A clump of dead trees still provide life and beauty to the world. Photograph taken in the St. Marks National Refuge, Florida.
Circle of Life
We’ve all heard of the “circle of life,” if you’ve ever seen The Lion King (Disney movie), you know all about the circle of life in the animal kingdom.
But it’s the same for us human folks, too. There’s a circle of life, whether we see it or not. For me, I personally got to feel that circle.
Flashback: Forty-six years ago, my mom gave birth to me, and she was the first one to welcome me into this life. Of course, being a newborn infant, I don’t remember a single thing. But my mom did, and she certainly let me know all about the severe back pain my birth caused her. Not to mention I was about two weeks late! Trust me, I apologized since I now know what it’s like to give birth. Alas, my son made up for that two-week lateness, as he came two weeks early. The circle evens out.
Flashback: It’s December 30th, 2011, I am in the Big Bend Hospice house with my mom’s best friend, Marie, who has been at her side ever since her fall the day after Christmas. It’s just the two of us, it’s late, the family already gone home. I hear the struggled breath of my mom.
I have given her permission to leave her body. I know that’s important to her, she believes that your soul has to be given the “thumbs up” to depart the body. She’s been waiting for this, for a very long time. Way before we ever made it this far, this close to the end of the circle, she has suffered at the end of a dialysis machine. The dialysis sucks. Her arm keeps on clotting where the plastic port has been surgically installed, and each time, requires more surgery. We’ve gone through this nine times so far. Mom claims her bucket list is full, she doesn’t want to suffer anymore. This is not the way to live, she says.
And I agree.
Flashback: The phone startles me awake, it’s just 8:00 in the morning, the day after Christmas. What a great Christmas we had, my mom finally had her wish fulfilled that my family and my brother’s family would all be together on Christmas Eve. I answer the phone … it’s my mom. She has fallen in the kitchen, she thinks she had passed out. It’s a blur while I frantically get dressed and grab my son. I might need him, as I have no idea what I’m going to face.
She’s on the floor, the tile floor. I cannot move her, and I know it’s time to call 911. I’ve got to get help from medical professionals, she’s in serious dire need. The ambulance ride is traumatizing as she screams in pain the entire way.
My mom has broken two vertebrae in her back. Almost two hours into the ordeal the ER finally gives her pain relief. Finally. The admitting doctor breaks the news to us, we’re talking at least 12 weeks in bed, and that’s after major surgery.
She looks at me. “I am not having any surgery. I am done. And you are NOT taking me to dialysis.”
Mom’s the boss. She knows what she wants. I know what she wants. I am not going to let them do surgery or take her to dialysis. Time starts to speed up. Rapidly.
Will the doctors give me grief like they did to my mother when her father was dying? “You mean you’re going to let your father starve to death by taking out his feeding tubes?” My grandfather was already gone, just a body on the bed. He had made his wishes known, my mom knew what to do. But just over 15 years ago, dying with dignity wasn’t “kosher.”
I need a referral to hospice, I tell the doctor. The head nurse said she would call. “I will make the call. You know what your mom wants, she has made it clear.” Wow, no guilt trips. Instead, a hug from a stranger.
Flashback: It’s Wednesday now, two days into this ordeal. My mom is already losing her mental facilities, the poison from her kidneys is slowly killing her brain, her heart, her organs. My brother rides with her to the hospice house. At least she knows who he is.
This woman on the bed here is not acting like my mom. She is crazy! She is throwing out crazy talk! But she is funny. Or maybe we’re just too in shock to do anything but laugh. Maybe we all need a moment of levity in this terrible time of sadness.
Flashback: It’s Thursday. It’s been a long, long day. The grandkids have all been hovering in her room, it’s kind of ironic, that her hospice room is like a resort. My mom loved to travel. I told her she was still in style. Dozens of friends come and go. There are only a few moments of clarity in my mom’s world. Now it’s night. It’s late. I’ve got to get home, get a shower, get ready for tomorrow. How long do we have? “I love you mom.”
“I love you too.” The last words my mom ever said to me. And I’m pretty sure that’s what she said to me when I was born. We’re closing in on that circle.
Flashback: Friday. My mom hasn’t uttered one word. She is not going to wake up. The doctor says it’s going to be soon. Friday night. My brother has just left. I am telling Marie what my sister-in-law has said to me, that we’re going to do a better job of being a family. That’s all my mom had wanted.
As soon as I say those words, about being a family, my mom takes her last breath.
I feel my mom’s soul move through me.
My mom welcomed me into the world, and now I turn her loose, she has left this Earthly plane. The circle of life is complete.