The photo above is from my mom's graduation from St Michael's College nursing school in Toronto when she was twenty-two. She's seventy-three years old now and won't live much longer.
I've said a lot of goodbye's to my mom in the last year. She survived ovarian cancer for more than six years and three different rounds of chemotherapy. But this past Christmas, I knew she would not last the year. Chemotherapy wasn't working anymore and so it was just a matter of time. My parents are very strong and they didn't want to worry anyone. So they just quietly went down the path, worked through things, made arrangements, accepted what was happening.
And over the last six months we've all done plenty of the same. I've flown out to visit my parents, sometimes on red eye flights, sometimes just for a few days, to try to get more time. She outlived the doctor's predictions and and eeked out a few extra months. But now there is no more time.
With every trip to see my mother, I've treated it as if its the last time. I've made sure to say everything that ever needed saying. But even after doing that, there is always one more thing. I can't help but think of a million questions that now can never be answered. If we could string them all together, my mother would live forever. But she won't and it's tearing me up inside.
I've told my mother I love her. I've thanked her for raising me. I've told her all her kids turned out right. I've told her my dad is going to be ok. I've told her she's going to go to heaven. And yesterday I kissed her goodbye for the last time.
As much as you prepare for the last goodbye, it hurts. It really hurts.
Day by day you see someone you love dying in front of your very eyes. Day by day, she is weaker. She is less focused. She is less there. My mother is tiny and fragile. She is skin and bones. And the things that made her who she is are rapidly fading away. Her humor, her smile, her sparkle, they are mostly gone. She is strong willed which is good to see since that's what has allowed her to survive so long, but even that is fading. She told me the other day that she wished she could end it. "Getting sick is a bugger," she said.
I comforted her the best I could. She cared for all of us over the years; I could never pay her back in a life time, let alone a few days. I showed her pictures and remind her of times when I was growing up. I recalled our camping trips, or when we used to go skiing, or visits with cousins and aunts and uncles. She remembered them along with me. Or seemed to. Sometimes, she was distracted just trying to breathe. Once in a while she was confused. But mostly she took it all in.
She can still talk a little, but not much. Her breathing is labored and I know it will stop at some point. And then she will be in a better place.