Today is a beautiful day. The sun is shining, blue skies everywhere, birds flying in and out of the bird feeder and pond in my parents’ back garden and you could easily be fooled into thinking life is good. I went into my mom’s bedroom and lay with her for a while. We chatted about the events of yesterday and she commented on the beautiful day it was. “I must get out today”, she said, “but after I have had a bit more rest, I am tired today.” Comments like those are becoming more frequent.
My dad is frustrated. He believes that we are all giving in. He wants a remission and I feel for him. We all want that, but he feels he is the only one who is trying to fight for it. I left my mom to rest and my dad went into the room. Their room is actually inside a conservatory. Light floods the room and mom has a wonderful view of their beautiful garden. I would love that view when the time came for me to go. I hear dad say that he won’t allow her to stay in their room all day and her pleading with him, saying that she is not giving in, but just needs to rest.
I understand dad’s frustration. He has been the patriarch of our family for ever. Always in control, always the problem solver. Volatile, but passionately in love with his family. Now, faced with a problem he cannot solve, frustration and vulnerability have overtaken him. At times, we have caught him crying and as my sister and I have approached to comfort him, anger flashes in his eyes and he orders us to leave him alone. Even now, the only person he can let close to him is my mom. I fear for him, for how he will really cope without her. The cracks have started to show – some of his behaviours have been irrational and not like him, although the way he is handling the stress is very much like him, only ten times worse. I have assured my mom that he will be taken care of, that he can come and live with us, if he wants to.
Mom is so worried about him. In fact, she is worried about everyone. This process of watching mom die seems to have brought out the worst in us, rather than the best. I am usually the peace keeper and healer in the family, and yet I have turned into a ball of anger, finding fault in everyone except myself. I feel martyred at times, resentful of all that I am doing for everyone else and feeling like no-one appreciates me. My sister, struggling with so much outside of this journey, seems to me to be a shadow of the person she was. My brother has retreated to the sanctuary of his family and who can blame him. Watching someone you love ebb into death is not easy. My poor dad is trying so hard to keep us all going. To keep us believing that mom will find a way to go into remission, to give us more time to have with her. I, sadly, do not have that faith and my lack of religion/God belief does not allow me to pray for it, what is the point?
I love going through to my mom in the mornings. I lie with her on the bed, in my pyjamas. I find myself studying her. Her eyes are so blue and so kind. They are eyes that have seen heartache, but have loved so much. I study her hair, now shaved. I love the shape of her head. Her ears stick out and I absolutely love them. She seems so fragile lying in bed. I usually suggest we do something for that day, she usually agrees but asks for time to rest, just a bit longer.
I have noticed that she is wanting to sleep more. Our palliative nurse said this would happen. She said that the cancer needs energy to grow, and that it draws this from the body. This starves the body of energy and so the body’s response is to sleep, since the lack of energy will make you tired. Bit by bit, the body will shut down as the tumour grows and your body is starved of more energy and eventually, you will slip away. Watching mom sleep fills me with dread. I know that while she sleeps that monster growing inside of her is drawing energy from her increasingly weak body. I know that when she puts off going out with me on a beautiful summer’s day to sleep, it is because the monster is willing for more of my mom to help it grow.
A frustration rises in me again. Why isn’ she getting the treatment she needs, even to just keep the tumour at bay for a short while. Why can’t people see the urgency? Why can’t they see that we need more time, mom needs more time?
As I sit here looking out into the beautiful clear sky, watching the birds, and admiring the glorious garden, I wonder how much time we have. All of our days are numbered, for certain, but mom’s days are much fewer. Each day I wake up and think, another day gone. I do celebrate her life and the wonderful person she is, but, perhaps selfishly, I look to the skies and rue the timeline that is our life and the shortened version that is my mom’s. My mom is so gentle and kind and I can’t help thinking, “We just need more time”.