For the past few months, my “elephant in the corner” has remained thus – in the corner. Every so often, I sneak a peek but the image is just a little too much for my psyche to handle. I don’t know what brought on the most recent glance at the elephant but it did start me to think, to review and that’s what is driving this blog this morning.
I knew Mom was dying. I knew it on the conscious level and I knew it on the subconscious level but knowing something and accepting the knowledge are two very different things. Don’t get me wrong, I have no guilt but I do question my actions. Did I force her to receive care she didn’t want? She knew that this last stay in the hospital would be the final one. I review conversations and her behaviour; she knew.
Then there is the anger at the doctors and their freaking egos. One doctor had the stones to tell me the truth, that there was nothing more to be done, that Mom was dying and it would happen very soon. The others? The cardiologist, the surgeon, the plethora of eager residents-in-waiting? All of them telling us that this test or that test was necessary. For what? They couldn’t fix her – she was too sick, too weak and too damn tired. The issues were beyond their control. And while the truth was very hard for the family to handle – it was impossible for those doctors, apparently, to accept.
If they had been straight up with us and told us Mom had days left, not months, not even weeks; we could have arranged for her to go to palliative care near to us. She would have been in a beautiful environment, surrounded by her family, without the stench of excrement, of hospital disinfectant, without sharing her last days with someone else in her room.
The doctors even regulated her meds because…wait for it…the painkillers might damage her kidneys and heart…. Her kidneys had stopped functioning at that point, her heart was beyond repair – the cardiologist had already informed us of this, several months prior.
Is this the anger stage of grief? Maybe.
If you are still reading? Fight those damn doctors and their egos. If you know that time is short, then help make that time as pain free as possible for your loved one. Tell those doctors to suck back their egos and admit that death is a part of their job. Every one of their patients will die. They will die. You cannot cure death but sure as hell can make it a smooth transition instead of one that is fraught with pain. Understand that they will do whatever is necessary to prolong agony just to prove that they can fight death when in fact, they are simply fighting to retain their own sense of omnipotence in the face of the inevitable.
I think back to walking into Mom’s place; she would be asleep on her couch and her face would show the pain that she fought so hard not to show us. I did tell her how much I loved her and often. We did care for her without reservation and sometimes it was hard. I never resented doing it. I love her so much. I miss her, I miss sitting there and talking with her; laughing and bitching with her. I miss calling her and nagging about her meds. I miss calling her and just chatting about my day at work. I miss going shopping with her and worrying that she was going to tell someone off.
I miss her face. I miss her scent. I started to clean out her kitchen cupboard and lasted about 20 minutes. It was too much. I have to do this, I have to sort through her things and give them to those in the family who would cherish her memory. Who would tell the stories behind the objects, who would share the woman to whom they belonged. She was an extraordinary lady. She had seen and experienced 84 years of living. The depression, the war, the good times and the bad times. And the end of her life saw her with those who truly loved her, warts and all. I guess I can take solace in that but the elephant remains and I can’t really accept that she is never coming home again.
In the coming weeks, I am going to force myself to face that corner, to look at that elephant and to try to accept reality. I have to move on, Mom would kick my ass if she could, I’m sure.