning, on a rainy Tuesday.
    But to feel what you're enduring - yes, torturous. And I'm so sorry.

    Your honor for your Mom is very clear.
    Remember to nourish yourself.
    The river will deliver all things when it's time.

    Take special care, Kathy~

  4. Thanks to all.

    Writing about it helps a lot. It's possible my sisters will ask me to write something for her funeral (I gave the eulogy for my Dad's), so I'm trying to put some thoughts down on paper.