Our Last Days

Here I was, standing in the place that’s meant for repair. For mending and fixing and returning people better that they were found.
But you… were unfixable. You… were unsewable. Hospice worthy, not returnable.
I looked down at you, my mother, hands on your chair still - resting.
And I know I’m alone.

The emergency room was filled to the brim – everyone in their own world,
their occasional glances seemed to saturate my soul.
It was more than I could bear, this time paused amid chaos,
It felt alien yet familiar – like this was how it was supposed to be.

I was acutely aware and yet - I heard nothing clearly…No distinction, no articulation at all
In front of me I saw lips moving and faces of expectation, or maybe anticipation, I couldn’t tell.
Just the dull swoosh of realization whizzing around me embracing me…
Waiting on my answer.

I process your slight head tilt, the lack of spoken word I still couldn’t get used to.
This woman that killed me in Words with friends, This woman that wounded me with her wit,
This woman that gloated over knowing more than most…
She was just a ghost.

Suddenly I’m aware of my surroundings again,
That the world is more than just me and you - moms shell,
The nurses and techs wait patiently for my orders but I can tell - they are becoming frayed.
Slowly, disbelievingly - I shake my head “no” .

Before I could turn away I heard an awful, guttural sound nearby
It would be a full 10 seconds before I could process that the sound was coming from me.
I broke down right there in the room full of people, all wanting to help but knowing they can’t.
I have to make this journey alone.

They help me back to your jeep. I chose to bring you home in it, your pride and joy because I thought we we’re escaping together.
I didn’t expect that 3rd stroke on the way out the door. I didn’t know you’d be taken alive.
The first took most of your speech, the second the rest. This 3rd one took your physical ability along with your dignity.
The jeep was not fit for this task.

As I stared from your, my mothers, chair to the passenger seat it may as well have been Mount Everest but “we’ll climb”, I thought.
The staff generously helped me get you inside and buckled you up real tight.
I almost laughed out loud when I realized what great lengths we take out of habit to protect, even the dead that are walking.
I shake it off and drive.

Processing it all isn’t an option, it is time to get things done and done well.
Just like you taught me.
I make phone calls & line up helpers at your parking spot so we can get you unmounted safely.
I beat them all somehow and surprisingly easily slid you back to your wheelchair waiting on the ground. I know if you knew - you’d be anxious, not proud.
Together, we roll past your favorite familiar scenery to your home.

Looking back I wish I took more time to show you the pond you loved so much.
The turtles sunbathing lazily, The egret you loved to bird watch when you didn’t think anyone was watching you.
You begged for your own bed before you lost your voice but it wasn’t practical we told you.
If only we knew you wouldn’t have needed it long.

Death is a difficult thing but dying is off the charts hard.
Wanting you to live but knowing you can’t. Wanting you to have peace but watching you suffer. Helplessly.
Not knowing which is easier to wish for, more time or less suffering.
It’s all a blur to me.

Those last moments days later – are permanently ingrained. The sights, the sounds – those damn sounds, still haunting me.
Thinking you’d hate the fact I was calling you mama and rubbing your head but doing it anyway.
Your sons picture strategically placed front and center in your view in case you could still see.
Knowing you’d rather it was him next to you but loving you anyway.

I remember telling you that you were wrong about me. That my gentle forgiving nature was what, in fact, made me strong.
That the perceived weakness was a facade of yours and I would be OK. That you could let go after any raspy breath you chose.
I promised to make sure the kids and my brother would be OK too… best I could.
I remember every word.

Then you, once vibrant and full of color, were now peaceful and pastel.
Your raging red angry rash was what went first, disappearing into your skin tone.
I remember thinking I was so glad you weren’t suffering from that damn itch anymore.
I remember feeling relief for you. Shock for me, and time standing still again.

I wanted to memorize every single inch of you. Knowing it was the very last time we’d be in the same room like this.
I held your hand until it was cold. And then some more before quietly tiptoeing inside to get our golden child.
Him and I standing in front of you, the super still quiet of the room. No longer hearing breaths or gurgles - or you chastising us.
My brother, now an orphan, and me - without a mom.

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About the Author

My parents were young, divorced, broken people who raised me to do better than them. They wanted me to go to college and make lots of money. Instead got married at 19, had 5 kids before 30 and never finished school because I'm a rebel for one, and people have always been more important than things to me. I feel deeply and write passionately and hope that someone can relate to my writing and know they aren't alone, therefore, I also have company in this madness we call life.

Jessica Hannon
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