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.