When we started this journey a wise doctor told us there are going to be good days and bad days. I think what he should have said is there will be bad days and worse nights.
Mom doesn’t want to be alone, especially a night. Death isn’t necessarily as scary as it was to me last week. It’s the the process of dying that’s a bitch. Dying alone? Well that brings her terror. We all know this, and so we’re surrounding her all day, and all night. Some well meaning person told me that we have to get her “trained” to be without us. This is my mom. She’s dying. I think I’ll pass on training her. ‘
I’ve officially lost all sense of time in this place and for my mom it’s worse. She’s gotten into a situation where she’s wide awake a 2am and wanting to read the paper and nodding off to sleep while eating lunch. We had to warm her lunch 3 times the other day because she kept falling asleep.
She was moved to a skilled care facility that will act as a hospice for her. Hospice is an intentionally well “semanticized” word for a place to die with dignity. It sounds much nicer, much more tranquil than what it is.
The lack of tranquility is not for a lack of trying. The tone here is different in that they pretty much give her what she wants within reason. At the hospital it was about managing the sickness, here it’s about managing the symptoms. It’s much more peaceful, much more melancholy.
There is an amazing lady here at the hospital whose only job is to help us circumnavigate this system and this process. It’s her job to get us to not only ask the hard questions, but the questions you didn’t even know you had. As best I can figure she is our personal dying concierge. It’s not exactly what I would have thought the angel of death would look like. She’s much smaller, much prettier, much nicer.
Her name is Teresa and for a job that could suck as bad as this one, she is amazing at it. It’s her job to sort of go through the questionnaire. For instance, if she goes into heart failure do we resuscitate? Sounds simple. But do we not resuscitate with chest compressions because it will likely break her ribs and revive her to a life of not only dying with cancer but also dying with cancer with broken ribs? And if not that, do we resuscitate her with electric shock? What if her kidneys fail, do we allow for them to do hemodialysis; which means she spends multiple hours a week hooked up to a machine. What if she stops eating? Do we put a feeding tube in her?
Or do we let her “go through this natural process” (her words not mine. ) They use the term “natural process” to take away the dark feeling of the word death. They seem to use semantics to take the edge off a lot around here.
These are questions no son should ever have to answer. Strangely having faith plays a sort of agitating role. What if we don’t’ revive her and God was going to heal her? Are making plans like this a sign of doubt? Are we reviving her to give God more time to do something that he clearly doesn’t need time to do?
I’m sort of dealing with a sliding scale on the hope side of things. Not speaking of eternal hope; the hope spoken of by the Word. I’m referring more to the hope of her getting up and walking away from this. Some of the hardest conversations are the ones where she is talking about the plans of going home, of how we’ll deal with the bathtub, or the money. I talk about her as if she’s going home, but inside I don’t think it’s true. For the time being it seems as if false hope is better than no hope. It’s hard not to cry during these conversations.
In the initial phase the hope for healing held more weight. As time has moved on the balance is shifting. I’ve moved from hoping for healing to hoping that her kidneys fail because that’s better than a heart attack. I can’t decide if it’s realism or pessimism or some combination. For sure it’s living life with lowered expectations and redefined success.
It begs the question can someone have Faith and still doubt. Can the two coexist? I mostly have questions, but in a facility built around semantics, it’s hard to distinguish what is doubt and what is questions and if they’re really two sides of the same coin.
The way I was raised was that questioning was doubt and doubt was sin. It would “tie Gods hands”. I’m aware that’s not true now. Can a human really tie the hands of God?
I’m still living in the tension between faith and doubt. Maybe the prayer that Peter prayed is appropriate. “Lord, help me with my unbelief”. That prayer didn’t seem to rattle His cage when Peter prayed it, maybe it won’t now.
Jesus did say that if I had faith the size of a mustard seed that I could move mountains. My mom has referred to this cancer as a mountain that she can’t climb which seems especially appropriate given that Jesus promise was to move it, not to make us climb it.
So even with a little bit of faith this is a mountain can be cast into the sea. I know my mom has at least a little bit of faith as do I.
I guess when I envisioned the mountain being thrown into the sea I never realized about the Tsunami that would follow.