Day Twenty Eight: My Long Goodbye

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I never fully explained the reason why I write about my Mom. I suppose you can figure it out fairly quickly, but it would still be your version of why I do what I do. So here I go.

The weekend my Mom passed away, it was both a sudden end and a long goodbye. She was admitted to the hospital on a Friday evening with an ischemic stroke, which is the most common of strokes. She was alert and responsive, and we all expected that she would recover. But something happened in the middle of the night. A fever, uncontrollable swelling, and then my Mom stopped responding to the stimuli: light in the eyes, pokes and pinches in various parts of her body. A sudden end to our Mom as we knew her, but she was still technically alive.

She lived for another two days, passing away on a late Sunday afternoon that happened to be Father's Day. My sisters and I endured a stream of relatives that had to see for themselves what our Mom had become, had to say their farewells to the woman that gave so much of her life to them. She was always the strong one, the cousin or sister or aunt that had the courage to tell them how to get out of whatever trouble they found themselves in. Often she would offer to help anyway she could: place to stay, help finding a job, or speaking on his or her behalf. It was always my Mom that the got phone calls when someone needed help.

No one could believe a little thing like a stroke could knock my Mom to the ground. Despite hearing what we told them, that she would never recover and that it was just a matter of time before she died, each person talked to her like she was simply asleep, and some begged her to open her eyes. My great aunt, a spunky woman who is close to 90 years old, walked from one side of my Mom's bed to the other, all the while poking my Mom gently and softly asking her to wake up and look at her. My Mom's sister brought her Catholic prayer group, and they recited Hail Mary's for an hour around her bed, crying and asking God to grant them a miracle. My Dad watched the ventilator's monitor and kept false hope alive by seeing things that weren't there.

I had been awake since she was admitted into the hospital that Friday evening, and the knowledge that my Mom could pass away any second kept me from eating or sleeping until Sunday evening. So I watched my family go through their goodbyes, and my sleep deprivation made the whole experience surreal, like I was watching it all on TV and crying alone on my couch.

It was a long goodbye. It was the most time I'd spend with my family in years, probably since I was in high school. But it was their long goodbye and not my own. And this is why I am writing it all down.

This is my way of saying goodbye to my Mom, saying farewell to her emotional presence, her strength and support in my life. Because at the hospital it was her physical presence that I let go and nothing more.

I decided to write every day about my Mom, about my grief, for a 100 days. Why 100 and not 1,000, I don't know. Maybe I'll change the number at a later time, especially if I feel that I'm not quite done.

Every day that I write about her, I break off a piece of my grief and set it free. It burns a little less inside. There's a moment right after I'm done writing when everything gets quiet in my head. I realized yesterday that it was peace. And though it may be a momentary thing, it is something I can look forward to.