A time to speak and a time to listen

I have said goodbye to my mother each night for nearly a week now. It has been my fear each time, although I had not noticed a whole lot of change until recently, that I might have been saying goodbye for the last time.

It does not get easier each time. I do believe I have finally said everything I need to say. If I haven’t, it’s my own fault. I’ve had a week of days and nights to get it all out. The first night I left, I regretted that I left out talking about certain people or certain memories. I made up for all of that since and then some.

I also told my mother numerous "secrets" (boring ones, of course) and observations that I wouldn’t share with just anyone during this time. I even fessed up to a few things that I’m sure she knew all along. Some were trivial, some were serious. Some I wish I had not put off. Most will remain just between us.

We always think we’ll have more time to say these things or that something else is more important so it can wait.


Of course, what I have said only matters to me unless the assumption of the doctors and nurses, that the hearing is the last to go, is correct. I have no way of knowing for sure and, if I ever find out, I will have no way of letting anyone else know.

Thank goodness for Sunday night. She was calm and comfortable. I played a lot of the music she loved and even poorly sang along with some of it. The Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, Nat King Cole and more all made appearances. We should have done this in November when she seemed to be doing a bit better but that is now neither here nor there.

Last night, the physical changes were more apparent and my belief is that the window of possible one-way communication that may have remained gently shut from the time I left, about 3AM on Monday morning, to the time I returned later last night. So, I spent most of last night listening instead of talking. I listened to her breathing, slowly in and slowly out, and holding her hand as she did mine many years ago as we went to one place or another.

I should have held her hand before this happened.

I cannot remember our last hug.

My mother wanted no service. She will be cremated and that will be that. She had spoken to me many times since the cancer that started us down this road about her wish that my last memory not be of just her body as her last memory was of her mother. I don’t believe she ever got over it and she didn’t want to risk the same thing happening to me.

Her nurse, Denise, told me on the phone this afternoon that we are gettng close. I drove to the hospital this evening and my mother seemed much more peaceful than she did early this morning. The changes are happening faster, it seems.

I stayed only long enough to thank Denise and to say goodbye to my mother one more time. Each breath might be the last, I was told. I needed to hurry. There were tears. There were promises. There were regrets. There was gratefulness.

Now, I wait for the phone to ring. I feel guilty that one of the nurses will have to make the call. I have rehearsed in my mind how I will handle it but I am fine one minute and not fine the next. If the call does not come, I will drive over again tomorrow for just a few minutes, doing my best to honor my mother’s wish while trying to hold on just a bit longer.